The Year That’s Lasted a LifetimeAn Election Retrospective

It has been exactly 365 days since the election of Donald Trump. For many of us, that day marked the beginning of a year of resistance. In this election anniversary special, Bitch staff share what that fateful day sparked in us, how it changed us, and how it moved us to action. We are here for our community and invite you to share your stories with us on social media using #BitchVotes2017.

Thanks to Evette Dionne, senior editor; Ashley Duchemin, production manager; Dahlia Grossman-Heinze, senior engagement editor; Kate Lesniak, publisher; Soraya Membreno, director of community; Kristin Rogers Brown, art director; and Andi Zeisler, cofounder, for their stories!

 


Transcript

Intro: [Clip of political pundits predicting a “landslide victory” for Hillary Clinton.] November 8, 2016, seems like a lifetime ago. That morning, Hillary Clinton’s election as the first woman president of the United States seemed inevitable. The night would go quickly, she’d secure her 270 electoral votes, and we’d continue striving for the systemic changes Barack Obama initiated during his presidency. That did not come to pass, and seemingly, over the past 365 days, we’ve been unable to grapple with and heal from that unexpected outcome. While Trump’s election is still impossible to understand, it ignited a fire under so many of us, including the folks who run dear ol’ Bitch. In this special election anniversary podcast, seven Bitch staffers offer keen insight on how November 8 changed the direction of our lives.

Soraya Membreno, director of community: The election didn’t create a spark so much as it brought an underlying fear to the surface that I think most people of color can recognize. I can say it helped me make the conscious decision to talk about the things that matter to me with my parents, where before I usually just kind of assumed it didn’t interest them or they wouldn’t understand. Which has meant talking more explicitly about politics, and feminism, and race within our own family, and they’re into it. I mean, literally yesterday I got a text from my mom with a link to a petition calling for Trump’s impeachment! And she was just like “It’s at 1.3 million, sign this right now!”

But mostly it’s made me feel more protective. It’s been sobering to see how truly little regard this government has for our lives. There isn’t anything morally superior about a democracy if it can allow people like Trump and Pence and fucking Bannon to be effective. Or if it can turn healthcare into a contentious issue. And this year that’s the one that’s hit closest to home. My mom is utterly dependent upon the ACA and every time they’ve come close to a repeal has ended with us on the phone at 1 o’clock in the morning thinking through contingency plans in utter panic. Because without that subsidy my mom’s health insurance bill is more than my parents’ mortgage. And we’ve had to consider things like my parents leaving the country and sending my sister to live with me, or them getting a divorce just so that she can qualify for Medicaid. That this is where we’re at in the United States in 2017? So, I’m definitely putting in more C-SPAN time than I used to.

And just in general, I think, it has made me less quiet and less patient, and deeply angry, but also that much more committed to seeing my community uplifted with an immediacy and an urgency I hadn’t articulated before because I’m realizing that that’s everything now. Our communities and our chosen families; that’s everything we’ve got.

Evette Dionne, senior editor: The election of Donald Trump taught me the importance of reclaiming my time. I thought I’d floated into my dream career: I was editing identity-related news and politics stories for a startup women’s site that prided itself on “intersectionality” and quickly pivoted whenever I highlighted their missteps. On November 7, I was proud to be on that team. By November 9, I couldn’t wait to leave. Since I was on the news team, I had to work election night alongside my colleagues, and it was a master class in meltdown. It started off jubilantly enough, and then quickly descended into chaos as it became clear that the orange man who admitted to grabbing women by the pussy would be the next president of the United States. That night, and through the next day, I felt the burden of being the only Black woman on staff, leaned on for emotional and mental support while being left out to dry. I needed to reclaim my time.

