I felt out of sorts all day yesterday. There was a heaviness within me. A feeling of, this is all just too much. I was surprised that I experienced these feelings. I didn’t think I cared that much about the U.S. elections. The previous day a friend had said to me, “Tomorrow the movement is going to be very happy”. By movement he meant the feminist movement. I responded, “I don’t care that much about Hillary or the U.S. elections”. But now I can see clearly that I do care. I didn’t care that night because I had made certain assumptions: No way will the American people vote in a man like Trump. No way will the American people vote in a man who has made such hateful statements against whole swathes of communities – migrants, women, and people with disabilities among others. And it physically hurts that in 2016, openly nationalistic, misogynistic men can win elections in the most influential countries in the world.
what are the chances of a Black, Queer, non-conformist, differently abled woman winning the U.S. Presidency?
The gendered dimension
Part of the pain I feel is because I am worried about what this means for prospective women Presidents all over the world. I am sure Hillary Clinton is no angel. I am also sure that she is no worse than the average white male Democratic presidential candidate. And yet the critiques that I consistently heard about her during the campaign period seemed particularly gendered. ‘She’s a war hawk’. Well isn’t that practically every American President? I heard no one refer to Trump as a war hawk or maybe I am just slightly deaf. ‘She’s in bed with Wall Street’. Okay, and that’s a shocker for America? ‘She’s arrogant’. Eye roll. Isn’t that what every confident woman is called? As usual a woman who raises her head above the parapet is shot down for believing that she can rise to high public office. A woman who has vast political experience is swept aside for a man who peddles in hate and goes low not high. And this is a privileged white woman, who in theory should have had all the cards stacked in her favour. Imagine then, what are the chances of a Black, Queer, non-conformist, differently abled woman winning the U.S. Presidency? And I think that’s the root cause of my sadness, that women’s leadership in all arenas of public life is still too rare. And in this historic U.S. election where the better candidate by far was a woman, that was still no guarantee of success. And what does this mean for future women who aspire to the office of the President in the U.S. or elsewhere? That they distant themselves as much as possible from their gender a la Margaret Thatcher? That they do not run on ‘women’s issues’?
If there has been one positive thing in this election it has been the leadership that Black women have shown.
I have heard some people describe Trump’s victory speech as ‘Presidential’, and say that they think he will be a good leader. That everything he said before was all talk, and now that he has won he is not going to do the things he had said he would do. Well, I say when a leopard shows you his spots believe him. There is absolutely no reason to believe that a Trump Presidency will be significantly better than a Trump campaign. With Trump as President of the U.S.A., and the added boost his election has given to racists, sexists, and fundamentalists of all kinds, the world today is a more dangerous place than it was yesterday.
The future is Black feminist leadership
If there has been one positive thing in this election it has been the leadership that Black women have shown. According to CNN exit polls the majority of people that voted for Hillary Clinton were Black women. It is no wonder that the Twitterati are now calling for a #Michelle2020 presidential bid. As 100 women of colour remind us, [black] “…women’s hands have always been the strongest grip bending the arc of history towards justice”.