I need to understand what the outcome of the recent Presidential election means for my mission, the progress of women in the world — in particular, women in business. Like many, I thought the U.S. might inaugurate its first woman president. I thought that the breaking of this oh-so-high glass ceiling could contribute positively to my mission. Instead we have a President-elect who has shown contempt for women. I felt whiplash – and, more important, concern that the change that Americans narrowly voted for could set things back, not only for women, but for other groups who are not white, straight and of European decent.
SO I had to grieve – and vent. I will, of course, move on. But grant me a few lines of venting. These were some of my thoughts and questions:
- I do not think these issues are political. They are about values. Many Democrats, Republicans and supporters of third parties share my values about inclusion and equal opportunity. Many Americans were offended by the President-elect’s rude comments about women. Many were dismayed by the rhetoric and commentary about gender and race relations and immigration policy.
- The ugly campaign revealed a level of fear, anger, and resentment that I did not know was there. It allowed greater voice to the alt-right’s message of white supremacy (or white male supremacy).
- I heard of a young girl asking her mother, “Does this mean women won’t be able to do anything important anymore?” Surely not. But have we taken a step backward in showing young girls what women can do?
- Will there be greater permission to create hostile working environments for women?
- Will the bias that underlies demeaning comments about women be more acceptable?
- Will those who hold biases — against women, people of color, people with different religious beliefs, and members of the LGBTQ community – feel emboldened to speak them out loud? Is that what “political correctness” has masked? Will some feel greater permission to act on their biases?
- Should I give up on my mission of creating a world that values women equally with men?
“The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for . . . . One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. . . . All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.”
Does this election fulfill Rorty’s prediction? I can accept the political outcome. I cannot accept that we will reverse directions and be accepting of racial jokes, sexual harassment and hatred of foreign refugees (including those escaping intolerable situations).
I have had my cry – not for the losing candidate but for the possibility of this kind of regression. Now it’s time to find a more constructive way to respond. The wise people around me, including my son, are helping me do that. They have helped me see a silver lining. We thought we were making progress (notwithstanding setbacks) in the areas of race, gender, religion and sexual orientation. But we were overly optimistic. This was a wakeup call. Not enough of America is on board with this progress. Now that is on the table. We can admit that racism, gender bias and fear of those “not like us “are REAL. And deal with them with that knowledge.
I want to find the hope that enables me to redouble my commitment — commitment to further progress, not regression, in the roles and rights of women. I want to feel I can make a small difference in assuring continued progress in the related areas of race relations, immigration policy, and gay rights. Can you help me find more silver linings? Please share ideas for making a difference on my blog or Huffington Post.