I have always believed that beauty is political. But when we are dealing with fascism sweeping our nation, the way for those of us who believe that is to use beauty in ways that support the work we have ahead of us. Put on your lipstick if it makes you fierce, then go out and yell. But right now I don’t have my usual intellectual luxury of examining beauty in the ways I usually do in this space.
I got an enormous shock in one of my core beliefs with this election. I have always believed, with the wide-eyed earnesty of a white woman for whom inclusion is usually taken for granted, in the sisterhood. I am horrified at how wrong I was about that. I’m shocked at my naive assumption that women would do better by one another; I’m shocked that 42 percent of women and 53 percent of white women looked at a man who is proud of his misogyny and think, Yes, him. Every woman who has ever been sexually assaulted was assaulted again on Tuesday night, including those who voted for him. Our national figurehead is a sexual assault trigger. I am sickened.
But the deeper rocking of my world has come from how this past week has made me look my own complicity right in the eye. I have long considered myself an ally to disenfranchised and oppressed people, but I now see that “considered myself” is meaningless. I have done jack shit to actually show up for people of color. I read the thinkpieces and make my Twitter feed diverse and try to treat people like they’re, you know, human, and none of that is active alliance. Patting myself on the back for being aware enough to not expect a cookie for being a decent human being is just me baking a batch of cookies for myself. I thought I “got” intersectional feminism because I agreed with its tenets. But I wasn’t really listening. I am sorry.
I’m a writer by nature and vocation, so part of how I wind up contributing to overcoming the fascism of this country might well be with my words. But right now, I don’t have anything to say that isn’t being said elsewhere by people whose voices more urgently need to be heard, and anyway, the kind of words I have to offer the world aren’t what we need right now. Right now, we need action, and organizing.
There is one thing about what’s going on that’s in my wheelhouse, so yes, let’s talk about safety pins. What the fuck are you thinking? We’re looking at the possibility of mass deportations and the impulse is to ask what you can wear to the revolution?
Maybe it’s different in communities where disenfranchised people are surrounded by the enemy—I don’t know, I can’t speak to that. But criminy, if you’re wearing a safety pin out of an earnest belief that someone in need can come to you, a stranger, because they need help? Then you, a stranger, can probably see that they need help, so help them regardless of what’s on your lapel.