Category Archives: Feminism

What Should a Dramatization of the Trump Era Look Like?

As a pop culture junkie living through the first-ever reality star President, I’ve spent maybe a little too much time wondering what the inevitable series of political biopics and miniseries about the Trump Era and all of the events surrounding it will look like.

With the shortening of the news cycle, so much has happened this year that we’ve already forgotten about (Trump was impeached in January) let alone before he even took office (the Access Hollywood tape). In my eyes, a sweeping, well-done narrative would actually be both enlightening and engrossing, not to mention the fun there is in dream-casting. (Patti Lupone as Nancy Pelosi? Allegra Edwards as Kayleigh McEnany or Ivanka? Holland Taylor as Hillary?)

However, it would be too easy to go into parodic territory. Long before Trump came down the escalator, when he still hosted The Apprentice, people did bad impersonations of him, telling friends, “You’re fired,” across the table at dinner parties. (Guilty.) This has only increased since he took office. But it’s not funny anymore.

It’s one thing to impersonate a guy with funny hair who hosts a successful reality competition show who says incendiary things on cable news but mostly stays away. It’s another thing to impersonate the President on Saturday Night Live, or a talk show, or at a dinner party, who makes fun of disabled people, disrespects war heroes, refuses to attend the funeral of civil rights icons, and basically violates everything to do with common decency and respect in the name of America First.

Regardless of what policies you support or which party you’re registered with, the research and statistics show that Trump has not made America great again. He has done everything in his power to ignore the coronavirus pandemic and act like we’ve defeated it when it’s only getting worse while working to undo the legacy of presidents before him.

At this point, to portray Trump in any fashion is to perpetuate his image and legacy. From a practical, artistic standpoint, it’s impossible to do a portrayal or impersonation of Trump and have it taken seriously at this point. Even if Daniel Day Lewis did his method acting most, we’d all still laugh at it because that’s what we’ve been trained to do since 2015–laugh at the “orange man” so you don’t take him seriously and notice what he’s actually doing. From a political standpoint, to keep impersonating Trump is dangerous. It contributes to mythmaking, positive or negative, and no good can come of that.

So to answer the central question posed in this post’s title, what should a dramatization of the Trump Era look like? We’re getting our first taste very soon. Showtime announced this week their new miniseries, The Comey Rule, and yes, it looks as gross and trite as it sounds.

With Jeff Daniels as the eponymous James Comey and Brendan Gleeson doing his damndest to “seriously” portray Trump, The Comey Rule seems to be prestige television’s answer to my question. However, I would argue that building off of what I’ve stated above, Trump should be entirely absent from any dramatizations of the Trump era.

The Comey Rule is a bad idea for lots of reasons (least of which it seems to ignore the Hillary Clinton mess entirely and start with Trump in the White House?). But the story could easily be told without Trump in it at all. (No shade to Gleeson, who is a fine actor.) But if this is a taste of the kind of stories Hollywood thinks we should tell about the Trump era, I’ll pass.

Molly

Read more about The Comey Rule here: James Comey is no hero and Showtime’s The Comey Rule won’t change that

Mrs. America Coverage

Below are links to all of my coverage of Mrs. America for Culturess.

Season 1

Mrs. America series premiere live stream: Watch online

Mrs. America series premiere review: Meet Phyllis Schlafly

Mrs. America season 1 episode 2 review: Revolution is messy

Mrs. America season 1 episode 3 review: Power concedes nothing

Mrs. America season 1 episode 4 live stream: Watch online

Mrs. America season 1 episode 4 review: Mother of the movement

Mrs. America season 1 episode 5 live stream: Watch online

Mrs. America season 1 episode 5 review: Just a phase

Molly

Recommendation of the Week: Hillary

There are still a few days left in Women’s History Month, so we may as well recognize the woman who came closest to breaking that “highest and hardest glass ceiling” by winning the popular vote in 2016.

