What's Next? A Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

A woman with many opinions, it takes quite a shock to leave me speechless - but this is where I've sat this week, utterly stumped by the election of Donald Trump as our next president.  I have a deep seated anger that seems to radiate from my bones themselves, and a profound sadness I can still physically feel in my stomach.  I feel the weight of the women in my family before me, who have overcome many hurdles to ensure their daughters could live a better life.  I feel fear of the unknown, so acute at times I’m paralyzed.  I feel grief, something I still find an odd reaction to a political transition, but my reaction nonetheless.  But I also feel purposeful.

The election of Donald Trump has highlighted not just divides but chasms between the American people.  Racism is alive and well.  Sexism is flourishing.  Hatred, in short, seems to have found its petri dish.

There is so much work to be done.

I joined Pantsuit Nation, a secret Facebook group with about 3 million Hillary Clinton supporters the day of the election, immediately inspired by the stories so many were sharing about how much Clinton has impacted their life.  I was reminded of the collective power of strong, compassionate people with an eye on the future.  I felt positive about the election for the first time.  As a US citizen, the gained global perspective of living abroad in London has left me with a particularly cynical approach to interpreting American politics, and even now, at moments, all seems beyond reparation.  But ever a woman of action, there is only so much wallowing I’ll allow myself to do.  We will march on and tap into the momentum found in decades of building each other up.

There have been beautiful letters and articles written so far, expressing grief and gratitude and perseverance.  I feel that any effort to mimic these wise and graceful words would fall short, as I'm still wading through the murky waters of denial.  What I then prescribe, for my own mental health, is putting one foot ahead of the other, knowing that in the face of what seem to be insurmountable odds, focusing on the next small step gives me direction and ambition.  I share my plan of action with you in the sincere hope that you will be encouraged to build your own plan and share it with others, because we need each other more now than ever.

The Plan of Action

Take time to process.

Audre Lorde said, "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare."  It is healthy to take time and make space for all the emotions whirling through our minds and bodies right now.  It’s ok to feel defeat and to hurt for all the marginalized communities that have been ignored and dehumanized for too long.  But be sure to make an effort to understand how your identity shapes your experience with this election, and how that will be different from other people’s experiences.  No emotional response is more or less valid than the next, but it is equally important to understand how the intersection of different identities - race, sexuality, ethnicity, religion - will influence how different people experience the election of Trump.

Watch Samantha Bee's election coverageListen to Lizzo. Go on a run. Join Pantsuit Nation (let me know if you need an invite to the group).  Do whatever you need to do to hold yourself in love.

Repeat this mantra.

“Hillary won the popular vote.”  This is not to necessarily inspire vengeance against the electoral college, but rather to remind ourselves that of the voting population, the majority do not abide by President-elect Trump's bizarre, archaic, and twisted agenda.

Remind each other of our common humanity.

When they go low, we go high.  I deeply believe that now is not the time to demonize Republican voters.  Demonize instead societal, political, and economic structures which function best when inequality is present, encouraging attitudes of entitlement among certain groups of people (looking at you, white privilege).

I remember a time in my life when I believed feminism was nonsense, but a handful of powerful, wise, and patient women took me under their wing to demonstrate how it is in fact a tool to unlock my potential. And it may be exhausting, it may be infuriating, but take note of the powerful, peaceful leaders who led revolutions with kindness and love - we can do the same.  I don't believe a single mind will be changed if we are hurling insults and anger at Trump supporters.  Had I met women who berated my lack of feminist understanding rather than uplifted me, I wouldn't be typing this letter today.  Our anger must be channeled into compassion and love, otherwise critical dialogues will never be productive.  And should you feel safe to speak out, don't ever censor yourself with self-doubt.  Silence breeds injustice, and we don't need anyone's permission to speak up.  And if you don't feel safe doing so?  I am here, along with millions of other people, who will try to be your best allies possible.  Not one of us is alone on this journey.

Question everything.

Challenging how knowledge is produced is at the heart of feminism.  That news report you just watched on CNN?  Do your own follow up research.  The retweet floating down your timeline that was favorited 10K times?  Fact check it.  The reasons behind your political preferences?  Reflect on them.  The articles I'm linking in this piece?  Critically challenge them.  Leave no stone unturned.  We are entering uncharted territory, and to do so bravely requires an inherent curiosity to understand issues and problems from every angle so we can confidently offer up the most comprehensive solutions to fix them.

It is clear that the pollsters, reporters, and journalists weren't in touch with a large majority of Americans.  We've missed out on their stories - stories which could have helped us to connect and heal together before the election.  Instead, we have all been inundated with a fear based, factually incorrect Trump platform, out of touch news sources, and an increasing access to information from the Internet which many accept unquestioningly - I myself am guilty of this.  There are millions of Facebook feeds that are the exact opposite of mine or yours, so we must push ourselves out of such a progressive "echo chamber" to understand stories and experiences different from ours.

Recognize the work.  

We need diversity in political representation.
We've now snapped right back back to the old, white, male model of the executive branch.  While women made incredible gains in Congress, we need to tap into this slow burning political turnover and invite even great diversity in leadership to better represent the people of this country.  Here are upcoming ways you personally can get involved with this:

Most importantly, don't wait for anyone's permission to start.

We need to address racism.
One of my fears with this election result is that Trump supporters will be the easy scapegoat whom liberals blame racism on.  The uncomfortable truth is that we all participate, whether intentionally or not, in systems which privilege white people.  This is what systemic racism is.  It's a hard fact to grapple with, and as a white person, I have struggled with this idea immensely, because I admittedly do not like to imagine the ways in which I am complicit in racism.  It's a terrifying but unbelievably important conversation to have.  If we are to shake the very foundation of white supremacy, then we must understand how our identities and experiences influence society and are influenced by it before we ask others to consider this also.  Here are two of many ways to counter systemic racism:

  • Writer and educator Jon Greenberg curated an online curriculum for white Americans to educate themselves on racism.  
  • Everyday Feminism recently offered a Healing from Toxic Whiteness program for white people to better understand racism.  

I've been hearing countless stories of people looking out for one another, donating to incredible organizations, wearing safety pins, standing up for the bullied, changing shopping habits, protesting, writing encouraging notes to one another, and so much more.  The collective compassion of many will outweigh the few in hate.

We have our work cut out, but we have each other.  Now go get shit done, you feminist boss you.

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Marissa Conway is the founder and CEO of Feminist Foreign Policy.  Follow her on Twitter @marissakconway.