Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Navigating Donald Trump's Election as a Nepali American Woman (Part I)

Looking back on my life, there have been many moments where my identity of being a mixed-race woman with an immigrant family has come to the forefront of my consciousness. From the frequent question of "what are you?" that I have learned to brush off over the years to the more shaking, like when a truck of men yelled at my family and I to "go home!" in the wake of 9/11. Most recently it has been the election of Donald Trump and the conversations that society and my peers are having in the election's wake. 

Back in August I traveled back to Seattle to visit my family, and the moment I got off of the plane and was in the car with my father he started talking about the impending election. Khizr Khan had just given his moving DNC speech, and my father could not stop talking about it. My father finally had someone speaking up in politics that shared his reality - a brown immigrant who loved the United States and the inclusive democracy it was supposed to stand for. However, even with the happiness of seeing Khizr Khan speak my father expressed how concerned he was over the election and his place in the country. I tried to reassure him that Trump had no chance of winning but he told me wearily "Joanie, the people that hate guys like me are the guys that will vote for Trump". 

Post-election my father's words now hold a sense of foreboding that I did not grasp at the time. My father's belief then, that if Trump were elected it would be because of animus and distrust of minority and immigrant communities, has been a topic highly discussed in media outlets in the aftermath of Trump's election. The media has also focused on something else which my father could not predict: that a majority of white women voted for Trump

Many different authors and articles have tackled the question of why so many white women chose to vote for Trump, a candidate who had been accused of sexual misconduct and had been recorded making comments saying he engaged in actions that would constitute sexual assault under the law. The Pew Research Center found that 62% of rural white women voted for Trump. This high percentage may be attributed to the appeal of Trump's populist message that hit home with a rural population, which the Center's previous study showed were concerned with a lack of jobs and financial anxieties prior to voting in the November election. What about the women who lived in large cities who did not feel the same financial pressures that the women in rural America did? The Atlantic looked at this question, and found the answer may lie in a multitude of explanations from party loyalty to a desire for change. But there is an explanation for a Trump vote that would cover all white female voters, "and that, of course, is a racist view of the world that privileges white supremacy over every other issue". 

Every white woman who voted for Trump had their own set of daily realities, problems, and ideas that motivated their choice. Some, maybe many, may not have done so because they actively hated immigrants. However, I am left with a pang of sadness in my heart. While animus may not have motivated a Trump vote, rhetoric that disparaged minorities and policies that threatened immigrants were not enough to stop them from voting. This has left me feeling disconnected from the country, realizing the majority of the United States does not fathom the issues I face as a mixed woman with an immigrant family. Or maybe they do realize it, and they just don't care. Soon I would face the harsh understanding that many of my peers and those at my educational institution were no different from the country at large that I now feel so removed from.

*Please stay tuned for Part II of this blog post where I will go into the conversations I encountered in the wake of the election at law school, and why I think intersectional feminism can be a helpful and guiding force in the future! 


Kyle Kate Dudley said...


I really feel you. I loved that Slate article "White Women Sold Out the Sisterhood and the World by Voting for Trump" because it told it like it is: "White women sold out their fellow women, their country, and themselves last night. Most white women don’t want to be part of an intersectional feminist sisterhood. Most white women just want to be one of the guys. And we will all suffer for it." This reminds me of your blog post about Young M.A. who is in some ways selling out the sisterhood by rapping like "one of the guys." It's so hard to see that the patriarchy runs so deep in women, even when they think they're making conscious choices. I think agency is sometimes an illusion that is replaced by a hard-wired, deep-seated self loathing. What a depressing outpouring of hatred this election has turned out to be. <3

Louise Trainor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Louise Trainor said...

Thank you for sharing your emotions with us, Joan. I too have previously voiced my shock and disgust over the election result. I convinced myself that, once I got this fury out of my system, I would come to some acceptance. However, reading up on yours and our fellow classmate's similar opinions (Kyle-Kate also posted a two-part blog filled with raw emotion), I find myself back in that head space of feeling hopeless and disrespected. While I am, in one sense, far removed from the societal idealism this result may perpetuate, it still pains me to hear from the women whom I have met and connected with during my time here in Davis, particularly yourself as an Nepali American woman.
The financial motivation which the article depicted was behind the votes of many rural white women, reminds me of the movie North Country which we watched as a class. It is obvious that the reluctance for females to support each other is equally prominent in our society as it was in 1989 (when the movie was set). Perhaps the old saying is true- the more things change, the more they stay the same!