The new docuseries Hillary on Hulu examines Hillary Rodham Clinton with unprecedented access and provides new insight into her political campaigns, career, and private life. Regardless of what you think of Hillary as a person, she has paved the way for future female leaders and that deserves credit.

Read more of my thoughts on the docuseries for Culturess.

Molly

Recommendation of the Week: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Okay, so my recommendation for you this week isn’t exactly new. In fact, Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered on the long-departed The WB network nearly a quarter of a century ago. Buffy is by no means a perfect show and it hasn’t aged well in some ways (it is painfully white), but it is nonetheless extremely meaningful to television, the first show to blend genre and mythos with humanity in such a thoughtful way.

Because of this, Buffy is the perfect show to binge right now while self-isolating, or while dealing with generalized anxiety around the Covid-19 crisis. Whether you’re looking for catharsis or escapism, Buffy Summers is your girl. Read more of my thoughts at Culturess.

Molly

Walk On, Teachers

A few weeks ago, when talks of a teacher walkout in Oklahoma were just a rumor, a friend on Facebook asked his followers to share the name and memory of a teacher who’d made a difference. (The post ended up going viral.) Like many of us, there’s no way I could pick just one teacher.

My second grade teacher, Mrs. Morrison. When I got braces with glow in the dark bands, she let me lead the class to the teachers lounge so I could climb up on a desk, smile at the fluorescent light in the ceiling, and see them glow. (They were a letdown.) In a fun twist of fate, I recently got to award her a certificate in honor of her fiftieth year since graduating college this past Homecoming. I asked if she remembered me. She said, “Oh yes. You were a fun one.” I hoped that was a good thing.

My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Purkey, who had to reteach us third grade math, but let us watch The Goonies in class one day and was consequently horrified. (She did not remember the language  when she’d last watched it in the ’80s.) I still know how to count back change because of her.

My fifth grade teachers, Mrs. Underwood and Mrs. Pate. I used to go back and visit them every year for a while because they were just simply the best.

My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Bridges. The amount of reading we did in her class was amazing. She gently harassed me about taking too long to read The Lord of the Rings, but she still let me try. (We were supposed to read a book a week, I think, and of, course, it took me two, or three, to read just one of those.) She had an amazing audiobook collection to facilitate reading. Of course, anyone who knew my mom knew she was addicted to audiobooks. Mrs. Bridges gladly let us borrow from her classroom library.

My seventh and eighth grade algebra teacher, Mrs. Hamm. She let me and my friends have a second home in her classroom. I got to be a teacher’s aide for her one semester and felt like I was really responsible, but really I spent most of the time reading Harry Potter fanfiction. She still tutored me long after I left her class. She was even responsible for helping me find Lois Lane and cultivating my pomeranian addiction!

My sophomore English teacher, Mrs. Meigs. I think I probably drove her a little crazy with my pedantry and sometimes antagonistic questions. By the time I had her, I was ready to prove everyone wrong. However, she never ceased to find new ways to keep me challenged and encourage me. I’ll never forget a comment of hers stating, “You should be a journalist!” on some assignment we had. I kept it on my wall for years.

My junior physics and calculus teachers, Mr. Brown and Mrs. McMillen. OSSM was the most challenging year of high school and easily the thing that prepared me the most for college, even though I didn’t end up doing anything math or science related. I was not good at it. At all. The first week of class when they gave out their cellphone numbers in case we needed help with homework, I thought they were crazy. And then I called. Mr. Brown and Mrs. McMillen never made me feel bad, they never stopped encouraging me, or helping me. Mr. Brown tutored me long after I left his classroom (see a pattern?) and I’ve enjoyed keeping up with both of them through the years.

My high school computer teacher, Mrs. McClain, got to school early just to let my friends and I in to her classroom so we could mess around with photoshop or other stuff on the computers. She gave us room to learn and play around and explore. Crazily enough, almost 10 years later, with no training in college, I still use all of my knowledge I learned from her in my current job!

