This week I’ve been looking for escapism, but, unsurprisingly to those who know me, I can’t really escape too far. To help nurse my poor, bruised, feminist heart, I’ve been watching Good Girls Revolt, a series on Amazon based on a lawsuit brought by researchers at Newsweek to be given the right to be reporters after the Civil Rights Act made a company policy illegal. (watch it, it’s great).
In one of the last episodes, an exchange rang achingly true for me. It touches on why I feel so distraught and frustrated this week and may help explain the movement Colin Kaepernik started to those who find it to be only disrespectful.
In this scene, Patty and Doug are discussing the Weather Underground. Doug is perplexed by wealthy, privileged Cathlyn Wilkerson’s involvement. She was a good girl. She played in the orchestra. But now she is blowing up buildings.
Doug: “How does someone change like that?”Patty: “Maybe she didn’t. Maybe every time she saluted the flag, she felt like she was lying. Like the place she lived didn’t represent who she was. And every time she took her seat in the orchestra, instead of blending in she wanted to scream out.“Maybe she felt like a soda bottle that the world was just shaking, and shaking. So she didn’t evolve, and change, she –“
I was struck by this exchange both as a reflection on feminism, how far we’ve come, how far we have yet to go, and the parallels with the Kaepernick debate. I didn’t take issue with Kaepernick–or anyone for that matter–kneeling during the national anthem. In part it’s because I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to live their lives they way they want to as long as it doesn’t inflict harm upon anyone else and for me, part of believing that is not being bothered by it. But, I think on a different level–and certainly not in the same way–I understood it.
I don’t know that I ever would have said that I didn’t feel I had a place in this country. I’m cisgender, present as very straight, white, upper middle class, educated and generally comfortable. I’m doing fine. My life is not in jeopardy and I don’t have to defend a vocal opponent to my right to be here. Yet, I am not ashamed to say that saying the pledge has always felt a little disingenuous to me, and watching this and reading everything that has been written by people much more informed and keyed in than I am, I think I know why. It’s because of the very last clause:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the republic, for which it stands, one nation, Under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. “
We don’t live in a country where there is “liberty and justice for all,” and we never have. And the national anthem is perhaps a worse example of a falsified sense of patriotism. We are not the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Only 2% of Americans are enlisted in the military. Yes there are other forms of bravery that people show every day, but overhwelmingly, we are not brave in the way the song suggests. People have had their voting rights stripped away because they got caught with a dime bag of pot. That’s not freedom.
It’s a sad, constant truth. Justice and freedom are parity. This country has never been run by a woman, yet it relies upon the talents and sacrifices of women. This country was built on the exploitation of black people, but it can’t say that black lives matter. Justice and freedom mean, in part, equal opportunity to thought, idea, and representation, and on Tuesday 27% of the voting public rejected that idea. I do believe that most of that 27% aren’t bad people, but I just can’t figure out why they would trust Trump more than Clinton outside of deep-seeded, unconscious misogyny.
Was she a perfect candidate? No, no one is. Was she the better candidate? Unequivocally, yes. She had thirty years of public life to be picked apart and the press and people descended like vultures. Plenty of other male candidates with more experience and more missteps have run, but their flaws never gained traction in this way. You can dislike her. That’s fine. But I just don’t believe that any of the things people count against her are disqualifying for the highest office in the land.
The emails — oy with the poodles already, huh?
Her reaction to women who accused her husband of varying degrees of sexual harassment, rape and misconduct — Look. This is shitty. It really is. But there are two points I’d like to make: If you were at the center of the public eye, and your spouse was publicly accused of something like this, what would you do? I don’t know that I would have acted differently. The best case scenario is you stay quiet. But this is your partner, and you probably love and want to believe them. I’m not excusing it, but it’s a human response. And, lest we forget, she didn’t do the assaulting/raping/harrasing. Her husband (and Donald Trump) did. She just had an emotional, public reaction to it. Second, we are looking at this with the benefit of a lot of change and development of the public perception, awareness, and reaction to sexual assault. We didn’t have the same vocabulary or understanding now as we did then. And a lot of that is because we do live in a more feminist society today than we did then. It’s completely ironic: a lot of people’s outrage towards Hillary Clinton is because they benefit from the work of feminism.