Reclaiming my time, ushered into our public lexicon through Maxine Waters, is more than an internet slogan: It’s a mantra, a lens that marginalized people can use to gauge when deciding whether or not an opportunity or a person is worth their investment. It gives us, me, confidence in my decision-making, in the power of my voice, and in the importance of “no.” [Clip of Maxine Waters saying “reclaiming my time.”] Maxine Waters has many clapbacks to choose from, but reclaiming my time is, by far, the one that’s most resonant because it’s the weapon people of color need to navigate a time such as this. Over the past year, I’ve found my way to Bitch where I no longer feel as if I’m carrying the burden of political chaos alone. Media has a lot of work to do. As I’ve often said, inclusion is an intentional, purposeful, and ongoing act. We’re a community that understands that and we’re fighting for our survival, something I’m grateful for everyday. Donald Trump is a buffoon. His presidency, however, led me to the best career decision I’ve ever made.

Dahlia Grossman-Heinze, senior engagement editor: I’d been working at Bitch for six months when the election happened. Someone sent us a pizza to Bitch headquarters and most of the day was really happy. I went straight home after work and stayed in front of my television until about nine. But that night, I went to bed before the election had officially been called because I didn’t want to watch it actually happen.

The day after the election, I and other Bitch staff members read from the pages of back issues of Bitch on Facebook Live all day, just to create a space where our community could hear voices and see faces of feminists. Some folks stayed on with us all day and lots of people were leaving comments saying how much they appreciated and valued that space in that moment. It was such a hard day and even though I cried every day for 10 days afterward, I still remember feeling so lucky that I was around people who were feeling the same way I was. That I didn’t have to hide how I felt or who I was that day or all the days afterward. From there, Feminist Snack Break was born. Now, Feminist Snack Break is a weekly conversation on Facebook where our community can talk with each other and share jokes, articles, movie recommendations. A place to talk about politics and pop culture. I think it really feels like a place where friends are hanging out and talking about what they’re up to and interested in. Also my cat Howard does Feminist Snack Break with me, and I know people are watching more for him than for me. I don’t mind, I know he’s a very charismatic cat.

I went to the Women’s March in Washington with some good friends this year and it made me feel really charged up to take Trump on in my work. Seeing so many people out and fighting Trump on day one felt like a huge historic event, even as it was unfolding before me, even as it was happening. I’m so glad I went. That was actually the trip where I accidentally got to meet Bo and Sunny, the Obamas’ dogs, so it was a double blessing.

This past year has been shitty in all these ways that has spurred on something like my true self, who’s a lot braver than my old safe and way more inclined to be making trouble. I’ve been very guided by the words of Congressman John Lewis, who urged Americans to make good trouble by finding a way to get in the way. [Clip of Congressman John Lewis talking about getting into “good trouble.”] That’s really been my motto this year, and I try to do that in my work and on Feminist Snack Break and in conversations with my friends. I’m trying to not be afraid of what people with more power than me will say about what I do or what I think. When I see something that makes me angry, I’m writing about it or talking about it as loudly as I can. I’m trying to be who I think I really am, which is a troublemaker.

Kate Lesniak, publisher: Donald Trump hates everyone. He’s grabbing women by the pussy, dismantling what little protections were in place for the queer and trans communities, building a wall to keep out anyone and everyone who has brown skin, openly mocking folks with disabilities, gutting healthcare for children and our most vulnerable populations, imposing unconstitutional travel bans, shouting from the rooftops that all lives matter, and even forcing through tax policies that’ll hurt the very people who elected him. 

Though it’s difficult for me to say this on the heels on all of those devastating, inexcusable aggressions, I think it’s true. There’s one person who Trump hates more than everyone else: It’s himself. 

We all know by now that every move 45 makes is one that he assesses by measure of popularity. That his only guiding light is likes, retweets, and escalating chants from sparsely filled rallies. He has no internal compass, no idea who he is without the constant reassurance of others. The indicators are all there—he abuses his partners, his children, his closest advisors—and of course, by extension, himself. 

But the thing is, it isn’t just Trump’s self-hatred that got us into this mess. It’s all of ours. And when I say ours, by that I mean white people. A year ago today, there was a tendency to point fingers. To unpredictable polls, to rust-belt voters, to Russian trolls—the list goes on. Especially for those of us who consider ourselves to be liberal, and already working towards a more socially just future—that finger rarely pointed back at ourselves. So on November 8—five days before my 31st birthday—I took a long, long, long look in the mirror, and I found myself paging through old journals.