Last, but certainly not least, my music and theatre teachers:  Miss Holly, Mrs. Green, and Mr. Peters. Like so many others, Choir and drama were my havens in junior high and high school. I would have lived in the PAC if I could have. Art gave me and my friends the freedom to be silly and awkward and goofy all while still learning to be who we were and who we wanted to be without judgment.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my best friend, Thomas, who is striking at the Capitol this week. No, I didn’t have him as a “teacher” but he certainly likes to school us all.

And because I work for a university, faculty are on my mind as well, since higher ed in Oklahoma has also seen incredibly steep cuts with no means of replacing funds. Dr. Mintler, Amy, and Renée were all instrumental in my early college experience. (I still pester them a lot today.) I owe a lot to the entire communication department at NSU, including my sister, who teaches me informally every day. And my time in the van with Kris and the speech and debate team was a formative part of my college experience I’ll never forget.

When choosing a memory to share, it inherently asks you to leave others out, and I know there are people I will miss or forget. (As long a post as this already is, I am trying to keep it brief.) But perhaps the most vibrant picture of what teachers have done in my life was when my own mother died. At the time, she was a teacher herself. She had recently re-entered the classroom, teaching high school English, and loved it, though she dealt with many of the issues you’ll hear other Oklahoma teachers discuss. At her memorial service,  when we greeted everyone, I remember being shocked at who all took time out of their days to come. Her fellow teachers, some of whom I didn’t know, but many of whom were my former teachers. Miss Holly made a point to find me and hug me before the service. Mr. Peters gave me a big bearhug in the line. Mrs. McMillen, who know longer works in town, drove all the way in just for my mom’s memorial. Professors my sister taught with and my mom knew.

Teaching isn’t just a job; it’s a calling that goes beyond a day or a year. Teachers impact students for their entire lives. Our teachers deserve to be paid what they’re worth and our students deserve the peace of mind to know that their future in the classroom is secure.

Molly

Happy Birthday, Buffy

This week marks the twentieth anniversary of the premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you’re a nerd on the Internet, you might’ve seen a think piece or two about it. For those of you who weren’t aware of this milestone or the show itself, Buffy began as a high school drama masquerading as a supernatural monster-of-the-week escapade. Creator Joss Whedon (who went on to make some movies you may have heard of like The Avengers), came up with the a superpowered girl to challenge the stereotype of the blonde cheerleader who always died in horror movies.

This trope was played up throughout the show with frequent baddies being surprised that Buffy was the “one girl in all the world” with the power to kill vampires and other “forces of darkness.” The show used this frequent surprise as a subversion and statement on ’90s girl power, flaunting Buffy’s strength. Within the universe of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy was always the strongest person around and would find a way to defeat evil, even when fighting a god.

Of course, Buffy didn’t do it alone. Unlike hypermasculine superheroes such as Batman, Buffy always had her friends who worked with her to plan, research, and fight. This collectivism was uniquely feminine and uniquely Buffy.

For me personally, Buffy was all-consuming for me when I first binge-watched it in 2003. I had never seen a television show that had a girl at the center of it, let alone a girl who was superpowered and in a world full of smart and funny people. Buffy quickly became my hero at a time in my life when I needed her most.

Buffy, the show and the character, will always be close to my heart. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve read the criticisms and agree it has issues of diversity and some of the sex and gender storylines could have been better. But without Buffy, there would be no Veronica Mars or Pretty Little Liars, just to name a few. When asked what my favorite television show is, I answer Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I often get a laugh, like it’s a guilty pleasure show. Buffy is a show that should be taken seriously, though, and those who laugh likely do not understand how important this show is for representation of women in the media. My favorite superhero isn’t Superman, Iron-Man, or Batman, but Buffy. “She saved the world. A lot” all while showing that being a strong woman does not necessarily mean being masculine or self-sacrificial or lonely.

