Abuse of power, abusive power

Dear President Trump,

I know a fair bit happened with the impeachment process today and that you made an ass of yourself in Europe this week, but I’m not going to focus on either of these things today. Instead I want to tell you about three recent encounters with sexism.

The first was yesterday on an early morning conference call about a big work meeting that I’m helping to plan. We were dialing in the details regarding who was going to lead a series of break out groups and as we ticked through them I realized that the two having to do with mentoring involved women leaders but the four content-oriented sessions were all looking like they would be led by men. One of the four was still somewhat in play and so after much internal gnashing of teeth I decided to say something. Part of the context is that this same group deliberately focused on diversity and inclusion last year so it seemed reasonable to point out that we seemed to be heading toward all male leaders of the science-y sessions.

Well, it didn’t go especially well initially as the man in charge let me know he didn’t see it that way. Fortunately, though, the group did shift on one of the sessions and so now there will be one woman leading one science-oriented break out. Sometimes I wonder why I bother. I really do. But then I give myself a shake and remind myself that if I don’t speak up when these things are happening I invariably feel like shit so I make myself go ahead and bother.

Right after that on my way into work we were going slowly enough that I was able to see yet another one of those damn Jeep stickers depicting a male figure anally penetrating a female figure that is pumping gas (“Ass or Gas; No One Rides Free”). It was on the window of a new Jeep driven by a young white man. I know I wrote to you about another such sighting over a year and a half ago and went off about it then, but I have to tell you that I have in no way desensitized to seeing such horridness.

What the hell possesses people to come up with such demeaning shit in the first place and why would anyone want to drive around with that plastered on their car? I’m just grateful there wasn’t a woman in the car with him. I don’t know whether Jeep brand actually sanctions these things, but there appear to be a lot of nasty Jeep stickers so what’s with that? To be fair, there are also some nasty Toyota stickers, just not as many. Whatever is going on with this phenomenon, I would like it to stop.

Although the offensive sticker sighting happened yesterday morning and the third thing happened this afternoon, they feel of a piece. On the way downtown I was again listening to Michelle Obama’s book and had gotten to the part where you had won the Republican nomination and the Access Hollywood tape had surfaced. To hear MO’s fury and disgust over it was validating, but she and I both know that the country elected you anyway so her response was really not comforting. She also talked about how you prowled around behind Hillary during the debates, trying to intimidate her.

So here’s what I want to bring forward: MO articulated how the sort of demeaning intimidation you displayed as you bragged about groping women against their will and as you loomed over Hillary is the most base, primitive sort of power possible. You embody it. The Jeep decal celebrates it. The blithe indifference to male-domination in the workplace enables it. And it needs to stop.

May we all be safe in our bodies so we can be safe in our minds.
May we all be willing to hold the line against abuse of power.
May we know we can’t be healthy if we tolerate leaders who engage in abusive power.
May we not make peace with the status quo.

Tracy Simpson

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