Why We Need to Have Compassion for Trump Voters
- by Alden Wicker
- Jan 31, 2017
Right now it actually feels wrong to write about lighter topics of beauty and fashion when the world is going to pieces. So allow me this pause in my regular programming, after which I’ll share with you some beautiful and sustainable things that I’m into.
Lately there has been a hate read going around the internet by a woman who says she’s “so over feminists.”
I won’t link to it because I don’t want to send more clicks to this young woman or the poor quality content farm she wrote it for. But just to give you an idea, she says that, “Women have more rights in the United States than anywhere else in the world” (we don’t – we’re ranked 20 for women’s equality behind Rwanda, Latvia, and Burundi) and objects to feminists wanting to be the “dominant gender” (we don’t, we literally just want equality). She wants us to stop complaining.
Yes, it is so easy to hate this girl. To want to tear into her with a righteous indignation. To roll your eyes and ask her if she is stupid. Or to point out that the man she voted for likes to grab pussy, so clearly she must think sexual assault is a-ok. To write her off as another privileged white chick.
There has been much said on this subject. And the question is: Do we try to see where the other side is coming from? Or does that amount to normalization of hate?
I’ve gone back and forth on this issue, and it will continue to come up over and over for me in more and more urgent ways. And right now, I’m voting for empathy.
I think this young blogger is a great example, actually, of why. A super quick internet search brings up these facts about her: She is young. She is in college. She is in a sorority. She lives in the South. And because I have been in her exact position, I have compassion for her. I know from personal experience that she’s not a feminist because she can’t be.
This girl is in a place right now where saying she is a feminist is dangerous.
Because of the social circles she occupies, her self worth is almost entirely tied up with what her male peers think of her. That is how greek life works. You’re defined by your sorority, yes, but your sorority is in turn defined by its reputation amongst fraternities. The fraternities throw the parties, providing the venue and the beer and the beer pong table, and they choose which sorority girls to invite. Imagine that. Imagine that your whole social life is built on the whim of the dick bouncer at the club. If a fraternity guy is being creepy, deal with it. You can’t avoid a drunk predator unless you decide to avoid all 15 of his pledge brothers as well, because they will always be on his side, and you can’t avoid all of them because your best friends want to hang out with them.
This young college woman feels independent and self actualized, and in many ways she has it good. She’s well fed, pretty, and getting an education. But she doesn’t realize that in many ways, her menu of options is only cosmetic: She’ll be eating the same shit sandwich no matter what, just with or without pickles.
Let’s review her choices: Should she dye her hair blond or just go with highlights? Which dress should she wear to the fraternity formal? Which boy’s dick should she suck in order to wangle an invitation to the formal? How slutty should she dress for the Golf Pros and Tennis Hoes mixer – like, sort of slutty or really slutty? I mean Lord, she didn’t even get to choose her friends. They were chosen for her in an opaque selection process called rush, where some equally immature girls looked over her makeup and outfit choices and asked her about her summer vacation before deciding if she was a “fit.”
It’s easy as an adult to say, “Just stay in and read a book!” or “Why don’t you just go do something else besides partying?” But if you’ve never sat inside your dorm room on a weekend, hearing the distant whoop of boys and the clattering of heels down the hall past your door, you can’t really understand the number it does on your self esteem to be so obviously excluded, especially when you don’t have many alternatives presented to you. Do you go watch a movie by yourself and risk running into another group of students you know? Do you join a “loser” club to fill your time? How often can you hide in the library and pretend to be cramming for an exam? And she can’t make new friends, because she’s in a sorority, where her friend group has been codified for the next four years. It would be an incredibly brave act to leave. She won’t. She’s drunk the Kool-aid.
Feminists like to talk about emotional labor, which is when you have to modulate your emotions to fit gendered expectations about what is appropriate. And this girl is definitely subjected this exhausting state of affairs all day and all night. Just imagine falling all over yourself to prove to the men in your life that you’re not like those angry feminists, that you’ll never ask for any emotional support, try to define the relationship, or tell him his jokes are sort of racist, as long as he’ll let you into the frat party this weekend and hopefully eventually make you his girlfriend after enough demeaning one night stands.
She is locked in a gilded cage, fed and watered by a the leering owner: the patriarchy. And she thinks she’s got it all. To speak up and say, “Hey, these guys kind of treat me like shit,” that would be biting the hand that feeds her beer. (Though, come to think of it, that metaphor seems to assume that we want to be someone’s pet, instead of a human being.) She can’t speak up and condemn having a pussy grabber for president, because she’s probably heard similar jokes from the boys in her life. Criticizing Trump for grabbing women would force her to confront the fact that there are boys in her life who have the same attitude, and that she doesn’t have any control over it. So she embraces it.
When she graduates from college, the gilded door to her cage will swing open, and she will eventually decide whether she’ll escape into the wider world, where she can choose her friends, choose which parties to attend, and make decisions that are best for her, instead of trying to appease men. I hope she does. She might not though. She might stay inside her cage where it feels safe and familiar, where she feels “protected” from immigrants and people of color that she’s been told will hurt her.
I have compassion for her.
And those white women who voted for Trump? Stop yelling at them for a moment. My aunt who lives in Mississippi told me a sad story about a woman who was in line at the polls with her husband. Her husband was loudly talking about Trump, and she was crying. “I don’t know what to do!” she sobbed. “You know what you’re going to do,” her husband told her.
“This woman has been told by her husband and her pastor that she should vote for Trump,” my aunt told me. (My aunt has switched churches when her pastor started telling her how she should vote.) Imagine that. Imagine the two men you’ve been told your whole life that you need to submit to are telling you that God wants you to vote Trump. That’s a difficult place to be in.
I have compassion for her.
This is a pretty story, you might be thinking, but we need to fight! Yes, we need to fight Trump and Bannon. We do not need to fight civilians who have been duped and brainwashed by Fox News. We don’t need to fight our families, or get into screaming matches on the supermarket. This isn’t just about doing the right thing. This is a strategy.
This point was brought home to me by this opinion piece written by a Venezuelan. Venezuela, if you don’t know, is quickly sliding into a humanitarian crisis. Food is hard to come by. Inflation requires people to carry backpacks of currency to get the few items that are available. And yet, people close to me, good people, still support the government. They are completely brainwashed. This might have been stopped, if the opposition had been more strategic. But the opposition made the mistake of looking down on strongman Chavez’s supporters, talking about high minded ideals, instead of pointing out how his policies was actively hurting them, leading to food shortages and corruption. They should have practiced compassion.
This applies to environmental causes as well. We need to point out how coal hurts all of us, by poisoning the air, and that solar and wind help all of us, by cleaning the air and providing jobs. We need to point out that without immigrants, all of our cities and towns would be deprived of a vital engine that makes their economies run – the people who drive our cabs, deliver our food, program our computers, pick our produce – they are immigrants.
So that is what I’m going to do. I vow to fight against policies that hurt us. I vow to call my representative and hold them accountable. And I promise to be kind to Trump supporters, and give them information on how Trump’s administration is hurting them, and how liberal policies help them. My goal should be to help them, not to be clever, or win the argument.
That is my new New Year’s resolution. What is yours?