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It Isn’t Just Racism And Sexism That Helped Trump Win, There’s More

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By Arunima Singh: 

The unthinkable has happened. Donald Trump, whose bid for presidency started as nothing short of a joke for most Americans has now become the 45th elected President of the United States of America. As the news pundits around the globe try to understand what Trump as President would mean for the world, it is very interesting to understand how this happened.

For months before the election day, news outlets and pollsters were all predicting a comfortable victory for the Democratic Nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. In fact, some had suggested that this race was over, and it was only left to see if she could get more than 300 electoral votes and win by a landslide. One week before the elections, the memory of some leaked emails decreased the margin with which she was expected to win in the polls, but most news outlets still predicted a win for Clinton.

But what happened on November 8 changed everything. The outcome was a stunning revelation to say the least. It showed how inaccurate the pollsters were. And it wasn’t the first time. From the Brexit in the UK to the state and national elections in India, we have all witnessed how off the mark polling can be. It is difficult to understand how Donald Trump managed to win the electoral vote in America despite his sexist-racist-xenophobic-Islamophobic rhetoric. How could he win even after 11 women came forward to accuse him of sexual assault right before the election? Does America not respect women anymore? Do Americans really hate half of their country?

Let’s not even pretend for a second that racism and sexism were not an important part of this. There are groups like Alt-Right and Klu Klux Klan. White supremacy is a huge reason why Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ was widely celebrated. Even if some people in the USA are indeed racist, we need to ask one question. Why did Trump win? It is true that a large number of Trump supporters were homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, racist and sexist. But was that enough to make him President? Highly unlikely. Let us not forget that it is the same country that elected a black man as President twice. Obama also had the highest approval ratings that any President has had in the US. Why did it come to this then? 

The American middle class. Especially the people from the white middle class and the lower middle classes have been sick of the nation’s politicians for a long time. From the Republicans to the Democrats, there is barely a real connection left between political parties and the working class of America. One look at the polls show you a lot of things we should take into account before we fall back into despair. There was a race divide, but there was also a class divide. There was also an urban-rural divide between the voters. The Democrats had built a base for themselves in some states, but even in those seats, Trump won. Something about Trump’s message made people of these states change their minds. He inspired a lot of working class and rural voters, and the major difference compared to the Clinton campaign was that Trump supporters were gladly willing to stand in line and wait to vote. Clinton’s biggest failure was not those who voted for Trump. It was those who didn’t vote at all.

According to the Edison National Election Pool, almost 30% of Latin Americans voted for Trump. A similar percentage of Asian Americans voted for him. More African Americans and Latinos voted for him than the Republican nominee in 2012, Mitt Romney. Hillary led the college graduate vote with 49% against 45% for Trump. Compared to the 44% for Hillary, the current President had 52% share of the votes among the ones without a college degree The younger population favoured Hillary compared to the older, which favoured Trump. The stunning total of 42% females voted for Trump, while 54% of white women voted for him. Males favoured Trump over Clinton with 53% to 41%.

Trump, with his anti-illegal immigration policies and rhetoric against NAFTA and TPP, seems to have not only convinced, but inspired a group of voters who were sick and tired of policies that they felt did nothing for them. Clinton and the Democratic take on climate change also had coal miners worried. They did not see a real alternative for themselves in the market. Clinton has also been projected to be for immigration and open borders, with her policies to get more Syrian refugees in the US being widely disliked by many of the voters who see Muslim refugees as a threat. Like some other powerful countries, the masses are desperately and increasingly becoming insecure about their financial and social status in the changing economy with the changing demography, and politicians haven’t done much to address it.

Hillary Clinton also has the baggage of being a long-time politician, and most of what she has done or can do is overshadowed by her public image of being a pro-rich, pro-Wall Street, pro- establishment career politician who only cares about her interests. All of that with her email scandals hasn’t helped the cause either. It is important to note that due to all these reasons even those who were not going to support Trump did not want to vote for her. And even if they did, it was with zero excitement. 

Another great divide is of that among the intellectual class and the masses, and a deep disconnect in their politics, which could have resulted in this grave misreading of the polls. It would make sense to argue that the poll predictions added to the disinterest of what Michael Moore has called the ‘depressed voter’ by predicting she would win. These voters probably did not want to come out and vote, and even if they did, not with much vigour, and certainly little encouragement for the people around to do so. Few politicians like Bernie Sanders were able to sense the discontentment of the American working classes who have played a huge role in this election.

It was probably the accumulation of all of these factors along with the horribly divisive, racist and sexist politics the Republican party has been flirting with, that Donald Trump found himself winning this election. It was most importantly because of all the different sections he inspired to come out and vote. It was something which the opposition just couldn’t do. Hillary just couldn’t inspire enough of those who did not want to vote for all that Trump stands for.

The agitated rural and working class of America has made a statement. Unfortunately, that statement was made by electing a fear mongering, racist, sexist and narcissistic demagogue. Sure, many elected him for that, but many voted for him despite that. This is their statement to the two party system that no longer looks at their dreams and aspirations, to these two parties which have failed their electorates, to the media and the intellectual class. Everyone will remember the consequences of this together.

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Image source: Jeff J Mitchell/ Getty Images
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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