By Chandra Ganguly:
My dear friends,
I see your posts in social media and though I am separate from you, somewhere far away from you, like you, I too weep. I am not sure why I am crying. Is it because a lying, misogynist, reality star is going to be our president? Is it because a woman was defeated by a man again? Is it because in this white America I feel more isolated than ever? Or are the tears for us women who live in a cage of some sort or the other no matter how gilded?
In this past year we have watched our personal struggles as women played out on the world’s biggest electoral stage. What do we have to do to take our equal place? What will it take? This election in America, we came so close. It seemed that finally one of our own, as imperfect as any of us but with astounding grit and a fighter, would finally break that glass ceiling for us, so the rest of us struggling against all the inequities and dangers and challenges that we must face every day, could believe that the time had finally come for us women to really achieve whatever we wanted?
But then in my country of origin, girls are still aborted illegally so that a male foetus can hopefully take her place; and in other places of the world, women are still bought and sold for pleasure and labour. So even as we grieve for Hillary, tell me my friends how can any one of us be free in any way when our sisters are still in so many chains that hold them down? This election, the fight was not about a man and a woman. It was about a type of man who diminishes us women, a type of man that most of us have encountered in some way or the other. A man less qualified, less educated, less experienced, less capable, less in almost every human way, who puts his hand on a woman, anywhere on her he pleases, he has said, because he could; this man has troubled us women at home, at our work places, at the bus stop, in our daily encounters; it was that this man defeated her that most of us find galling and painful, a slap to the face, a reminder of how far we still have to go in our quest for equality. Is the audacity of hope then just a lie that we have spoken to hide our real helplessness? Repeal our reproductive rights, build walls, impeach, imprison, body shame, grab us because you still can — we must accept that half the country has chosen a man of such words.
And yet, and yet, because we as a human species, especially we women, live on hope, it fuels our daily fight, I find my mind searching frantically for something positive to say. Finding meaning in tragedy is a human specialty. So this morning even as I wrote these words, even as my eyes filled up with tears now and then, I made myself lean back into my seat and take in the world and the people occupying the same office space I was working in. Around me, women of all colors, young men industrious in glasses and peering into their laptop screens, the barista behind the coffee bar who smiles every single time you approach her for a refill — ordinary people like me at their daily jobs. It would be simplistic to say that I felt love as I looked at them, or compassion or hope or any of the words we use so commonly – what I felt was more complex, a certain kinship is as close as I can come to describe it. At the same time this sadness, like a boulder, feels heavy. Putin has hailed Trump’s victory, as has the Ku Klax clan. The world has taken a gigantic leap backwards. How will we ever recover?
There is no neat ending to this letter. I will not say a prayer for peace, not here at least. I will not say the glass is half full or how far we have come because we women are now able to at least vote. I will not say I have made peace or let us make peace. I will not say the sun will rise again. All this we know as words formulated by our minds. All I can think is we must continue to do what we have been doing always — fight, educate and stand up for ourselves. The struggle would not have been over if the country had a woman for president. Our voices would have had a higher platform but the daily struggle would still have been ongoing and to that struggle then today, my friends, I bow my head. Meanwhile, thinking of that kinship to a people, including with those who voted in desperate hope for this new president, I urge you my friends that we need to do what we can in these troubled times to be there for each other — whether it be a meal to a stranger in need or a helping hand to a neighbor. Let us keep an eye out especially for those who are different from us, those disenfranchised by bigotry or ignorance. Let us make sure we stand up for them when they need us to. Love will trump hate we have hoped. In this we should not cede even as Mr. Trump prepares to march triumphantly into the White House. Let us keep an eye on each other and our hearts in our struggle, in this nothing has also changed, not yet.