All that said, Happy Birthday, Buffy.

Molly

What Comes Next? A Guide for How to React to the Election

I should start off by saying I am not a political scientist or commentator or expert. I study and write about media and rhetoric will get back to that soon. But I also study gender, race, and culture and, thus, like most people, have been consumed by this election. In short, I have a lot of thoughts.

There have already been many articles written about what to do after the election, but they have been targeted at a narrow audience. Regardless of partisan affiliation, Americans need to come together now. It may sound clichéd, but it’s true. We are already more ideologically divided than ever before. Now, Americans have elected a man who more often than not uses divisive rhetoric rather than unific, empowering segments of the population who already have power while further disaffecting the marginalized.

No one wants to be made to feel they are complicit in someone else’s pain. While many, many Trump voters are not explicitly and overtly sexist, racist, xenophobic, or homophobic, they voted for a man who is. White people overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump. These votes are emblematic of a white supremacist system that privileges some lives over others. (I highly recommend you read this for a primer on whiteness.) It is time for white people to recognize what they have done. White liberals also need to reckon with this.

Below, I have listed some things that everyone can do following the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States. Unless we want the divide between Americans to grow further, it is time for all of us to talk and listen to each other, and treat each other as human beings.

If you voted for/supported Trump:

  • Talk to someone who is different than you. Many people are scared right now. Trump ran on a platform promising to ban Muslims, build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and repeal marriage equality, just to name a few of his platform issues. He has flip-flopped on many of these issues and it will remain to be seen what he will do in office. However, he has actively sought support from radicals and hate-mongerors like Alex Jones, and appointed Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist to his cabinet, not to mention David Duke, former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Thus, it is easy to see why people may be afraid. Even if you personally do not feel this fear, and may even be excited, talk to someone who is not white/not straight/not Christian/not a natural-born citizen. Listen to them. Attempt to understand their fears and where they are coming from. What can you do as an individual to make these fears lesser? Can you talk to your fellow friends and family members who supported Trump about these fears?
  • Vary your information diet. Nonprofit, nonpartisan fact checkers have found that Donald Trump lies more often than he does not. Of course, virtually all politicians (and people), lie and bend the truth from time to time. But when comparing Trump to other politicians, he lies far more often. Read and listen to nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism to help parse through what Trump says. NPR and BBC are two well-established organizations that you can read, listen to, and watch. (Additionally, reading/listening to news sources outside of the States allows for objectivity on our politics.) Most states also have nonprofit/nonpartisan publications (for example, Oklahoma Watch or California Watch). ProPublica is also a good source for investigative journalism.

If you voted for/supported Clinton:

  • Don’t just wear a safety pin. Be a true advocate. By all means, wear what you want. But as Roxane Gay, along with several other people, got at on Twitter, the safety pin has logistical issues (how hard is it to find someone with a safety pin when you’re being harassed?) in addition to kind of being a cop-out. I tend to agree. It feels a bit like hashtag activism to me. Rather than wearing something, show your beliefs and values through your words and actions. If someone is being bullied or harassed, step in. Don’t be a safe space for people to come to. Push back against those who are making public spaces dangerous.
  • Support diverse and independent voices. The Trump campaign has spent a year and half attacking the media and sewing distrust in journalistic institutions. Liberals, too, blame the media for the rise of Trump. Yet, we will need them more then ever to hold Trump accountable. Subscribe to a newspaper (The Washington Post and The New York Times have been particularly excellent this year). Donate to your local NPR or PBS stations. Furthermore, as diverse voices are pushed to the margins, we need to support artists of color, female artists, LGBTQ artists, and more who will create vital and important counterculture under the Trump presidency.
  • Listen and talk to Trump supporters to the extent that you can. I said it once, I’ll say it again:  don’t block/unfollow/unfriend someone purely because of how they voted. If they are attacking you in the way that the alt-right does, protect yourself. But do not groom your newsfeed and timeline so that only people who think like you live in it. Now is the time to talk to people who voted for Trump. Ask them why. What do they think he will do as President? Communicate to them your hopes and fears. While some Trump supporters have engaged in reprehensible activity, many of them are average people who are concerned about the economy and ISIS. Connect with them on a human level. Work to bridge the divides that Trump won’t.
  • Support your favorite cause. Slate already compiled a great list of things you can do depending on what you care most about. Planned Parenthood and ACLU have seen spikes in donations after the election. Not everyone can afford to donate. Then you should volunteer your time. Those who can do both absolutely should.

