It’s been ten days since the U.S. presidential election. Given the outcome and what’s been happening in America since, the last thing anyone needs is another thought-piece by a white male with an upper-middle-class upbringing who lives in Canada. I’m writing this anyway for one reason: I expected Donald Trump to be elected.
I was told from a young age that I was too cynical. My retort would always be that I was, in fact, realistic. I don’t think it’s cynical that, even in 2016, I thought Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be elected president because she’s a woman. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, I think that falls under a realistic point of view.
Before I go on, I should make it clear that I would have voted for Hillary. But I don’t think it’s realistic that a woman can’t be president. I think it’s realistic that far too many people in the world struggle with the idea that a woman is as qualified (or so, so much more qualified) to do a “man’s job.” Or that women can be confident. Or that they can be opinionated. Or that they can make mistakes. Or that they are entitled to respect. Or that they are men’s equal and often much more.
I would call all of this realistic thinking, but I think I need to explain why. My parents divorced when I was very young and through joint custody I grew up primarily under my Mom’s roof. My mother came from a very traditional family yet knew that being a woman did not dictate what job she might have or how she might live her life. This was the example I was raised under. It’s why I remember from an early age thinking it strange that boys would make so much fun of girls. It’s why I’ve had never thought twice about having a woman as my boss. Most of all, it’s why I’m dumbfounded by the casual and ingrained sexism I witness on a near daily basis.
I’m sure any woman reading this is rolling their eyes at another man being “surprised” that sexism exists. But being raised by a woman that made her own way meant that I, by default, looked up to women. I looked up to my Dad as well, but I honestly can’t remember distinguishing between the two. My exposure to men believing themselves to be superior to women came from everything else I experienced outside my home. I became aware that it existed, even if I couldn’t always understand or appreciate what I was seeing.
What I’m trying to say is that I’ve never taken it as a given that a man takes precedent over a woman. At least not consciously. But certainly unconsciously. Because that’s our world. The world where a man can openly question a woman’s ability to do a particular job. (I heard this 14 days ago.) The one where a man openly scoffs at the idea that women can have their own conferences to address sexism and the wage gap in their industry. (Less than two months ago.) And the world where some random man on the internet is going to find this post and try to say sexism isn’t real.
This is the world we, as men, live in quite comfortably. Because we always think we have the upper hand. Or we think we’re aware of the problem and that in itself is enough. To that, I plead guilty. But seeing my prediction about Trump come true has left me with a deeply unsettling feeling that’s made me know being aware isn’t enough for me anymore.
This election should be a nasty wake up call for my fellow men that misogyny and sexism is alive and well in our world. If you have ever questioned it or believed that you never participated in it, the fact that a bigoted, dangerous buffoon has been made president because he has a penis should make you believe. If this election result isn’t the best reason to question all of your own thoughts and actions, then things aren’t likely to get better. That’s just the reality of our world.
[Note: that’s not quite the exact quote, but you get the idea.]