How You as a Young Woman Can Start to Move Forward from This Election
I am very devastated by the election of a President Trump. For me it hurt for all the reasons it’s hitting a lot of other people, but mostly because of this: I get told, as a woman, for the billionth time in my life, that I’m just not going to be good enough. Just when we thought we could make it.
But I’m older at this point. I know that in this society, already, a little bit, that women are still not good enough. At almost-37, I’ve been in the world and the workplace enough to know that sexism is very real, and it will affect me every day, and I have little strategies for how to get through it. It’s not a surprise any longer. I’m also a very, very, sensitive person who has had her heart broken before, and to get through it I became a block of steel, and so I don’t get hurt as badly as before (I don’t necessarily recommend this strategy) and so while I am hurting this week, I have quickly realized I am not hurting as badly as the young women I know.
I lead a team of young women at work, I mentor young women, and I am related to young women (I should note they are all straight and under 30 but not all white, so my advice here is from what I’m seeing amongst those women). Their devastation runs deeper than mine. Perhaps it is because they haven’t yet had their heart broken. Maybe it’s because they didn’t realize the true extent of which sexism runs deep in our society, and they’re coming to terms with what that means for them going forward. I’m not sure. I just know I am seeing it really, really strongly, and my heart breaks for these young women, and I want to help them. So I’m writing this post with some advice and actionable tips.
This is not political advice or even advice about how to get involved in politics and change that landscape. This is some practical advice for women that I think and hope would lead to their own self-empowerment. That self-empowerment and belief in yourself? That will one day lead to a woman president. I really promise it. It will also help because doing some or all of the things below will give you a sense of control in your purpose and destiny, and that helps when you are dealing with trauma. So here we go.
1. Consider taking a few months to consume only media from women or people of color
I really think that part of the reason we are in this mess is because the worldview of white straight men is what dominates and saturates our culture in every single way. Other voices and perspectives are not as heard or explored or valued. You can change this, but you have to start small and with yourself and you need to expand the media you consume. Write out this list: the last five movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts and books you consumed. How many of them star or are created by straight white men? Now, flip that list on its head and fill it with authors, directors, actors who are not straight white men. They exist. And they’re really fucking good.
2. Get in charge of your finances and educate yourself about money
Money is power. This is the truth. Own your money, and set goals for retirement. You read that article about the fuck-off fund, yeah? Don’t let your boyfriends or parents be the ones you rely on for what to do with your money. Make saving a priority. I wrote about the very basics of financial education here. You can also read The Billfold and listen to Gaby Dunn’s Bad with Money podcast. Also: ask for that raise.
3. Invest in your female friendships
Dating and love and sex are great but romantic partnerships are just a small part of the way you need to carry you forward through your entire life. Host a small group of your best friends over for monthly dinners where you can talk this stuff through. Are you blowing off friends for your relationship? Stop that. Make your female friendships a top priority in your life. If you’re not spending 50% of your week with friends, try that — 25% time for you, 25% time for dating/relationships, but prioritize the friendships. They will be so important for your entire life. Also know if a friendship feels draining, you don’t have to keep doing it. Invest in the people that when, after you hang out with them, you feel nourished and inspired. Those are the people to stick by.
4. Realize that posting your views on stuff and your outrage on social media is not necessarily useful
You think maybe it’s convincing some minds, and maybe it makes you feel better, but it ain’t doing anything but getting you some likes from people who already agreed with you. If you did not donate or volunteer in this past election, but considered yourself having helped out because you wrote about it angrily or eloquently some on Facebook, get real with yourself: you failed to show up in a way that actually mattered. Don’t do that again next time. Meanwhile, consider a social media hiatus for a week or two.
5. Subscribe to media with your money
Subscribe to your local NPR station, your local newspaper, and the NYTimes and the Washington Post. We’re going to need supported journalism more than ever going forward.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: What I’ve said here isn’t good enough. These media sources above are good, but mainstream, and male-dominated. Try this: Read one independent news source (Mother Jones, ProPublica); one local news source to your location; and one international news source. Do support these organizations with your money. I canceled my Spotify account and put it over to Mother Jones.
6. Volunteer in your community
It doesn’t have to be political. When you’re volunteering, generally you’re supporting organizations that help people who don’t have a voice, and that will help in many a way. I tutor at FLOC.org and volunteer at the front desk of a local domestic violence shelter. Help young kids read. Help battered women. Join a Boys & Girls Club. Teach youth to code.
7. Take care of your physical and mental fitness
You’re gonna have to be strong to get through the next four years, not to mention the rest of your life because, well, life is great but it can be hard. Your body and brain need to help you with that strength. Work out 2–4 times a week. Meditate. Consider therapy. It’s not about losing weight. It’s about fine tuning your body and mind like a fucking Ferrari so that you can fight better and stronger.
8. Be kind. Be kind. Be kind
I really believe that women are so much stronger than men because we for whatever reason are generally more empathetic and emotionally vulnerable. It is not a weakness. That is a strength. Part of this kindness means trying to understand why this election happened. No, we don’t have to talk to the people who called Hillary a c*nt or want Muslims banned from America — they’re not worth talking to — but a lot of people voted for Trump for a variety of reasons. I’m not saying you have to support them, but it’s worth it for the expansion of your own worldview and growth of your own empathy to try. You can read the comments in this blog post that asked Trump voters to explain their perspective and this Washington Post piece for a good start.
9. You’re your own hero. That’s not scary, it’s awesome
I came across a quote from actress Lily Tomlin that seems especially poignant this week: “I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that. Then I realized: I am somebody.”
You control who you are, what you do, who you can be, and how you can go forward. Ain’t nobody else gonna do it for you — and nor should they. Make your choices. Own them. Feel pride in who you are. Know you’re stronger than you believe, and smarter than they tell you. You got this.