Life

This is what it means to be a woman in the age of Trump

Posted by
Hannah Keegan
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With Kavanaugh in the Supreme Court and Republicans posing a mounting threat to women’s rights, America is at boiling point. Two weeks ahead of the midterm elections, we ask six voters what it means to be a woman in the age of Trump

When Dr Christine Blasey Ford testified on 27 September at Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearing that she had been sexually assaulted by him, she began by saying, “I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I’m here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.” 

Her composed, steady-voiced testimony roused a rage and empathy in women across America that #MeToo had ignited a year earlier. They began phoning in to the politics network C-SPAN to share their own stories of sexual assault. The tag #WhyIDidntReport trended on Twitter. It felt, briefly, as if they were being heard. Then on 2 October, President Trump mocked Dr Ford’s testimony at a campaign rally. On 6 October, Kavanaugh was confirmed for a lifelong position in the Supreme Court.

America is a pressure cooker right now. In June, over 500 people were arrested after a women-led march against Trump’s immigration policy. The upcoming midterm elections have seen more women than ever standing for office, including Sharice Davids, who could become the first Native American woman in Congress, and Rashida Tlaib, who would be the first Muslim woman. American women are fighting back. The elections are being framed as the chance to support or condemn the Trump presidency. The midterm elections, taking place on 6 November, come around every four years; they’re where US voters elect their candidates in the House of Representatives as well as vote on the seats that are up for re-election in the Senate.

Dr Christine Blasey Ford testifying against Brett Kavanaugh

If Republicans gain greater control of Congress (the name for both houses), they would have an easier time pushing through Trump’s agenda. Roe v. Wade, for example – a 1973 bill which secured American women the right to an abortion – could be at risk. But if the Democrats gain more control, Trump’s presidency – and his much criticised ideology – could be in danger. Which means there is everything at stake.

As the country gears up for the fight, we spoke to six women who’ll be casting their votes. 

The tactical voter

US midterm elections donald trump women

Lauren, 26, a data analyst from New York, is voting Democrat. She says being a woman in America is: uncertain.

Right now, I have base-level anxiety all the time. During the Kavanaugh hearing particularly, it was hard to concentrate. We had it on live in the office; news alerts were constantly popping up on my phone. I, and most people around me, believed Dr Ford. How could you not? The vast majority of women don’t accuse men of sexual assault out of spite. I live in New York though, and I’m surrounded by liberals, so it’s easy to think that things are going to go your way. It’s a total bubble.

I tried not to talk about it with guys. In the past, I’ve heard men say things like, “I know him, he’s really nice,” or “I can’t picture it happening,” when other men have been accused of sexual assault, and I just didn’t want to have to hear that. It’s gotten to the point where a lot of my friends have said they don’t think they could ever date a Republican. Politics were not this divisive before.

My biggest dream for women is for America to be a place where we can speak up without caring about what men are going to think. But Kavanaugh is going to serve for a lifetime and that’s scary. It feels like our nation, as a whole, is in support of these characters that tell women we don’t matter. I’ll be voting in the midterms in my home state of Georgia because their Republican candidate is more extreme than the one in New York. His name is Brian Kemp and his tagline is literally, “Yep, I just said that.” He calls himself a politically incorrect conservative. I feel Georgia needs my vote more than New York. Overall, I just want it all to stop.

The Latino voter

US midterm elections donald trump women

Angie, 28, a graduate student from Los Angeles, is voting Democrat. She says being a woman in America is: arduous.

I feel disenchanted with America. Initially, when Trump won, I felt a sadness that I couldn’t attribute to a political loss. It was a personal loss. I thought that America was a place that welcomed people. I felt like we were moving forward. It was devastating to realise that my country didn’t have the same values and beliefs as me. Now, I feel worried for a whole flock of people who are undocumented. My hometown, Santa Paula, California, is 80% Latino, most of whom are immigrant workers, so I know the people his policies are targeting. They’re my friends, my neighbours, my community.

Since the election, I’ve had people shout at me on the street, just because I’m brown. One guy had a video camera and was asking me where my papers were. I mean, I was born in the United States, so I have very little to fear, but imagine how that must feel if you’re not an American citizen. It feels like I’m at risk of having my rights taken away – as a woman and as a minority. 

Republicans are now bringing up Roe v. Wade, which is something we thought was settled a long time ago. I wasn’t surprised when Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court either – in fact, I was certain he would be. I don’t think anything anyone could have said would have changed the Republicans’ minds. But I was still upset. I was tired, to be honest. I am tired. Tired of having to stand up for what’s right. But I want women to keep fighting for what we deserve.

The Trump supporter

Kelly*, 28, an analyst in the tech industry from Atlanta, is voting Republican. She says being a woman in America is: worrisome

I think the women of America – specifically, in the Democratic Party – are so concerned with women taking priority that it has come to the point of reverse discrimination. It’s evident in the fact that there are so many female-only events that exclude men, like job fairs, college admissions, and the #MeToo movement. I understand that the original goal was to give women equality, but we already have it. We live in America.

When Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court, I fully supported him. In America, we are innocent until proven guilty. I think that his accuser was clearly traumatised by something, but every person she claims was in the room during the alleged assault says it didn’t happen. There was no evidence. Plus, why come out years after it happened, just as he’s being nominated? 

In terms of Roe v. Wade, I think it would be really refreshing to see someone speak up for the voiceless, which in this case is unborn children. I believe abortion is necessary in some instances, like rape, but in America we’re given so many free opportunities to prevent pregnancy in the first place. Some women use abortion as birth control. Women are liberated and empowered here, we have so many more rights than the rest of the world as females. Instead of victimising ourselves, we need to reach out our hands to other parts of the world. This is where we can really start to make a difference, not by continuously marching in Washington.

The mother

US midterm elections donald trump women

Alise, 44, a piano teacher from Morgantown, West Virginia, is voting Democrat. She says being a woman in America is: disheartening.

Two of my children are transgender, so I’m passionate about LGBTQ+ issues. Since Trump came to power, students will just yell, “Trump!” at them in the corridor, like a threat. Even just his name carries with it a threat of potential violence and discrimination. As a mother, I worry. There’s been a culture shift, they had more protection under Obama. 

Where I live in rural West Virginia, the community is largely white, Christian and conservative. People don’t see outside of their own bubble, and that can be problematic. They will politely tell you they disagree with how your child identifies and expect that to be the end of it.

Right now, there is a change to the West Virginia state constitution being pushed through called ‘Amendment One’ – if implemented, it would eliminate any kind of funding for abortion and other women’s health issues. This amendment will almost certainly pass, even though there is only one abortion clinic in West Virginia, so it’s not like it’s easy anyway. Eventually, it would make it almost impossible for women living in rural areas to get safe abortions. Most people around here supported Brett Kavanaugh because they saw it was a way of getting Roe v. Wade overturned, too. The last month has made me feel very frustrated. At the same time, there will be more women than ever on my ballot this year.

That is exciting. It feels good to see that women aren’t cowing to Trump, they’re standing up and saying, “You know what, I’m going to run.”

The politician

US midterm elections donald trump women

Janet, 65, a Democratic politician running to represent Ohio’s 4th congressional district, from Oberlin, is voting Democrat. She says being a woman in America is: challenging.

I am running in this election because a man (my opponent) has reprehensible views about women. I first met him at a community event, where his speech was very far-right. Afterward, I went up to him to tell him I was opposed to the way he spoke. His response was that he stands against abortion under all circumstances.

I hadn’t even brought it up, he was clearly just baiting me. I said, “Really? Even in cases of rape and incest?” Then he said if a woman got pregnant because of rape it was an act of God, with a smirk. I was furious. From then on, I was watching him. I was eventually convinced to run for his seat by my community. I think if the Republicans win, they’ll want to bring up Roe v. Wade. It feels like we’re going back in time. I will fight them tooth and nail on it.

I’ve spoken about my experiences with domestic abuse in a campaign video. I got a tonne of women responding, saying because I’d spoken out they felt brave enough to. As a survivor of abuse myself, I know how hard it is for Dr Christine Blasey Ford to come forward with her story. The Kavanaugh hearing made it so clear that the Republican leadership does not respect women. I think Trump is sending a message to women that we’re second class citizens and we need to sit down and shut up. I, for one, will not go quietly.

The activist

US midterm elections donald trump women

Mallory, 32, CEO of a PR firm, from Cleveland, Ohio, is voting Democrat. She says being a woman in America is: hopeful.

As a survivor of sexual assault, I was really nervous about watching Dr Ford’s testimony. I knew it would be emotional and difficult, but I couldn’t look away. I was in Washington for meetings at the time. I knew I couldn’t help her avoid the pain she was going through, but I also knew that I would feel completely helpless just sitting in a boardroom watching it on TV.

Everyone around me was crying. Part of it was reliving our own experiences, part of it was knowing that our government didn’t care. After about an hour, I couldn’t take any more and decided to get a drink.

I bumped into a friend who told me about an action happening that afternoon at the Supreme Court. She warned me that I might get arrested if I joined. That’s all I needed to hear! We stuffed some bail money in our bras and marched with hundreds of activists from the Capitol Building to the steps of the Supreme Court. We occupied the street for almost two hours, in the rain, before we were arrested. I felt less helpless sitting in jail than I did listening to Dr Ford choke up during her testimony.

In terms of the current cultural climate, I’m feeling hesitant but hopeful. I know Trump supporters feel emboldened and powerful right now, and that scares me. They proudly hate women, love guns, advocate for violence – a recipe for unsafe communities. At the same time, I see people talking about sexual assault, harassment, access to abortion, fair wages, racial and economic justice, and everything else I care about more than ever. It might not feel like it at times, but I think our culture is shifting for the better.

The US midterm elections take place on Tuesday 6 November

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