I have a secret to share with you. I hate myself too. Not as much as Donald Trump, but in little ways that very easily seep out in the smallest daily actions. Enough that without noticing it, that self-hate might grow into something bigger.

It’d always been my intention to write daily, or at least weekly. But as it turns out, over fifteen years, I’d only ever really consistently written anything when it was time to record my regrets and shortcomings. Instead of being a story of the life I’ve had the privilege to live, those pages told the tale of someone with patterns of self-hatred. The same kind that elected Trump. The same kind that have driven this President into a spiral of internal and external destruction.

So though I’ve done many things in my community and beyond to resist Trump’s presidency for the last year, for me, the most important thing I’ve done has been to write every single day. Even just for a minute. To see if, with every sentence, I’d have more insight into what drives me, the choices I make, the patterns I perpetuate. If I wrote every day, I wondered, would I be able to interrupt and address even the smallest self-hating moments before they snowballed into something bigger? Something that might cause others pain? 

I turn 32 next Monday. I have two notebooks filled to the brim with memories and thoughts and questions. Some detail challenging conversations with others, rallies attended, exciting new developments at Bitch—the outward work that records a long year of resistance. I’m proud of what’s in those pages. But most importantly, I’m changed, daily, by the fact that I wrote them.

Kristin Rogers Brown, art director: So a year ago I could not get out of my head that I possibly made a subconscious deal with the devil that allowed the Chicago Cubs to win the world series, and that somehow the election results were my fault. My first election was 1992, when Bill Clinton was running. Hearing Hillary talked about in the press was the first time I heard somebody called a bitch, and worse, in mainstream media. It was Time magazine, if I remember, talking about a comment she made about staying home and baking cookies. [Clip of Hillary Clinton on baking cookies.]

On election night last year, I thought of my grandma, who lived in Arkansas. She wasn’t so sure about Bill Clinton, but Hillary, she loved. Her family was from Chicago, like us. Her mom was tough. My grandma said, “I would vote for that one, when she runs for president.” I thought about my students. I teach design at one of the art schools here in Portland, and a former thesis student of mine was part of the team that designed Hillary’s campaign. I thought about them knocking on doors and campaigning as well as doing the design work. 

When the night was over, the one thought I had was a dark one. I was glad my mom is not around to see this. Just the week before, my heart was pretty broken thinking about the fact that she, a lifelong cubs fan, died without seeing them win the world series. That her dad hadn’t either. And that this, this was somehow a blessing. I wouldn’t have wanted to feel all this with her. It felt so personal, like this country hated me. And her, and us.

I’m really glad to be doing this work at Bitch. I’m proud of all my friends and loved ones who worked hard for things to go another way that day. I’m trying to make choices every day that do a little more good: put myself out there and walk the talk, put my body on the line when I can so that other people don’t have to. But it’s hard to know where that line is where you can feel all these things and learn and try to make them better and still take care of yourself.

Ashley Duchemin, production manager: I have a contract with myself that I recite when I’m feeling low or have something important coming up or when I catch a glimpse of it framed in my closet: “I’m a powerful, responsible, authentic woman,” I say aloud three times, or until I believe it. The day after the election and for many months after, I felt I was none of those things. I envied those who marched and protested, those who felt strong enough, brave enough to put their lives on the line, those who could get out of bed in the morning.

For me, everything hurt. One day I found myself face down sobbing into my rug, for everyone who would suffer at 45’s hands, for everyone who had already suffered because of him, and for myself, a vocal queer Latina who just moved to the whitest city in the United States. Though my partner tried his best to console me through the pain, I felt alone and lost, far away from my family and loved ones, people like me, people who would understand, I remember thinking.