If you voted for/supported Third Party candidates:

  • Find and support a strong candidate. There is a lot to be said for the argument that we need a strong third party in this country. This election may have shown more than any in recent history why. However, neither Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, or even Evan McMullin were those candidates, for a variety of reasons. If you truly care about building a third party, find a strong candidate and support their campaign from the ground up.

If you didn’t vote/don’t care:

  • Engage. We are taught that talking about politics is rude. I used to think the same. But frankly, this is a way for the elite to disempower the public. Politics effects every aspect of our lives. If you care about the cost of gas, your health, whether your brother or sister may see combat, civil rights, or education, these are all issues we elect politicians to decide. If you don’t vote and engage in civil discourse, you have no control over what happens to you, your friends, or your family. That said, as someone who got a terrible education in civics and government, I felt stupid when people discussed politics and disengaged for that reason as well. But I finally started asking questions because I wanted to know. I did my own research. I started listening to podcasts and public radio. (I cannot recommend the NPR Politics Podcast enough.) Read. Discuss. Engage.

Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments.

Molly

Obligatory Post About President-Elect Trump

Nausea. Heartburn. Migraine.

Those were my literal initial feelings as the electoral votes climbed higher for Trump Tuesday night. My brother-in-law voiced them first, asking for the Tums. I compulsively checked Five Thirty Eight and watched Clinton’s chance at the presidency sink lower and lower. Once I realized the inevitable, I felt sunken and low. I, of course, was devastated for Hillary. One of the most brilliant women to ever exist in this country, let alone serve it for thirty years, was defeated by a racist, sexist, homophobe who can’t keep his hands to himself.

I had a 7:30 am. flight to Philly with my sister for a conference. I didn’t want this to ruin my trip. So I went to bed before it was officially called and turned on Drunk History. (Incidentally, I highly recommend this show right now. It is more inspirational & patriotic than it seems, and incredibly funny. Perfect balm for the soul.) But I couldn’t stay off social media as much as I tried. I couldn’t sleep. I can’t turn off my brain most nights, but Tuesday night, my brain was cranked up to 11.

What would my mom think if she were here, a woman who fought for equality and education her whole life? How sick and degraded must President Obama feel, our first black president, to hand the president over to someone who doesn’t understand the Constitution. What world will my incredible niece and nephew grow uo in? Had I done enough? What could I do now to protect those who must feel so scared and terrified at losing their hard-won (and, for many, still not guaranteed) rights?

My sister was already spinning a positive. My brother valiantly tried to explain and defend my position to our dad who gleefully celebrated Hillary’s demise and Mike Pence’s “nice attitude.” Our mother taught us to always be optimistic and positive, to never stay down for long. Feel your feelings, then pick yourself up and do something about it. As previously written, I spent my undergraduate career working with my local community to protest rape culture. Why did I stop? Lack of resources and infrastructure. Frankly, I was also tired.

But now I am ready to go. I don’t know how or what but I will be organizing and doing it soon. We need to express our first amendment rights now more than ever before they are repressed and strangled. (If you are with me, let me know. I am with you.)

This is far from the darkest day in my life, and far from the darkest day in our country’s. This country was born on the backs of slaves and the blood of indigienous peoples. We have done worse and survived amd grown. I am scared and afraid and sad and know you are, too. But I believe in my fellow humans and I believe in our democracy. Now is not the time to let anger allow us to shut others out. Listen and talk. Dialogue and expression are our greatest tools right now.

