Fears that an overt misogynist would be appointed to the White House were confirmed earlier this week as Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States. Not only did Trump win by a landslide, but his only rival, Hillary Clinton, trailed behind by 0.3% in the popular vote, indicating that his policies are reflective of the desires of the majority of Americans. One only needs to take a glance at the breakdown of Trump’s voters to see that his basis of support lies predominantly with older white men. And yet, Clinton, despite being the first woman to run for Presidency, attracted the same number of women voters as her Democrat predecessor, Barack Obama, and 53% of white women voted for the Republican nominee this year. Nevertheless, a feminist President – regardless of their gender – is exactly what America needs.
I spoke to numerous American college women who, in the first Presidential election whereby they could vote, all fiercely opposed Trump. Attending university in states that voted overwhelmingly in favour of Clinton, their views are reflective of current liberal anxieties, but also possess an optimistic spirit; adamant that women and other minorities will not be silenced by Trump’s coming Presidency.
In a nation that was praised for electing the first African-American President just eight years ago, many are now apprehensive that the U.S. is regressing into ultra-conservatism. This is certainly Stephanie’s view, a freshman at the University of Michigan, who laments “I really thought America was heading in the right direction” following Obama’s two-term presidency. Simply put, Stephanie believes that the American people “don’t think that a woman would make a successful President”.
Bethany, a junior at Northwestern University, Illinois, seems to share Stephanie’s frustrations, maintaining that the election result says much about “how we value women in America”. The Indian Express explains how a number of women “willingly side-lined Trump’s deplorable misogynist behaviour”. Thus, whilst ‘gender’ was not the only factor in Clinton’s failure to secure the Presidency, American society has shown that men can continue to be successful despite their backward and degrading attitude towards women. As Bethany agonisingly stresses, this sends the damaging message that “we allow men time and time again to get away with [accusations of] sexual assault virtually consequence free”. The unstoppable force that is Trump testifies to how white men are excused of almost everything, as long as they have money, power, and privilege on their side. Indeed, a recent Cosmopolitan feature revealed how some of his most ardent female supporters would have to see Trump murder someone before he lost their support.
A college student in New York, who would prefer to remain anonymous, shares Stephanie and Bethany’s views that Trump’s election is emblematic of a socially regressive American society. A major issue highlighted by all of these young women is that the pro-choice movement will come under scrutiny from Trump and Pence. Despite Obama permanently protecting Planned Parenthood from defunding in the wake of the election result, one of the women I spoke to highlighted that “many women are now getting IUDs” in haste before Trump’s inauguration in anticipation of their contraceptive rights being stripped. In an extremely powerful assertion alluding to breaches to women’s civil liberties, the junior from the East Coast argued that Trump “threatens the very basic rights of being female” – something all American women who want the choice to control their own bodies will undoubtedly fear.
Yet, in his acceptance speech, Trump’s brash and unashamed rhetoric already seemed toned down, emphasising “unity” and being a President for “all Americans”. Moreover, on election morning, Trump had removed his statement promising to “ban all Muslims” from the U.S. from his website, surprising given the prevalence of Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric. Can American women seek solace in Trump’s apparent U-turn, or should they remain guarded when it comes to Trump’s sexism and his Vice President’s anti-abortion stance? Only time will tell whether fears surrounding his Presidency are to be realised, but, for now, a vast degree of moral panic has engulfed the anti-Trump camp.
All of the young women I spoke to seemed deeply offended by Trump’s election, and interpreted the result as a personal attack on women’s rights, as well as an assault on other minorities. This is not the vision these women had for their nation, and their disappointment with the electoral choices made by the wider public is unmistakeable. And yet, in anticipating their country’s future, they all also possessed an admirable faith in American women to defend themselves against an inherently misogynistic establishment. As one student so ardently put it, “I was and still am so empowered by the fact that we had a female Presidential candidate… We will fight. This [defeat] will only inspire us to work harder for our rights”. Regardless of the policies Trump implements, his election has undeniably made racism, sexism and homophobia acceptable in the public sphere; something we all need to actively oppose if we are to preserve our liberal Western ideals.