I don’t know your name and I doubt you know mine.
Sometimes, we wind up in the grocery store checkout line together. We used to sit a couple of rows apart watching our kids play soccer, tee ball, or some other organized sport they roped us into. Come to think of it, our children graduated from high school in the same class. But I guess in the hustle and bustle of raising kids—washing laundry, loading the dishwasher, and rounding up the troops for a night out at the movies or a dreaded vacation with the in-laws—it was just too hard to get any time to ourselves.
The point is, for a lot of years, we’ve been like ships passing in the night.
I meant to introduce myself sooner, maybe invite you out for coffee or get the kids together for a play date. After all, I want to think we’re more alike than different: that, even though I am black, our challenges are more similar than not, that we both want great things for our kids. And I don’t know about you, but I got divorced two decades or so back. So, it was just me all those years. Pushing, pulling, always exhausted, and always out of time. Did I mention that we’re both probably getting paid less for the same work than a man does?
I want to call you “sister” because, you know, we’re both women navigating our own complicated pile of bullshit. But, of course, that would be too familiar.
Anyway, we’re both older now and, hopefully, a bit wiser. Since the kids are gone I’ve got a bit more time to myself. Isn’t it great? No more juice boxes, microwavable macaroni and cheese, and—for the love of God—no more scraped knees and elbows because my son doesn’t know the meaning of the words, “Get your ass down from there before you fall and break your gawd-dayum neck or something.”
Maybe now, we can slow down and get acquainted.
I’ve been really meaning to ask you something. It’s been on my mind a good while, especially after Donald Trump won the 2016 race for president. Now that the 2018 midterms are behind us, I figure now is as good of a time as any to ask: “What’s wrong with you?”
I don’t mean you personally, necessarily. I know you don’t speak for all white women in the same way that I could not possibly represent the voice all women of color. And I don’t mean all of you, of course.
But I really want to understand is how you—or, anyways, so many women like you—chose a man like Donald Trump over a vastly more qualified Hillary Clinton. I want to know if you honestly thought he had the moral compass, not to mention the mental wherewithal, to be president of these United States. There may be a good number of reasons that you’re just flat out tired of the Clinton name. However, I can guarantee you that she wouldn’t have left people to suffer in Puerto Rico. The City of Flint would have gotten the federal funding it needs to completely overhaul its water systems. We certainly would not be the laughingstock of leaders from around the globe. No one would have been snickering during her address to the United Nations.
Sure, Clinton won over the majority of women, “but it was white women who helped hand Trump the presidency,” according to a Washington Post national poll. When Trump says he won the women’s vote, he means you—or at least 45 percent of those of you who are college-educated, and 62 percent of those of you who do not have a college degree. Clinton won the popular vote because women of color picked up all that slack.
Surely, you heard the way he talked about women on that Access Hollywood tape? You weren’t convinced when he called undocumented immigrants “rapists” and “murderers”? Or when he said in a nationally televised interview that women who seek reproductive healthcare to end an unwanted pregnancy should be punished? Seriously, I think he meant jail. According to a Pew public opinion poll, 40 percent of Republican women are pro-choice. Overall, more than half of all women believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. But, y’all still voted for this guy.
Forgive me if I ain’t buying the economic anxiety thing. You’re afraid and Trump knows it. That’s why he keeps talking about a violent “invasion” coming for our southern border. He’s a racist and a bigot. You know this, yet you gave him your vote. Why? Because somewhere deep inside you think he’s going to protect you from those “other” people.
Are you honestly not worried about what a conservative Supreme Court might do to turn back the clock on human rights?
Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that all women should be liberal. But what I am saying is I would never cast a vote that I knew would hurt other women. Maybe our middle-class lives shields us from seeing some of the hurdles working class and poor women must surmount on a daily. However, if I knew for certain that a vote for one candidate or another would snatch food out of her children’s mouths or cut off access to affordable healthcare and great community schools—things I can well afford—I could not in good conscience cast that ballot.
See, if we’re going to be sisters, the first rule has to be: Do no harm.
What I am telling you is by electing Trump to the White House, you broke that rule. Now, I figured that after nearly two years of this debacle on Pennsylvania Avenue that you would see just how wrong you were about him. I thought it might upset you when the president nominated Brett Kavanaugh for a seat on the Supreme Court and stood behind him even after a highly credible alleged victim, or more than one, said Justice Kavanaugh often drank more than his fill and had sexually assaulted them. I assumed it would make your stomach churn to see families separated at the border and children caged for weeks in makeshift camps. I assumed it would only be a matter of time before you abandoned the prospect of a presidential “pivot.”
You stuck right with him into the midterm elections and, honey, I hate to tell you but this is about as classy as he gets. I’ll leave the “blue wave” talk to a more learned person. But, by and large, you almost single-handedly sent Ted Cruz (R-Texas) back to the U.S. Senate, elected Ron DeSantis governor of Florida and, if the numbers hold, Brian Kemp will become governor of Georgia. I understand party loyalty and ideological differences, but these are the kinds of men who will do absolutely nothing to tear down the strictures of gender. In fact, they’re damn happy with things just like they are.
Even so, half of you pulled the lever for DeSantis and Cruz won just under 60 percent of your votes, according to exit polls. I don’t expect you to play gender politics, but I guess I was expecting you to walk away from any candidate—man or woman—who did not loudly and definitively speak up for the rights of women. Imagine my shock when Kemp pulled nearly 80 percent of all white women who voted in the Georgia midterm against a supremely qualified black woman who not only hears you but put that into action.
Did you not hear the fight in Stacey Abrams’ voice? Did you not hear her when she dropped all the ideological talking points and crafted a plan for her state that prioritizes an investment in families? Did you not hear her when she said Republicans are actively declining $8 million a day in federal dollars because they refuse to expand Medicaid? That money is ours and we’re leaving it on the table while rural hospitals struggle and close.
I have to tell you that I am not alone. Everywhere I looked across social media today, the same question was front and center. After 2016, a good many of us were disappointed. We did think, however, that you might come around by the time the 2018 fall contests got here. But, rather than repudiate Trump’s embarrassingly crass nature and inclination toward tweeting verbal bombs, you doubled down and sent some of his most staunch supporters back to Washington.
Columnist, feminist activist and social media denizen Mona Eltahawy is out here calling you “foot soldiers of the patriarchy.”
How is that? To put it plainly: Girl, what is wrong with you?”
The good news is 100 women will take a seat in the House and Senate this January. And that’s important. While they are predominantly Democrats, a good number are Republicans. I am one of those people who believes it’s better to have more women at the table when they are formulating public policies that impact our lives.
I know this is a lot coming from someone you hardly know. How do we live in the same neighborhoods, the same townships and cities, how do we share so many of the same struggles and still not understand the power of our collective solidarity? Unlike so many others, I am not willing to write you off and this letter isn’t about flinging shame your way.
I really do hope we will stop for that cup of coffee. I sincerely hope that one day I will be able to count on you as an ally, to call you—without hesitation—my sister.