There’s a chill in the air, pitch-black darkness as I lug my suitcase down the steps. The rolling of the suitcase wheels on the uneven concrete reverberates through the air when at this time of night silence dominates. At 4 a.m., it’s easy to imagine a whole world only inhabited by me with little sign of life and not a soul in sight.
It takes approximately 7 minutes to walk from my apartment to the baker flagpole bus stop. At 4 a.m. those seven minutes feel harrowingly long.
No matter how many times I’ve done this, an inevitable shot of adrenaline always courses through my veins, and a fear that’s bone-deep causes me to continuously look behind. I know that once I get to West Campus the surroundings will be well lit but I still get nervous in between blue lights feeling as though a large chasm has just opened up.
Where does this innate and at times seemingly irrational fear come from?
Maybe it’s a product of knowing that 1 in 5 women on this campus will have been sexually assaulted by the time they graduate. Maybe it’s a product of having been told since a young age to never walk alone at night, maybe it’s a product of having understood that this world, no matter the time, is not a safe place for women.
This fear binds women together; we’ve all felt that spike of fear when walking home at night, when someone feels just too close behind you, when you have to pretend to be on the phone so that anyone around you knows that you’re not totally alone.
This predetermined sense of fear is embedded in the condition of being a woman. It seems inevitable and unchangeable.
Many men like Donald Trump have never felt this fear, never because of their gender felt more likely to be assaulted. Blinded by their male privilege, they simply take for granted their freedom to walk this world fearlessly.
This election has had many troubling moments, but the one that tipped the scales was the video in which Donald brags about sexually assaulting women because “when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” This video seemed to strongly impact the public, especially women, leading to Trump’s nose dive in the polls. He, until this day, continues denying allegations of sexual assault , and has even made it a point to say that he will sue these women after the election is over. However disgusted I am by this tape and his words, I can’t help but wonder if his behavior is just a product of our failure as a society to properly address rape culture.
The simple fact is that men like Donald walk this earth, and so do the countless that will excuse his actions. Many times I’ve had heated conversations with my parents when they urge me to wear jeans when visiting Delhi and not go out after a certain time just because of how unsafe the city is for women. I get frustrated by the fact that women are told to come home early, to dress modestly, to go in groups and yet we never seem to address the root cause behind these warnings. My parents, exasperated, say that those are long term solutions and to look at the immediate concerns.
In a way they are right – addressing rape culture especially by changing the minds of young women and especially boys will take time and will be about creating a world safer in the long term but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to start that work now.
Amazingly, perhaps having a presidential candidate brag about sexual assault on tape may help the country engage in conversations about sexual assault and stir in the public an urgency for addressing the issue that we haven’t seen before. Maybe it’s just the optimist in me speaking, but the video is shocking mainly because it gives the viewer the ability to see that what we know happens behind closed doors all the time; one of the most disturbing parts of the video was hearing what was said in the bus and then seeing Trump interact with the woman he’d been talking about just minutes earlier.
Gender has played an interesting role in this election with the historic nature of Clinton’s presidency many times downplayed, to many millennial women taking for granted the ability of a woman to ascend the highest office, to having a misogynist run for office.
As we move on from November 8 and start rebuilding on November 9, we as a people have to ask ourselves what we take away from this election. What I hope will be the case is that we recognize that we have an incredibly long road ahead in terms of dealing with rape culture in this country and world. The only way that we can create meaningful change is by getting to work immediately with an urgency that is unparalleled. We need to educate and start conversations with kids, teenagers, adults to start changing people’s embedded world views so that we change the culture our society is in.
Because plainly and simply, the fear that women feel due to simply being women is unacceptable. It is a fear I refuse to accept but will acknowledge, because I understand that it is a product of conditions that I have to work to change.
Therefore, thank you Donald. Thank you for being a horrible human being who is running for the presidency because public scrutiny has dug up evidence of rape culture that is hard, even for your most ardent supporters, to deny.
If interested in Gender in the 2016 Election check out this Cornell Dems event – Oct 27th
Speakers: Jamila Michener, Department of Government & Siba Grovogui, Africana Studies and Research Center
Time and Date: Thursday, October 27th from 5:30pm-7:00pm
Place: Bache Auditorium (Malott 228)
The 2016 Presidential Election has witnessed the charges of racism, bigotry, and sexism thrown around with the acknowledgement that such charges are never leveled lightly. The unique interplay of race and gender has made this an election one that will be dissected for decades to come. Please join the Cornell Democrats as we engage in a community event meant to pull out the nuances and complexities of these topics. Professors Michener and Grovogui will speak for approximately 35 minutes, after which there will be a moderated forum.