Is it just me, or is everyone wearing black?
I asked my roommate this question as we began the actual walk of shame to our first class the morning after the election. We didn’t speak when we were getting ready. I put on black skinny jeans, black rain boots, and my favorite red sweater. It was important to me that I wore an outfit that looked as safe, powerful, determined, and womanly as I was trying to feel.
We walked outside the McCarthy doors, looked at each other, and cried. The few people on the streets at 9 a.m. looked equally bleary-eyed, stunned, saddened, and disappointed. The campus was in mourning.
The night before, the campus was in shock.
I walked with a group of friends to the White House early in the morning, mostly because I wasn’t sure what else to do. I think we all needed people to listen to our repetitions of “I just can’t believe…” We walked past a bar in Pennsylvania Avenue. Three men were standing on the sidewalk a few yards away from us. They weren’t laughing. They weren’t cast in shadows. Weirdly, I knew what they were yelling before I heard the words repeated confidently and loudly:
“Grab them by their pussies.”
It wasn’t even said jeeringly. It was stated.
And I wasn’t alone. I was with two other women and seven men. And that’s the worst part. The horror, and panic, of what this means for our future—if this happens when I’m walking in a group, what will happen when I’m alone? And then the terrifying realization that this is the rhetoric that won the election. We just taught America this is okay.
As my roommate and I walked past Village A down Prospect St., a 9 a.m. walk we’ve made countless times before, I noticed people were registering each other differently. Quick glances searched for reddened eyes, sorrowful expressions, fatigued eyelids. When I could see someone was hurting, I’d nod or smile gently or say something like, “Hey, I’m sorry.” And they’d do the same back.
We walked past one of the Prospect Street row houses under construction. A few days prior, my roommate and I were spending our 9 a.m. walk discussing, almost self-consciously, what would happen if the election didn’t turn out like we’d hoped. We weren’t sure. It was too horrible a thought to even articulate. A construction worker overheard us.
“I’ll tell you what you’re going to do. You’re going to keep on living.”
We neared Walsh exactly three minutes before class started as usual. We all smiled wearily, and tried to reach out to each other in small, silent ways. Many of us were ceaselessly fighting back tears.
The lady who swiped my card at the dining hall asked how I was doing. “Okay, I guess,” I said. She patted my arm, “Every 24 hours gets better.” She asked every person behind me the same thing.
Dialogue is important. Rhetoric is important. Talking to one another is crucial. Talk to everyone. Every opinion you get, every anecdote you collect will add nuance and depth to your own ideas. And my promise to you—what I urge everyone to do—is to listen. Listen, stay open-minded, gather your ideas. Then call bullshit when you see it.
I’m not sure how to handle those three men on Pennsylvania Avenue except to keep walking, keep your head up, and keep telling yourself you’re intelligent, complete, and powerful. Stop searching for an explanation for their behavior and stop listening to others’ justifications. Let’s delete the “boys will be boys” excuse from our vocabulary and never make excuses for men like these again. Let’s fight this horrible dialogue with an influx of positive rhetoric. Tell everyone they’re valuable, tell children they’re capable, tell women they’re resilient.
Let’s not stop asking each other how we’re doing. Let’s keep telling our friends, our classmates, the people we connect with in the dining hall or on Prospect St. that we’re here for each other. We need to listen to each other and we can’t let voices go unheard. And we need to keep on living.
Emma is a sophomore in the College.