In closing, I keep thinking about a broken flag. I am incredibly privileged to have attended President Obama’s inauguration in 2009. I remember watching him win in 2008 and feeling so incredibly proud of our country and inspired for the change and progress he promised. In Washington that January, it was freezing cold, but thousands of people filled the National Mall to watch history. Our country was proud. While not everyone is upset with the outcomes, and people were certainly upset with them in 2008, the feeling in our country is markedly different now. There are sharp lines in the sand marked by gender, race, and class. They have always been there, but Trump shone a brighter light. We have to work now to cross these lines and unite the country. It will be hard and messy, but it is fudamental and necessary.

They gave us little American flags to wave the day of the inauguration. I brought mine back with me, but it broke on the way home. i still have it. It sits on my bookshelf, hanging  together by a few splinters.

What a difference eight years can make.

Molly

As We #WearWhiteToThePolls, We Can’t Deny Our History

Today, millions of people in America will vote for the next president. For the first time in history, a woman may be elected to the highest office in this country. Regardless of political opinion, this achievement is remarkable as a few generations ago–within many people’s lifetimes–women were not legally allowed to vote. (The 2020 election will mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment that granted women this right.) But we must face the truth that not our country was not fully democratic until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

However, our discussion of suffrage is often limited. Like much of history in America, we focus on the white figures to tell the story. While few people know much of women’s history at all, the names Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony are the names they do know. While these two white women were important figureheads and leaders in the American suffrage movement, they actually got the idea for a suffrage movement form Native American tribes in New York. Additionally, Anthony, and other suffrage leaders, worked with Fredrick Douglass to earn votes for African Americans until they decided it was too risky for female suffrage.

History also erases the amazing women of color who worked to earn white women the right to vote. Ida B. Wells was a passionate advocate for all who documented lynchings, taught, and wrote. Sojourner Truth was a former slave and an incredible suffragist and abolitionist. I cannot provide an exhaustive list or history of the movement and its complexities. That is not the purpose of this post. I highly recommend you read this for a deeper and more personal explanation of the white supremacy of suffrage.

Wells once said, “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” As modern feminists, humanists, and advocates for equality, it is important to recognize the full truth of our past. We should celebrate the suffragists for the work they accomplished and be grateful for the rights we have today as women. Put an “I Voted” sticker on Anthony’s grave if you can. Where your pantsuits and white to the polls.

However, we should also understand, especially if, like me, you are white, that our history is complex and we have to continue to pave an equal path for all women. Hillary Clinton has referred to her nomination, and potential election, as shattering “the highest, hardest, glass ceiling.” But there are yet more ceilings beyond. How long until we elect a Black woman to the presidency? A gay man? An Atheist? As we celebrate our accomplishments, we must consider the work ahead.

Molly

Suffragists Campaign For The Vote in New Jersey

What it Feels Like to be a Woman During the 2016 Presidential Campaign

Women make up 51% of the population but hold less than 20% of U.S. Congressional seats. It wasn’t until 1920 that white women earned the right to vote. It wasn’t until 1972 that women could get birth control without written consent from their husbands. It wasn’t until 2015 that all military combat roles were open to women. Women still earn less than men. Thus, for women, the political has always been deeply personal. Deny it as much as you want, but sex and gender matter, just like race, ethnicity, nationality, class, sexual orientation, and religion. During a historic presidential campaign with the first female presidential nominee from a major party and the most openly misogynistic and sexist presidential candidate ever, being a woman has once again become a political act.

This election has been weird to say the least. On one hand, it has been gratifying and vindicating to watch Hillary Clinton break through barriers despite unprecedented sexism and misogyny. (If you say her gender doesn’t matter, you’re wrong.) It is truly strange to see someone you can relate to in such a public platform. The fact that “mansplaining” and “manterruption” have become slang words people used to discuss the first presidential debate points to something nearly every woman is familiar with–the feeling of being shouted over, condescended to, and having to simply smile and wait your turn. Rarely is there a national conversation about this feeling, however.