Months later, something hit me as I was applying to different jobs. I had the safety net of working from home for my previous job, but I had no bites. “I’m a powerful, responsible, authentic woman.” Was I going to find anything? Then, out of nowhere, one of the biggest companies on the planet, a company no one says no to, reached out. I killed the interview. But I felt this aching in my soul that I was making the wrong move, that the woman crying into the rug months ago wouldn’t be proud of me, that something bigger was calling, that I’d be miserable and now is not the time for misery. The day after I declined, I saw a job listing for Bitch. Tired of playing small and of smoothing out my rough edges, I decided to take a risk: be as candid and uncensored as possible.

When I learned that I got the position at Bitch, I screamed “woohoo!” into the phone at Kate and Dahlia. My heart swelled up, and I wanted to dance and laugh and cry, but this time because it felt right. I could stop hating myself for not leaving my apartment for months and for deleting all of my social media because I was in pain. I could roll myself up out of the ball I’d shrunken into, and use my voice to fight against this bullshit system, this bullshit election.

I said to myself, “I’m a powerful, responsible, authentic woman.” And that day I meant it.

Andi Zeisler, cofounder: The morning after the 2016 election, I met with my family at the donut shop down the street from my house. My ex and were in the midst of a divorce, and things were awkward, but we agreed that it was crucial to sit down with our 8-year-old and discuss what it meant that the country had just elected as president a man who embodied every single character trait of a garden-variety schoolyard bully.

I don’t remember exactly what we said. I remember us telling him that he might hear people repeating things that Donald Trump had said about immigrants, about people with dark skin, about Jewish people like us. And I remember telling him that the most important thing we can all do is be kind, because a lot of people would be scared, and confused, and hurting.

I also remember that, as we left the donut shop, a young woman tapped me on the shoulder and whispered “You’re a really good mom,” after which I burst into tears and walked home.

That morning, I had the language to talk to my son about sadness, and kindness, but I didn’t have the language to talk about anger. Because anger is still taboo, particularly in women. We try to smooth it out of our children and modulate our voices in the midst of chaos, and, of course, in one of 2016’s memorable phrases, go high when they go low. [Clip of Michelle Obama’s “When they go low, we go high” statement.] But when I realized that I was crying because it seemed better than yelling or throwing things or using the words “goddamn motherfucking fuck” in front of my child, it changed something. I realized that I was done with anger alternatives. I searched my pockets and found that I had no fucks left to give. I was ready to embrace fury.

I was raised, like so many women, to be nice and calm and ready to smooth over whatever unpleasantness presented itself. Even once I became what could be called a professional feminist, my mother made a point of complimenting me on not being “strident.” To not be an “angry feminist” was the highest plaudit for someone who came to feminism at the end of a backlash and the beginning of a new wave.

What’s changed for me in the past year has something to do with understanding that anger is an appropriate response, and that maybe I haven’t been angry enough. We’ve been told that if we watched our language and didn’t make men feel emasculated and didn’t make women feel intimidated and didn’t keep demanding things, that maybe, maybe, we’d get to be fully human someday.

For me, 2017 has been an exploration of being angry in public. For myself, on behalf of others. In my work, in my social life, and online, I find myself surrounded by angry women, many of whom have carried the burden of being labeled and ostracized and censured because of their anger, and that makes me even angrier. In 2016, I was not the angry feminist the world has always seen in any feminist. In 2017, I became her.

Outro: Bitch is here, and we aren’t going anywhere. Donald Trump built his campaign on isolationism. On driving wedges between people. Our greatest power comes from resisting that, and from reaching out to support each other. We will stay angry, but we will also love harder. We’re here to keep outsmarting the patriarchy with you, every day. Thanks to Evette Dionne, Ashley Duchemin, Dahlia Grossman-Heinze, Kate Lesniak, Soraya Membreno, Kristin Rogers Brown, and Andi Zeisler for their stories.

You’re reading a post from the Bitch Media HQ Crew!

DAMN! That was good. Time to sign up for our Weekly Reader!

0 Comments Have Been Posted

Add new comment