2016. You’ve been a hell of a year. I don’t think I’m quite ready to look back on all that you’ve brought and simultaneously destroyed for us, but I think we can all say that this year is like no other. It brought out the worst in many, but, like every cloud, there is a silver lining (if you squint really carefully). While this year may have been the year America elected a man that requires too many adjectives for a solid English sentence, the reaction to this world-changing event has been both disheartening and encouraging.
Like many people, the people I interact with on social media are people who are mostly like-minded to me. (Or else they are a lot more intelligent, funnier and generally better than me and I hope that by retweeting their Tweets their amazing-ness will rub off on me). Throughout the lead up of the American election, my timeline only spoke of disgust, shock and hatred for the President-Elect. I was naive enough to think that my Twitter timeline represented the rest of the world.
I remember going to work the morning of the election. I had an 8 o’clock class so that meant I was awake (ish) early enough the see the hope for Hillary Clinton grow, and fade, as we realised what was happening. I then went to school and didn’t have internet until the evening.
When I returned to social media, I saw a mixture of tweets. Some were distraught at what had happened. Others were genuinely fearful for their lives. I saw anger, sadness and a whole heap of disbelief.
But beyond all that I saw the want. I saw the need, rather, to try change this result. To fight this physical manifestation of everything that feminists, humanists, environmentalists and people as a whole are against. Because beneath the disbelief, the anger, the sadness, was passion – for something like this to never happen again.
A friend recently told me a story in which she was told to cover up her leotard during dance class, because the boys in the college would be distracted when they were passing. She was outraged, and rightly so. She then said something which speaks of a prevalent attitude right now. “Well, I can’t do anything about it, can I?”
How wrong she is. No, you can’t do anything if you don’t do anything. That much is true. Nothing will change if you don’t will it to, if you don’t try. I told her that calling out the teacher (yes, it was a female teacher who said this) was step one in dealing with a situation like this, and that it’s important to not let things like this slide, because that is how they build up. But I don’t think she saw the point.
For what’s the point in saying something when it goes unheard in a world where someone who openly brags about violating and sexually assaulting women, is awarded one of the highest positions of power in the world?
Why bother trying to tell the guy in the club that it’s not okay to touch you like that when you were wearing a dress like that and subsequently asking for it, after all?
Why would you even try fight for your right to your body, to choose what is best for it and for you, when the words get lost behind the shrillness of your voice?
It’s easy to underestimate the power of words in a world that is becoming ever increasingly dependent on big, and often dangerous actions. From terror attacks to political downfall to perhaps even regression in a worldwide movement devoted to equality why waste your time, and your words, trying to talk to people when it’s evident they won’t listen.
But this is the most crucial time to be vocal. Now is the time to speak. Our society and our world are at a turning point, and we’re so very near a new world, one that has remnants of the dark chapters of early history that we want to forget. We’re so close, but we’re not there yet.
Now is the time to speak up. Call out what you see. Actions, they say, speak louder than words, but that underestimates their power. To look to the President-Elect of America is the perfect example of this. The evidence to support the misogynistic and illegal actions of his were there, but it was the words, the rhetoric and the ideas that made people see past them. He got through to people via his speeches, not his actions. His promises, however racist they may be, were the foundation of his support. He drew the support of half of a nation through words alone.
Look at what words can do. Because if someone like him can be heard and speak to the majority of a people, imagine what you, you with the knowledge and understanding that society should be an inclusive, safe and equal space; imagine what you can do with yours.