Funny story. So, a day or two after the absolute shit show that was the Presidential Election in the U.S., I messaged Paula to ask if I could do an article for Punky Moms. She graciously said yes.
That was nearly two months ago. Hahaha! Isn’t that hilarious? See, it’s funny because the results of the election plunged me into a deep depression and I haven’t been able to think, let alone write about it! Haaaaaaaaahahaha.
But seriously, what is there to say? When I offered to write the article, I didn’t realize that the next two months would result in literally everything being said about the election. People are sad, mad, confused. I am still grieving Hillary’s loss, to the extent that I can’t really bear to think about it much. It is still too raw; her loss feels like my loss. I honestly feel like part of me will never get over it. I’ll recover, of course, we’ll all move on, but I feel like a tiny piece of me died on November 9, 2016.
See why it’s taken me two months to write this? Jesus. BUMMER.
One thing I’ve noticed since the election is that people, especially people of color, minorities, and other vulnerable groups, (including women!) feel a general sense of fear and dread. What will happen? We all ask. Did he (I refuse to utter his name) really mean all of those awful things he said during the campaign? Are our loved ones safe? Is marriage equality and abortion really something he could deny us? How long will our nation feel these repercussions? Will the Notorious RBG make it four years? PLEASE GOD LET HER MAKE IT. And really, isn’t this the End of Days? I’m pretty sure that this guy is in the Book of Revelation.
I think it’s the uncertainty more than anything that’s making this so hard. We DON’T know what this fucking lunatic is going to do to our country, and how that’s going to impact our friends and family and life in general. And we won’t know for a while. We can speculate, and read with horror his cabinet picks, and the fucking tweets he’s still fucking tweeting, despite the fact that he’s been elected motherfucking president because he’s a fucking narcissistic shitbag and he can’t fucking help himself. But we don’t know what will happen. Fuck.
What we do know, however, is that the angry white people who voted for him (fuck each and every one of them straight to hell), or at least some of them, now feel a sense of validation and entitlement following the election. In the ten days following the election there were over 700 incidents of hate harassment or hate crimes, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Over 700! In less than 10 days! Whyyyyyy?
We cannot allow this bigotry, xenophobia, and sexism to continue. The Republicans may have won the election, but I firmly believe that decent people will win the war. We need to fight back, in our own small ways.
One way we can fight back is to be on alert, for ourselves and for vulnerable people around us, for hate speech and hate crimes, and to speak up in the moment. Harassment is a crime, people! In addition to being on alert for something like that happening, we need to be prepared with something appropriate to say. When something startling happens, when a stranger yells at you in public, for instance, it can be so shocking that we are too surprised and offended to reply. Then, like, an hour later we think of the best, wittiest reply, and we wish we could go back and say that. So, why not prepare in advance? Prepare, not only for the racist, homophobic, sexist and generally shitty comments to start flying, but prepare a series of responses. Have them locked and loaded so that if some shitbag verbally assaults you or someone you love in public, you’re ready.
Now, as a disclaimer, if you are anywhere and someone threatens you or calls you a racial, ethnic, sexist slur in such a way, or behaves in such a manner as to make you feel unsafe, call the cops IMMEDIATELY. Tell them that you are in fear for your safety and your life. Get somewhere safe, and do not engage with the assailant, and stay in a well-populated, well-lit area. As ladies, we already know all of this, because we’re constantly on alert for psychos who might murder and rape us. It’s fun being a girl! #yesallwomen
If, however, you’re faced with a garden variety racist/sexist/asshole who decides to dump some of his venom on you in public, (and you don’t fear for your life), I say fight back! Not with fists, but with words. Let’s make sure that these fucking fascists who are ruining our country know that we can’t be pushed around!
Here’s the situation I’m picturing. A young lady is standing in line for a bus, or a bagel, or a cup of coffee or something. It’s a fairly busy area, there are people around, and it’s in public. Maybe this woman is Muslim and wearing a hijab. Maybe she’s black. Maybe she’s transgender. Maybe she’s Latina, or maybe she’s a white lady because we’re not immune to assholes, either. Some asshole walks up to her (let’s be real, it’s going to be a white man), and says something hateful, misogynistic, racist, bigoted, etc. He does this because he is a coward and he thinks that he can make himself feel like a big strong man by putting down someone smaller and weaker than him. He is, in fact, a shitbag bully just like the man he voted for. But he chose his victim wrong! Is our badass, amazing, strong lady going to take his bile and bullshit? Is she going to meekly put her head down, or run away, all because some piece of human trash singles her out in public and insults her?
