I’m closing in on 40 and this week was the first time anyone has ever suggested I wasn’t capable of or entitled to something because of my gender.
On the surface, the comment just made me shake my head. No, sir, I have no intention of refraining from commenting on politics because the title of my column is ‘She Said.’ I expect readers to disagree with my opinions and to share their own in response, because political commentary belongs to us all. But to suggest a woman’s column is no place for politics? I thought we’d moved past that.
And yet, it seems to be a hallmark of our times. When Atlantic Business released its January/February issue with a cover featuring more than three dozen female business leaders, the online hate came fast and furious. When someone asked a local Facebook group whether a Women’s March was being held in Moncton, the comments were rude and discouraging, to say the least. Then there was the report released by The University of New Brunswick that shows one in five of the school’s students say they’ve been sexually assaulted since enrolling in classes.
I’m not entirely surprised by these statistics and stories, or the resentment and hatred that lie beneath them. But I am worried. I’m worried that the election of a government leader in another country is going to continue to empower people fuelled by hate in our country and around the globe.
The world has heard Donald Trump say that “you can do anything” to a woman, and that “when you’re a star, they let you do it.” It doesn’t matter that he said it in 2005 or that he released a video in 2016 that stated “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.” What thousands of people heard was that the man who was elected to arguably the most powerful position in the world sees women as objects, not equals.
It’s not just attitudes towards women. The Washington Post began an article last month with the sentence “Donald Trump’s victory has emboldened a wave of anti-Semitism not seen in the United States for decades.” Rabbi Marvin Hier, who blessed Trump at his inauguration, faced hundreds of hateful Twitter messages about his involvement. Here at home, a swastika drawn in the snow on Mount Allison’s Alumni Field highlighted ongoing issues with racism on campus. Again, one only needs to look at local social media groups and listen to folks chatting at the coffee shops to know how widespread attitudes like this are.
For those of you still thinking this is not our problem, a recent Slate podcast included a section on “getting acquainted with Canada’s Trump(s)” – naming Kevin O’Leary and Kelly Leitch. And don’t forget: Canadians put Rob Ford in office. Trump’s campaign and leadership style are not his alone, but his success is sure to encourage others to act similarly.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit legal advocacy organization in the U.S., released a report that documented 867 “bias-related incidents in the 10 days following the presidential election.” There was a common theme in quotes in the report, highlighting that the hate incidents were done in a public, proud manner. People who previously felt bigoted opinions were not welcome in America felt empowered to not only share these opinions freely, but in a manner meant to intimidate others.
Whether or not he intended it, Donald Trump is a megaphone for hate. Those of us who stand against hate need to keep making sure we’re heard. Millions of people marching in hundreds of cities around the world is a start. The empowerment of hate is not going unchallenged.
She Said appears Saturdays in the Times & Transcript.