Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Friday, September 21, 2018

I am angry, and that is alright with me

Editorial Page Editor Naomi Zeigler tells Donald Trump supporters that enough is enough

I am angry, and that is alright with me

By most accounts, I have been categorized as the type of woman who stands up when it is necessary. However, I am also the type of woman who sits down when my voice is no longer asked for by the other people in the room. I speak in measured tones, ensuring that I do not come across as shrill or as if I am overtly challenging authority. To my friends and close colleagues, however, I am a feisty, loud, outspoken woman. I know what I want and I have the drive, ambition and intelligence to take it. But I am rarely angry.

How foolish I was to believe that I was not to be angry; but that is not a narrative of singularity. I watch my femme friends speak in these same tones. I listen to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton appeal to the public by keeping a grip on her tone and body language, lest she become an unravelled, emotional mess of a woman. Hell, even our own Vice President of Campus Life Gail Hanson employs these same tactics. I wonder what these women really think about themselves and their histories, for rarely are they given the chance to be judged by more than their careful words and forced smiles.

The time for anger is now.

We are in an age where it is acceptable to tell women and femmes who they are to be and how they are to appear. Too quiet? You are passive, we need leaders who will fight for us! Too loud or brazen? You’re a troublemaker, it would be impossible for you to work well with others! (And of course, by “others” they always mean men.) Is there any way for us women and femme individuals to win?

I am learning to be a better person: kinder, more understanding, more balanced and nuanced. Yet it is hard to not take statements encouraging or defending violence against women personally. Last week, a recording of Donald Trump and Billy Bush, a member of the politically famous Bush family, surfaced with both men laughing about grabbing a woman sexually without her consent. Many conservative male leaders vocalized their outcry, some rescinding their support for the Republican nominee. This is not good enough for me.

I am angry. Where were these men when Trump insulted women like Rosie O’Donnell and Megyn Kelly? Where were these men when Trump declared that Mexicans were “rapists,” ignoring his own history of violence toward women? Where were these men every time Donald Trump spewed hatred and bigotry about women and people of color? While it is nice they have finally climbed aboard the Donald-Trump-Cannot-Be-Our-Nation’s-Leader boat now, they have failed women and femmes too many times to count.

The scariest thing is that I know so many of these men. They claim to hold themselves to a higher standard, on a high pedestal. They look at men like Donald Trump in disgust and sneer that “they would never speak like that about a woman.” To them, women are their mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces, yet they don’t realize that women deserve their respect as humans. Young Billy Bush did not think that he was doing anything wrong; he believed he was simply engaging in casual banter. He had the opportunity to shut down the conversation, to take a stand and proclaim, “this isn’t right.” He didn’t. And too many men don’t.

It is the people like Billy Bush that I worry about when I think about the issue of sexual violence. To many, Trump is reprehensible and a laughingstock. It is rare that we meet someone like him; to us he is a caricature of everything that we despise. But Bush could be your friend, your lab partner, your teammate, your brother or sister. There are so many experiences resembling Bush’s that happen everyday on our campus. Do we stay silent as our friends make comments demeaning others in any way; do we play along? There is so much fear in saying what is right, yet we need to start. When we don’t, we are fostering a campus environment that not only permits sexual violence, but excuses it. Then we are just as bad as Trump.

I am a survivor of rape and other forms of sexual assault and I am sick of being sad, quiet and weary. I am done with trying to show care and understanding toward individuals who clearly do not give a damn about the communities and individuals who will be adversely affected - and harmed - by a Trump presidency. I am no longer going to sit by and smile politely and engage in respectability politics. I am ready to stand up and I am ready to fight. This November will mark five years since I was first raped. This November must also mark the year that our first female President of the United States is elected, despite the odds men have placed against her.

nzeigler@theeagleonline.com

Naomi Zeigler is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Editorial Page Editor for The Eagle.


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