I thought I was doing really well.
A few months ago, I made it through Trump’s careless mocking of a disabled reporter, although as the mother of a child with autism, I know full well the damage a bully can do.
After the Democratic convention, I made it through Trump’s cruel attack on a family whose son died in combat, although as a mother, I know full well that losing a child is unimaginable suffering. I would willingly give up my own life to save the life of my kids. As I’m sure the Khans would.
After the first debate, I made it through Trump’s disgusting comments on a woman’s weight, although as a woman who’s struggled with weight and body image my whole life, I know full well the self-loathing that comes when you feel like you will never, ever, ever be thin enough.
But the story by the People Magazine reporter, Natasha Stoynoff, hit me like a ton of bricks when I read it last night. http://people.com/politics/donald-trump-attacked-people-writer/
Let me be clear. I have never been raped. I know I am fortunate when so many women have been victimized by physical sexual assault.
Last night, however, I read these words from Stoynoff:
I tried to act normal. I had a job to do, and I was determined to do it. I sat in a chair that faced Trump, who waited for his wife on a loveseat. The butler left us, and I fumbled with my tape recorder. Trump smiled and leaned forward.
“You know we’re going to have an affair, don’t you?” he declared, in the same confident tone he uses when he says he’s going to make America great again. “Have you ever been to Peter Luger’s for steaks? I’ll take you. We’re going to have an affair, I’m telling you.”
All of a sudden, I was in that room with Ms. Stoynoff. But I didn’t hear Donald Trump. Instead, I heard the voice of a client from 30 years ago saying,
Do you like sex, Susan? I bet you like it doggie style. Have you ever had an affair? I could help you in your career, you know. I could do that.
And I remembered every comment from that client and other colleagues who commented on my legs, my clothes, my breasts, my hair, what I was like in bed and any number of attributes that had absolutely nothing to do with my professional competency.
I wish I could tell you why I never confronted those men or reported them to my employer. I was young. I was insecure about everything, including my physical appearance and my ability to do the work I was hired to do. I wanted to be a “good sport.” I needed to keep my job and that meant keeping clients happy. Most of the people I knew in advertising suffered a certain level of emotional abuse at the hands of our more bullying clients and it seemed the price we had to pay in order to satisfy the people who paid our salaries.
And as you can imagine, where there was misogyny, there was also racism which, if anything, was more blatant and unapologetic.
I’ve heard similarly horrific stories from my female colleagues in ministry. So, you know, it’s not just the business world where this happens, y’all.
Until last night, these memories seemed to be in a very distant past, safely put away. These were not things I cared to dwell on or think about or even revisit. Until that damn People Magazine stirred it all up again in my mind and kept me awake most of the night.
Just words, right? Sticks and stones. Boys will be boys. Don’t be a spoilsport. Don’t be so sensitive. He was just kidding. Can’t you take a joke?
The best I can do is to continue to talk to my son what it means to be a good man.
The best I can do is be thankful for a husband, as well as the wonderful male friends and colleagues, who respect women and are not afraid to call out misogyny (with special gratitude to my husband because the medical world seems nearly as bad as the advertising world).
The best I can do is be supportive of women by listening to them and, most importantly, believing them.
The best I can do is listen to marginalized voices and use my privilege to amplify them.
The best I can do is try to walk like Jesus, who protected the weak and unwanted, and challenged the bullies of his time.
But I’m done with toxic political conversation. I am staying off social media for the duration. And I’m praying for every woman who has been triggered or harmed in this election campaign.
It’s not funny anymore. It’s just not. Words are hurting the people I love and, I admit it, it’s hurting me.