The image of Donald Trump behind the desk in the Oval Office induces a strong shudder from many women, who feel like they're waking up into a nightmare since he won the U.S. presidential election.
That shudder is a mix of incredulity at his win, nausea for his malevolent, orange face and a deep dread for the future. The world is aghast, but women have been particularly traumatized by this election.
They have good reason to be. Now that Trump's rabid rallies – studded with "Trump That Bitch" swag – are over, his stunning win has turned up the volume on violent street harassment. Feeling vindicated by the numbers, racist misogynists are coming out of the woodwork even more than they did during the campaign, terrorizing women coast to coast since his win.
Mirroring similar attacks all over the country, San Diego police said that a Muslim woman was targeted by two men who mentioned Trump and the woman's faith before stealing her car (police are now investigating the robbery as a hate crime). At a California gas station, a man confronted an Asian woman, screaming at her to leave the country. In Philadelphia, a woman had the words "Trump rules" and "black bitch" spray-painted on her SUV. At a high school in Pennsylvania where students were filmed carrying a Trump sign and declaring "white power," a young man allegedly grabbed a fellow student's breast on the bus, telling her it was "my right." In New York, a woman overheard a group of men laughing about it now being "legal to grab pussy." And in Washington, a woman described having her rear smacked by a man yelling jubilantly, "Trump, baby!"
Trump's win has emboldened these men to let loose.
Beyond street harassment and chauvinistic bravado, mansplaining is also getting louder. This week in Toronto, I had two Uber drivers lecture me on the greatness of Trump, and then I got to pay them for the pleasure. Both men felt I was being melodramatic about Trump's dripping contempt for women. "You really believe that propaganda?" scoffed one driver. (By propaganda, did he mean the leaked Access Hollywood tape on the tour bus, Trump's own comments about what he likes to do backstage at teen pageants or the dozen-plus women who have alleged sexual assault? I guess I'll never know.) My next driver laughed uproariously at the suggestion that Trump is sexist, adding that even if he is, such concerns are petty.
Political debate is healthy, sure, but for women, these conversations are deeply personal. The casual indifference here may be even more insulting than outright misogyny. On Tuesday night, ABC News reporter Martha Raddatz described interviewing rural men after Trump's bus tape leaked: They basically told her that they "don't care." Women know innately that most men don't care about misogyny, but this week, we were forcefully reminded.
As with the sexual-assault cases against Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby, Trump's win has been turning some men and women against each other in the everyday world. It's teased things out of strangers and people you know, things that might surprise you. With Trump, Cosby and Ghomeshi, the same narratives slithered out, as they always do. Vengeful women make these things up for their own "gain." Or, if these things did happen, they happened so long ago it's irrelevant. Finally, you'll hear that old chestnut about "men being men" – see Trump's locker room debate on that one.
What stings even more for women is that so many of their fellow women voted for Trump: 53 per cent of white female voters cast their ballots for Trump, according to exit data. Incredibly, 45 per cent of female college graduates voted for him, too. The results spell the failure of intersectional feminism. Women are divided, and the betrayal has left many at a loss for words this week.
This has been a deep humiliation, yielding an outpouring of public grief and vulnerability among women, some of whom were seen crying on their commutes in to work the morning after. Some of my female colleagues admitted to losing it during Clinton's concession speech, while others sent around rueful, women-only e-mail threads about the new reality. "This is painful, and it will be for a long time," Clinton said in her concession speech, dressed in purple, a colour of mourning.
Feminist writer Lindy West described bawling into her cereal: "I cried because it's not fair. … I cried because I don't even know what it feels like to be taken seriously. … I cried because it does things to you to always come second."
Women's disappointment has bubbled over: They're emoting like they rarely do in this era of online trolls. It makes me feel queasy. There is someone on the other end relishing that vulnerability, and it's more people than we realize.
As Clinton put it in that powerful concession speech Wednesday morning, "Our nation is more deeply divided than we thought."