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I was once married. And of the family members I gained through this marriage was one woman I’ll call May. She was married back then, too. Her husband practiced the kind of emotional abuse that doesn’t always leave bruises—comments about her looks, her intelligence, her ability to live her everyday life. She dieted, she bleached, she got breast implants that ruined her back, a nose job that left permanent scars beneath her eyes. Her own father had often said the same things to her, yelling within my hearing—and others—that she was “the stupidest woman he had ever known in his life.” In other words, her married life was little better or worse than the rest. She finally left the husband, and that’s when I lost her. I had left my husband too, for similar reasons (“Why isn’t your hair shinier?” “Why aren’t your teeth whiter?” “Why are your toes so ugly?” “You used to have perfect breasts.” “Why do you dress that way?”) It was only years later that I learned what had happened to her.
You see, when a man believes he has the power to grant a woman personhood by admiring her looks or her body’s use to him—as eye candy, sex object, cook, maid, emotional crutch, or listening post—he also believes he has the power to take it away. Trump believes he has this power.
About the media, he has said: “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [they] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” About a woman’s kinship with material objects, he claimed: “Beauty and elegance, whether in a woman, a building, or a work of art, is not just superficial or something pretty to see.” On The Apprentice, he asked the men to rate the female contestants to determine their worth: “Who’s the most beautiful on the women’s team?” The men on the show were “uncomfortable,” though they said nothing at the time. About his former opponent, Carly Fiorina, he “joked”: “Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?” His own wives and daughters are desperately exercised, botoxed, lifted, vacuumed, cut. He has called women he doesn’t like “slobs,” “fat,” “ugly,” “disgusting,” and “dogs.”
We’ve heard this before. A lot. But not on a stage that is expected to be so high above us, so vital to our lives and deaths, so very visible and repeated and sanctioned by every voter who put him there. Not on a stage that is supposed to represent the essence of who we are—both to ourselves and to the world.
Soon after I lost touch with her, May entered another emotionally abusive relationship. When the past repeats itself, it does so with disastrous results. Neighbors said the couple kept to themselves, the blinds closed, the yard wild, the residents dashing furtively in and out. One day, the couple decided to make a suicide pact. The next day, May was found in the small space between her bed and the wall—beaten to death. The man went to jail, as he should have.
But what of the others who sent her to that house? Who normalized the use of such insults, and therefore normalized everything connected to them? Who ensured that this woman believed her only importance was in looks, her mirror of him, and therefore returned again and again because she believed nothing else was possible? What about us?
I dedicate my my No-Trump Vote to this woman I loved and left behind. I can no longer save her. But I can try to stop this wave of voices that make women nothing more than a pretty piece of paper to be crumpled up and tossed. I can vote. So can you. And I hope you do so, for your mothers, your sisters, your wives, your daughters, your granddaughters. I hope you do so for strangers. For May or Sarah or Alice. You must love at least one woman. With your vote, you offer her every possibility—or none at all.