Typing his name makes me cringe. I was going to stay out of it. The internet is overly saturated with Trump right now and I didn’t want to add to the noise.
But all I can think in the last several days is “thank you.” Thank you Donald Trump. Because believe it or not, I’m grateful to the current Republican presidential candidate.
Let’s imagine my life has been a long, bitter court case.
I’m the accused and I’m fighting to defend myself.
What am I accused of? Being female, of course. I live in a society and culture that peppers me daily with false expectations and stereotypes. I’m confronted by TV and the internet, by photoshopped magazine covers and Pinterest perfection. This is the environment in which I’m steeped—a world that prizes women for their looks and sexuality. I’ve bought into it hook, line, and sinker, all while thinking I was above such things.
I’ve been losing this brutal case for years. The prosecution is undeniably savvy. It never rests. Its attacks and counterattacks are constant. They don’t let up.
But one week in October 2016, things turn around.
And it all starts with Donald Trump.
Everybody’s talking about him. About his vulgarity, his crude language, the way he views and treats women. And so I dig back deep into the past. I find evidence to support my case. I bring the evidence into the courtroom and present it piece by piece.
The Early Days
Me at age four. I like to play with my toys, I love to sing, and I’ve just learned to read. Books will be a lifelong passion. I don’t care whether or not I’m pretty.
Sixth grade. I’m eleven years old and wearing an ugly red gym suit and sitting on a bench during PE class. I look down at my thighs and decide they are fat. “No boy will ever like me,” I conclude.
I am fifteen. I skip my first class that morning because my hair won’t cooperate. I am insecure and overly concerned about my appearance. Just like every other fifteen year old girl I know.
Still fifteen. A boy I like invites me over to his house. His parents aren’t home. He leans in to kiss me, and I want him to. But in one not-so-svelte move, he sticks his slimy tongue down my throat and his awkward hand on my breast. I ask him to take me home and to his credit, he does. He never apologizes and never speaks to me again.
Sixteen years old. My boyfriend says he loves me. But whenever we aren’t making out, he makes fun of me until I cry, then he laughs about it.
I’m a freshman in college and dating a boy who’s a Bible major. During a make-out session, he tries to pull my sweater up over my head and undo my bra. I stop him, reminding him how he’s always quoting the Bible at me. He laughs and says, “I can’t help it, I’m a man!!”
I’m a junior in college. I’ve gained weight. I hate the way I look. I’m a borderline bulimic, binging and then taking diuretics and laxatives so I won’t gain even more. I hate the way I look. I hate myself.
I’m twenty-something. I use my looks to my advantage. I’m more promiscuous than I want to be, but it makes the boys stick around longer. I ask one boyfriend, “What’s your favorite thing about me?” He answers, “Your butt.”
Still twenty-something. I’ve graduated from a conservative Christian college and now attend a conservative Southern Baptist church where I’m active in the singles group. I’ve spent the last several years being reminded of a woman’s place in the church and in the home.
I know that I cannot ever be called into ministry or even into service as a deacon or elder of a church. I cannot teach a Sunday School class where there are men present. None of things will ever happen because God apparently doesn’t call women to those positions. I learn that the greatest calling I will ever have is as a wife and mother. I convince myself that if I never achieve those goals, I will continue to be — as I am now — worthless. After all, the Bible tells me so.
At age 27, I’m dating the man who sold me a car. He only wants one thing from me, but I pretend it isn’t so because he’s so attractive. He criticizes my hair, my clothes, my nail polish. I get clingy. I get desperate. I want him to love me, but he doesn’t. I believe I am nothing if a man doesn’t love me. He ditches me. I am nothing.
A Woman’s Greatest Calling?
I meet a wonderful, caring, Christian man who falls in love with me in spite of my critical flaws. We get married. I spend the first few years of marriage insecure and terrified he will discover who I really am and abandon me. Then I’ll go back to being nothing.
I am 31 and a new mother. Motherhood is supposed to be my greatest calling. My baby is four months old and I’ve already blown it, already lost my temper in a sleep-deprived, postpartum fit of rage because my baby won’t stop crying. I’ve failed at my “greatest calling” as a woman.
I miscarried due to a molar pregnancy one year ago. At age 34, I’m back at the OB-gyn’s office, hoping to get the green light to start trying again. I am lying on the table, naked beneath a thin paper sheet. The doctor comes in and asks if I’m pregnant yet. I remind him that he told me NOT to get pregnant for a whole year and I wonder why he doesn’t read my chart before saying stupid, hurtful things.
He pulls back the sheet to examine my breasts. He tells me how thin and beautiful I am. It’s creepy. I switch to a female OB-gyn and never step foot in his office again.
At 35, I’ve just given birth to twins. The pediatrician on call at the hospital, clearly a member of the “good ol’ boy” doctor network, comes in one morning to check on the babies. He mentions bottles and formula. I tell him I’m breastfeeding. He chuckles and says I won’t have enough milk to feed both of them. He obviously knows nothing about me. I defy him and his stupid opinion for the next fifteen months.
I am 45. Middle age settles upon me and I’m up twenty pounds. I have wrinkles and gray hair. I desperately try to lose the weight. I get Botox between my eyebrows to hide my “elevens.” I color my hair religiously every seven weeks. But I can’t lose the weight. It’s settling around my middle and (gasp!) my upper arms. No matter what diet or exercise plan I try, the weight isn’t going anywhere. I tell myself what a fat failure I am.