Fuck no she isn’t.
So here’s what she does (and you should too!).
Step one: our Awesome Lady looks this fucking degenerate in his ugly, hate-filled eyes, and she asks him, loudly and clearly: “What did you just say?” This question serves several purposes. First, looking a bully in the eyes shows him that you are not afraid. Looking down is a sign of fear, but meeting their gaze is a sign of strength. Second, by asking the bully what he just said, she is signaling that his words are not very important and that she wasn’t paying any attention to him. Third, she is reminding the bully that he is in a social sphere, and that he has just spoken in a hateful way to a complete stranger on the street. Fourth, by asking the question loudly, she is sure to draw the attention of the people around her, which is key! We are social creatures and we don’t like being embarrassed in front of other people. Bullies operate on shame and fear, so by speaking loudly and clearly and by making eye contact and drawing in other people, our Awesome Lady is reminding the bully of our various social contracts, and common decency, all while showing that she is no victim. Finally, she is offering the first of several opportunities for the bully to just turn around and walk away. As much as I’d like to burn the fucker down, I have to stress that allowing a bully to walk away is usually the best thing. I’m not afraid of confrontation, but diffusing the situation is always going to be the best thing to do.
Step two: if the asshole, when asked to repeat himself, repeats his hateful insult or ups the ante with something worse, our Awesome Lady then, while maintaining eye contact, asks loudly “Why would you say that to me?” This again reminds the bully that he is, in fact, speaking to a human being, in public.
Step three: Really, this guy should be gone by this point. I mean, what’s he going to say? If, however, he is truly a disgusting garbage person and he comes back with something else vile, and assuming our Awesome Lady doesn’t feel unsafe, and the interaction hasn’t escalated, she should then say, loudly and clearly and while maintaining eye contact, “Why are you attacking me?” She should repeat this several times, loudly. She could, if it feels right, throw in something about the nature of the attack, such as, “Why are you attacking me for my race?” This will serve to clarify for the bully, and for the people around her who are undoubtedly listening to this interaction, that our Awesome Lady was just standing in line, minding her own business, when this asshole came up to her, and without provocation started attacking her. Because that is what happened. This serves another purpose, which is put the surrounding crowd on alert that there is a maniac in their midst, and they might just need to call the police. If the police are called, it will also allow for witnesses to be able to give statements, which might be necessary. Additionally, the question is better than an accusation, such as “You’re a racist bigot shitbag,” but after repeating “Why are you attacking me?” please feel free to adlib.
Step four: Really, seriously, come on – this guy has to be gone at this point, right? He’s experienced social shame, he’s been called out for his shitty behavior. SURELY he’s tucked his tiny tail between his legs and scurried on home. Right?! Well, if he hasn’t, this might be the time to call the cops. Tell them that you’re in a public place and that a stranger is harassing you and using hate speech to intimidate you. Tell them you have witnesses to this and that you feel unsafe. The guy will probably disappear, but dammit, we have to take a stand.
So, to put all these steps together:
Asshole: “Bitch/ cunt/ racists epithet.”
Awesome Lady, loudly, clearly, and while making eye contact: “What did you just say to me?”
Asshole: “You’re a bitch/ cunt/ racial epithet.”
Awesome Lady, loudly, clearly, and maintaining eye contact: “Why would you say that to me?”
Asshole: “Because you’re a bitch/ cunt/ racial epithet.”
Awesome Lady, still loudly, etc.: “Why are you attacking me?”
Awesome Lady: “Why are you attacking me?!”
Awesome Lady: “WHY ARE YOU ATTACKING ME? YOU DON’T KNOW ME, YOU ARE A STRANGER, WHY ARE YOU ATTACKING ME?”
I think that if we all keep these phrases locked and loaded and ready to go, it will help us feel prepared and calm and will remind us that we’re not victims. We’re grown ass women and we can take care of ourselves.
Make eye contact. You are not a victim.
Speak clearly and loudly:
What did you say?
Why would you say that to me?
WHY ARE YOU ATTACKING ME?
If you feel unsafe, call the cops.
The next four years are going to be rough. They’re going to be a disaster internationally, economically, environmentally, and, of course, politically. The only thing we can control is our little corner of the world. Let’s work together to make that world nicer. The man who will be mispronouncing the words of the Oath of Office and sweating orange spray tan on Lincoln’s Bible won the election on a platform of hate. We cannot let hate win.