Another common criticism of Hillary Clinton is her seemingly cold, robotic, calculated demeanor. If she doesn’t smile, it’s because she’s hateful. If she does, it’s smug. I realized after reading the reactions to the first debate that I have experienced this exact same double bind in my own life. I don’t know if I can say that I’ve truly related so much to someone in this type of position before. Many women are undoubtedly also experiencing this, and thus, having their feelings validated.

This is why representation matters. If you can’t see someone who looks like you in a role, you can’t imagine yourself doing it. I never thought a woman president would ever be possible until this year. I imagine it’s how many Black Americans felt during similar moments when President Obama ran in 2008 and 2012.

Then there’s the unrelenting storm of misogyny and sexism from Donald Trump. From the moment he announced his intention to run over a year ago, my position has been to ignore him as much as possible and thus deny him legitimacy. The xenophobia, racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and pure hatred from him aside, he lacks the basic knowledge of how our Constitution works. The fact that he can even be considered a viable candidate for our highest office is proof positive of White Straight Male Privilege.

Despite my attempts to ignore him, though, his words hurt me and millions of other Americans. Even when they are not directed at me (a woman), his beliefs on Muslims and Mexicans pain me. They make me ache for my friends and neighbors who must be living in fear from the violent rhetoric of this campaign. His words hurt because America was not founded on the belief of isolating a single group of people and banning them. The times we have done this have been the darkest in our history.

Trump’s comments about women really hit home for me, though. This latest news did not surprise me. The man we have come to know has never spoken about women in terms of anything but their sexual value. He famously speaks about his own daughters as though they are sexual conquests.

Nonetheless, this latest news was the tipping point for me. Reading the transcript of his words literally turned my stomach. I am not a survivor of sexual assault, but I am a staunch advocate for those who are. I spent three years of my undergraduate career working with my college and hometown community fighting against rape culture, the dehumanizing idea that women who are survivors of sexual assault and violence ask for it in anyway shape or form; the idea that women are nothing more than sexual objects made to please men. When someone with as much power and privilege as Donald Trump continually talks about women the way he does–what more proof do you need that rape culture is real, that misogyny is real, that sexism is real?

1 in 4 college women will be raped. I shouldn’t feel lucky that I escaped college without being a statistic. That is sick and wrong. I refuse to let our country’s values be synonymous with the worldview that women are less than human. We make up more than half of this country. It is time for us to stop being viewed as a minority. To casually speak about grabbing a woman’s vagina is an implicit endorsement of sexual assault and violence. 1 in 5 women have been raped. Too many women have experienced this exact action.

In short, this campaign has reminded me daily that I am inferior because of the parts I was born with. One of the most powerful and influential people in the country sees me for nothing less than my sexual capabilities. It adds up. It is tiring and wearing. Again, Trump has spoken about virtually every group of people in a disparaging manner, so I doubt I am alone. But I can only speak to my experience.

I write this not to tell you who to vote for. I, of course, have my opinions on this which are probably not hard to guess. I write this to implore you to continue to engage in a civil discourse and reevaluate the way you talk about yourself and your neighbors. I write this because empathy is deeply important and I fear it is quickly fading from our day-to-day interactions with each other. You don’t have to agree with, condone, or even understand another person to empathize and see them as fully human and treat them with respect.

Americans are more ideologically divided than ever before. I have seen too many people proudly unfriending each other and blocking individuals on Facebook and Twitter over who they are voting for in 30 days. This does not help. If we ever want our country to close this divide, we have to bridge that gap, value others’ viewpoints, and continue the conversation, not only with each other, but with ourselves.

In closing, a reminder of what makes America great:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

Molly