Still 45, I hear a woman preach for the first time. She is really good. And smart. A whole new world starts to open up for me. I begin reading blogs by Rachel Held Evans, Sarah Bessey, Kathy Escobar. I read books by Anne Lamott. I wonder where these women have been all my life.
I’m 47 and trying in vain to turn back the clock. I’m obsessed with my aging body. I hate my profile and my chin so much that I write about it on my blog. I seriously wonder if other people are repulsed when they look at me. I don’t like the way I look, but I feel helpless to do anything about it. Why am I so worried about it? I am a middle-aged woman. I want to enjoy life and quit worrying about my appearance. I consider plastic surgery, but I can’t afford it.
It is 2016 and Hillary Clinton is running for president. Alicia Keys is going without makeup on national TV. Dove runs these ads about natural beauty and they include pictures of women with rolls around their middles. . . just like me.
I notice — not for the first time — the double standard. How Clinton is questioned and chided and criticized for things no man ever gets criticized for. I notice how even other women attack her for her looks, her voice, her clothing choices. It makes me angry. Alicia Keys tries to change things. Dove tries to change things. But the world resists change. It wants to keep women in their place.
Donald Trump is running for president and Scott Baio endorses him. It’s like a bad sitcom/reality show mashup, except it’s really happening.
Trump stands on platforms and says idiotic, hateful things. People cheer.
His supporters storm to social media, posting and tweeting cringe-worthy comments. It is 2016 but it feels like we’ve time-traveled back to the 70s. What do they mean when they say “Make America Great Again?” Do they want to go back to how things used to be, back when women knew their place? I don’t understand.
I think women must not be paying attention.
Audio tape of Donald Trump bragging about his sexually predatory behavior with lewd and obscene language makes its way to the internet.
Many Republicans turn their backs on him. Many evangelicals turn their backs on him.
Far too many do not.
Many dismiss the behavior as locker room talk. The same religious evangelicals who ordered a witch hunt to impeach Bill Clinton for his impropriety, now shrug off Trump’s behavior. They spout lines about “forgiveness” which they extend to Trump but never to the Clintons.
They are somehow convinced that Trump — a puny, immature, and vulgar excuse for a man, let alone presidential candidate — will appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade. They are assured that — despite all evidence to the contrary — Trump will keep his promise. Then, just like in the good ol’ days, we can make criminals out of women who have abortions, but never out of the men who “grab them by the p***y” and impregnate them.
I have avoided speaking out. I don’t like conflict. I don’t like criticism. I am too sensitive, I think.
But I am a woman. I am made in the image of God. I am getting old and I am tired of nonsense. Plus I’m a self-professed fiery hater of injustice.
The Closing Argument
Today is my 48th birthday.
I wake up and look at myself in the mirror.
- There are dimples in my thighs and rolls around my middle.
- There is gray in my hair and there are wrinkles on my forehead.
- My upper arms are pudgy—like I remember my grandmother’s being—and my feet hurt.
I look closely. I am a 48 year-old woman.
I think to myself that in Donald Trump’s world, I’d probably measure on the looks scale at about a three, possibly a four on a good day. And then I chuckle. Because THIS is what it’s come to!!!
I’ve tried all my life to climb up that impossible ladder, to make myself into a six or a seven. I’ve beat myself up over and over for falling short of the goal. For not being “beautiful” or “hot” enough. I’ve bought into the lie that external beauty is a measure of my worth. I can’t believe I fell for it.
It takes a buffoon like Donald Trump coming onto the scene and spewing vile, ridiculous, misogynistic crap for months before I realize how truly laughable it is.
And so I decide — on my 48th birthday — that I am done.
Thank you Donald Trump
I look at my body again. Sure, it’s a little flabby. But it’s healthy and strong. Inside this head of mine is a smart and capable mind. My soul — the person who lives inside this body — is of infinite value. My body — this decidedly “non-hot” body — miraculously carried four different babies inside. And after they were born, it was my body that nourished them. Despite what some cynical doctor said.
This body has been bruised and wounded, cut open and stapled shut. It’s endured surgeries and injuries and these feet of mine have walked a thousand miles and more. My body is 48 years old and it looks 48 years old — as it should. It is mine. It is a vessel of the Holy Spirit. And my husband thinks it’s gorgeous.
I examine myself once again. I am alive and I realize that being alive makes me beautiful.
I finally discover what I should have known all along. That what others think about me is their problem.
Because I am worth more than their opinions. I am worth more than my appearance or my sexuality. I am worth more than my dress size or my bra size. I am worth more than my roles as wife and mother. I am worth more than my ability to cook and clean and submit.
I am worth far more than Donald Trump thinks I am.
- I am human.
- I am smart.
- I am important.
- I am beautiful.
- I am valuable.
It took the absurdity of the Donald Trump phenomenon for me to finally get it. To finally come to my senses and gather my closing arguments. But my vision is clear now.
I am a woman. I am made in God’s image. I am infinitely valuable, not because of how the world defines me, but because of who I am.
So to conclude, I offer this final statement:
Thank you Donald Trump.
The defense rests.