I am exhausted.
Not physically, although I often am so tired I fall asleep when my eyes slide closed for too long, weary of consuming more data in a day than I have any right to impose on them.
I am exhausted in a much deeper sense, facing a tiredness that has crept into my bones and follows me like a shadow. It’s a weight that’s been building in me for years, like stones plunged into my stomach and tearing me up from the inside out.
I don’t know when the first stone dropped. It may have been the first time I walked down the street and a stranger yelled something about my body. It may have been when I realized my partner had decided his wants were more important than mine. It may have been when my parents bought me pepper spray to keep me safe, even though my brother never needed any.
There were messages over and over again, from the movies I watched to the people I loved, showing me that the world was not built for me. I never know if today someone will decide that public space is theirs, not mine, and that they deserve to harass me on the street. I never know if today they’ll decide I deserve to be hurt for not smiling for them.
Then came the stones from the internet. The internet is the largest public space humanity can conceive, and it is still not built for me. I saw a seventeen-year-old girl get harassed, threatened, and told to kill herself for weeks because she expressed an opinion and a grown man decided she needed to be hurt for that. Every single woman on the internet I know is prepared to be attacked. We know that any day could be the day someone decides that we should be hacked and our personal information should be made available for billions of people. We know that any day could be the day someone decides to abuse us, threaten us, stalk us, and there’s nothing we can do except be ready and try to protect ourselves. It’s not a question of “if” for me. It’s a question of “when.” The weight pushes down on me until I feel like my head is just above water.
And then we reached this year and I am drowning.
I suppose I thought that misogyny was, if not on its way out, at least going out of style. I cannot put into words how exhausting it has been to watch this country fail me and the women I love over and over again. This election taught me that you can be one of the most experienced, intelligent, powerful women in the world and you will still be reduced to your voice, your laugh, the way you smile or don’t. You can be an articulate expert in a field and be pitted against a man with no comprehension of what he’s talking about. You can offer substantive reform ideas on virtually every issue facing this country and people will scream that you are a bitch who deserves to die.
But we knew that was coming, didn’t we? We knew that Hillary Clinton would face a disgusting amount of sexism while running for president. What we didn’t know was who would be standing at the other podium, and that is who makes me feel like I’m drowning.
It’s not just the man himself, although the knowledge that he is so close to being elected the leader of my country makes me physically ill. I don’t say that for dramatic effect. My stomach actually aches when I consider the possibility that he may have any power over my future. He would ban my best friend from this country. His vice-president would put me and my friends into conversion therapy. He would block full healthcare for millions of women. “The personal is political” has been a feminist mantra for decades, but I never knew the political would be this personal.
It does not shock me that he exists and is so deluded that he believes he should be president. What did surprise me was that almost half the country agrees. Millions of people don’t think that sexual assault precludes someone from being the leader of the free world. I need to say that again. Millions of people don’t think that bragging about committing sexual assault disqualifies someone from the presidency. I can’t think about this without shaking. Millions of people don’t think that his blatant and rampant racism disqualifies him. Millions of people don’t think that he should be required to treat anyone with respect, not veterans, not differently abled people, not families of fallen soldiers, not anyone nonwhite, and certainly not any woman.
Millions of people have told me that I don’t deserve to be treated like a human being. That my body is subject to anyone who lays claim to it, as long as they’re famous. How do I deal with that? I really don’t know.
I love being a woman. In some ways I’m a little obsessed with it; I am constantly aware of my own womanhood and how other women exist in my life. Yesterday I mentioned that “all women are in my sisterhood” and was told I really should tell them about that, so: hey, if you identify as a woman, you’re in my sisterhood and I love you. There is an undeniable strength and pride I draw from the incredible accomplishments of women all around me and I wouldn’t change that for anything.
And yet, I am exhausted. I am exhausted by sexual harassment, sexual assault, discrimination, the gender pay gap, the second shift, the glass ceiling, cat-calling, the devaluing of women’s voices, the demands that women take up less space, “get in the kitchen” jokes, legislation of women’s bodies, of seeing breasts used to advertise cars and beer and hamburgers but not allowed to be used to feed children in public, of scripts for how we should dress and look and think and speak and live.
Today, I voted for the first time, and I voted for the first female president of the United States. But even if all my dreams for today come true and we elect our first Madam President, the past eighteen months have shown us that there is still so much work to be done. Those millions of people are not going to wake up tomorrow and start studying feminist theory. They’re going to keep screaming that Hillary is a bitch for as long as she is in the public eye.
Well you know what? She is a bitch. So am I. Bitches get stuff done. You can either fall in line or you can fall behind, but I’m tired of being tired. I’m getting angry instead.