On women and Trump

This post is not about Trump’s well-known proclivities for committing sexual assault on women. Those stories are important, and it is beyond tragic that half the nation decided that repeated allegations of sexual assault is not enough of a disqualifying factor from the presidency.

Some people wonder why liberal feminists are not celebrating Kellyanne Conway for being the first woman to chair a successful presidential campaign. The answer is simple. Ms. Conway broke her glass ceiling by steering a campaign built on stepping on the backs of the oppressed. She headed, supported, and defended a campaign that was openly xenophobic, misogynistic, homophobic, and bigoted. Even if not all the people who voted for her candidate fit those descriptions, the campaign unequivocally does.

(There were some misconstrued stories implying that Ms. Conway said that it was a “bad idea” for a mother to work in the administration; after reading the transcript, what she actually said was that it was a bad idea for a “mother of four,” but she appears to be referring to herself and her own decision. As a staunch feminist, I support her decision. Feminism is about choosing our own roles, be it in the office or at home. Anyone — man or woman — who expresses the view that there is only one way to be a good woman/mother/wife/female professional is the antithesis of feminism.)

Merely being a woman is not a good enough reason for other women to praise and laud her. I voted for Hillary not because she is a woman, but because I believed she’d be a champion for women — for equal pay, for the right to privacy, for access to equal healthcare. I voted for Hillary not because she is a woman, but because I believed she would work to preserve our environment, stand up for the LGBTQ and POC communities. I voted for Hillary not because she is a woman, but because in her, I saw progress.

To be clear, I am not lambasting “identity politics.” Our identities are important. Anyone who “doesn’t see color,” for example, is both lying and doing a disservice to society. Our unique identities shape our world views and the way we approach the important issues of the day. To sweep those all-consuming aspects of ourselves is to deny our history and to perpetuate the myth that social and economic issues are divorced from the identity fabric of the nation.

It is in this vein that I express me opposition to Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation under Trump. She made history as the first asian American woman to serve in a US president’s cabinet (she was Deputy Secretary of Transportation under George H. W. Bush and Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush). As an Asian American, and specifically a Chinese American, one might think I would be proud of her achievements. But I am not. I am not proud that the first cabinet member to look like me oversaw a Labor Department that, according to the Government Accountability Office, inadequately investigated complaints from low and minimum wage workers. Nor am I proud that she oversaw a Labor Department that failed to ensure enough federally required inspections of dangerous coal mines. I will defend her against Democrat’s attacks on her heritage and questioning her allegiance to the nation (which happened as an attempted smear on her husband, Mitch McConnell); I may oppose her and her husband, but certain attacks are inexcusable. These accusations are racist, baseless, and just as bad as the birther conspiracies surrounding President Obama. I was and remain disgusted with those actions, as a lifelong Democrat. But my identity as an Asian American woman does not lend itself to blind support of Elaine Chao.

This election has shown the defeat of some women and the rise of others. But keep in mind that liberal feminists like me do not champion the rise of certain women, not because we are hypocrites who only want liberals to succeed. Rather, it is because we are feminists — but not only feminists. We have other morals as well, and our desire for a society where women and men are equal is just one of our many hopes for a more progressive and inclusive society.

Note: For as much as I can, I will not put the words “President” and “Trump” next to each other. I will always have doubts about this election, due to the allegations of Russian involvement and due to the destruction of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013 (result was tens of thousands of voters being turned away in Wisconsin, and a plethora of unnecessarily strict voter ID laws springing up). But I, along with everyone, must live in a post-November 8, 2016 reality. Nevertheless, I personally find it an indignity to the office, to President Obama, to President Bush, and to all prior presidents to bestow the same honor onto a man who lacks honor, decorum, good judgment, respect, intellectual curiosity, and the nation’s best interests. 

Header image taken from The New York Times.


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