For me, writing has always been my go-to therapy. Other people might go for a run. Or get completely pissed in a pub. Not me. I need to be able to write it down and get it out of my system, once and for all.
And yet, today, I must admit it is taking every last bit of the energy left in my body to write down anything sensible at all. I write. I delete. I start over, differently this time. Another draft down the bin. I go back and forth and I keep wrestling with what it actually is I want to say.
Not that there’s a lack of emotion. I’ve been close to tears for over 24 hours now. Who am I kidding, I cried my eyeballs out. Anyway. I need to see this through. Being shut up is the last thing we need to do right now.
Ne vous Trumpez pas
The past 24 hours we’ve been monitoring everything that has been going on the other side of the ocean like maniacs. As a political scientist, an anglophile and, well, an America-lover, I’ve been following the debates for months. Always have, also during previous campaigns. When Obama was campaigning the first time around, I was in the front line, right there in Illinois. When he was finally inaugurated, we were nipping on champagne in the boardroom of the Brussels office of Sidley Austin, the firm where the Obama’s first hit it off. And boy, have we been spoilt the last couple of years with a couple like the Obama’s in the White House. It probably contributes to the sheer magnitude of the shock with which we, Europeans, awakened yesterday.
And I will admit to being a lot less confident in the outcome than the commentators appearing on TV, playing around with polls and percentages, talking about these elections as some kind of scientific experiment. Mathematical certainties and elections do not go well together, something even the scholars at Princeton University have yet to figure out.
The lesser of two evils
But so, here we are, facing this new reality. This new world order. Alea iacta est. There might be one hundred reasons why the Americans voted as they did. I’m not going to go into great detail here (although do come and find me if that’s what you’re after – you know I love it). Let’s just be very clear on one thing: the way in which Clinton has been treated by the Trump campaign, by the media and frankly, folks in the street is of unseen sexist proportions.
How can it be that a candidate who, for decades, has been a hard-working, intelligent and competent politician is depicted consistently as a bad or worse candidate than a political rookie? A dubious businessman who cheated his customers, investors, contractors and even his fellow Republicans (if indeed that is what he is)? Someone who promotes misogyny, sexism and racism publicly? Whose program (if we can even call it that) consists of a series of hollow slogans? Who openly questions the rule of law and the fundamental principles of democracy? Who dares to portray scientifically proven facts about, say, global warming as ludicrous nonsense? Who wants his opponent imprisoned or shot? Who wants to build a wall of hundreds of miles in order to keep unwanted immigrants out of the country? Who wants to marginalize or exclude entire parts of the population? Who aims to turn one of the largest economies in the world into an island of splendid isolation? Who seeks to abandon basic health care programs? Who wants to put in jeopardy all the civil rights that have taken decades, if not centuries, to safely put in place?
How is it possible that the choice between the two candidates is presented as a choice between two evils, between the plague and cholera, as we would say in these parts, while Hillary is so clearly and objectively superior to The Donald in every single way?
“Hillary doesn’t seem like a very nice person.” “Not very likeable.” “She is aloof. Detached. Stand-offish.” “No charisma”. “And what’s with those pantsuits anyway?” Completely irrelevant criteria for assessing the competence of a candidate. And yet the merits of Clinton were measured by these ridiculous standards. I read no comment on the wardrobe choices of Trump. About his suits or the color of his tie. He doesn’t have to appear likeable or charismatic. For him, as a male candidate, it doesn’t even matter. Hell, even if he acts like the biggest a ** hole (and boy, we all know he did), he is rewarded for that kind of behavior.
What’s more, voters (and yes, that includes women) seem to have chosen for a certain authoritarian style of leadership. For someone who takes them by the hand and promises to get shit together again. As a female candidate Clinton was balancing on a tightrope: if you’re going to be the President of the US, you can’t afford to be perceived as a holy Mary. On the other hand, if you even show a hint of the aggressive attitude of your male opponent, you’re dismissed as a cold bitch. The distant ice princess who doesn’t feel anything. Who doesn’t make anyone else feel anything for that matter.
The double standards with which these two candidates were weighed up are simply hallucinating.
The consternation in the Clinton camp (and by extension everyone who is concerned with, say, basic human rights, free trade, democracy, climate change and the rule of law) is immense. Nevertheless, the election of Trump also offers opportunities. The fact that blatant sexism in the Western world still prevails rampantly is painful. Very painful. But on the upside: no one can now deny that there is indeed still a major problem. That double standards are real. And that they go all the way up to the highest echelons of our Western society and our political system.
So let the election of Trump also be the start of a new feminist movement. A strong fourth wave of feminism is needed more than ever. Let us close ranks and be united in outrage. And Michelle, honey, please get ready to put up a fight. We’re counting on you in 2020.