Monday, December 12, 2016

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

Previously, in Part I of this post I talked about the media's discussion of the large amount of white women that voted for Trump and the difficulty I felt understanding the votes even in light of the various explanations. Expecting my peers to understand my feelings, returning to law school the week after the election I realized many people did not understand the impact the election of Trump had on minority communities.

The moment it was becoming apparent that Trump was going to win the election, those around me started saying it was time to come together for the sake of the country, to let go of the divisive nature of the election. In an event my law school held the week after the election, many students stood up to speak, saying it was time to let the election go, and that we all needed to work together. Of course I wanted the nation to progress, but every time I heard someone say "we needed to come together" I would hold my breath, sigh, and try to not let my face reflect the frustration I felt. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche said in her piece "Now is The Time to Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About" made in response to the election "the premise for empathy has to be equal humanity; it is an injustice to demand that the maligned identify with those who question their humanity." If only I had the same gusto and eloquence of Adiche, I would explain to my peers how hurtful it was to be asked time and again to forget the racism and bigotry that many people directly or indirectly voted for. 

Also in response to the election, a student group at my law school created a forum for students to write their feelings regarding the election on post-its and place them on a board in the school's hallway. Two of the post-its read "dear white girls, there are bigger ramifications to this election than losing your birth control" and "hating all the Beckies right now". A white female student took pictures of the post-its and posted on a class Facebook page "I don't know who posted these two notes on the wall at school, but I don't think you are helping your cause" (at the time this post was written, both the Facebook post and the post-its had been taken down). While I personally don't agree with the post-its, the Facebook post highlighted the lack of support and understanding that I felt in my community after Trump's election. First, it deligitimized the feelings of the post-it authors and the place where those feelings were coming from. Second, it removed minority women from the larger women's movement. As the Facebook post's author said, the post-it authors were not "helping [their] cause" -  it wasn't our cause. 

In the face of the discord and lack of empathy, felt on both the large scale of the nation and the small scale of the feminist community around me, I believe intersectional feminism can be a tool for the future. As described in this article, intersectional feminism takes into account race, gender, ethnicity, class and ability, and acknowledges that "every woman's experience with oppression is both varied and valid." In her work "Race and Essentialism in Feminist Legal Theory", author Angela Harris explaines how when a singular essentialist female voice is propagated, "the experiences of women perceived as "different" are ignored or treated as a variations on the (white) norm." However, if feminism can recognize different identities and experiences, Angela Harris explains that it will attack racism, classism, and homophobia in the process, and feminism will be about all kinds of oppression. With intersectional feminism we can tackle the fact that 83% of women with disabilities are sexually assaulted within their lifetime, or that Latina women make 54% of what white men make in salary, two of the many reasons this article listed as reasons why intersectional feminism is important. 

With intersectional feminism my feelings and identity as a Nepali-American woman after the election are important, and worth fighting for. 

No comments: