I have been searching and searching for what is at the center of my hatred for Donald J. Trump.
There are the obvious things: his stupid voice, his stupid hair, his idiotic phrasing, his over generalizing about pretty much all identity groups. His lies. His fake money, fake university, fake steak, and fake tan. I hate his sexual aggression most of all. He is the embodiment of many disgusting and silly things, and there are scores of people who hate and pity him as I do. I see the contempt splashed across my Facebook and Twitter accounts every day.
Although he hasn’t directly threatened them, I’ve been paying close attention to (liberal) men. Specifically white, specifically straight, and specifically cisgendered. They hate him, too. With fervor. This hatred and disgust was hopeful to me at first—yes! They are seeing how terrible this kind of behavior is! Maybe they’ll understand what the rest of us have had to deal with for millennia! Maybe things will change! Maybe! Maybe! And then…some things did.
When Trump was elected, I got a lot of calls and texts from these men, wondering how I was coping. I had great conversations with them. I felt stronger. They assured me they would donate to Planned Parenthood, and we all agreed we could be better at fighting racial injustice.
But something still wasn’t right. I think a part of me was expecting a critical shift in our culture. A drawing out of the poison. But what is the poison? What is this visceral, essential, nameless thing I have known my whole life? And then, after months of circling around it, it came to me. Or I came to it.
Inflexibility. For months, we were subjected to Trump’s (and the rest of his administration’s) inflexibility, which is perhaps inextricable with his narcissism. It sounded like this:
No, I will not take criticism, and in fact I will go so far as to say none of it is true, and degrade the media in the process. No, I will not ask for consent or respect your answer if you don’t give it. I will make Mexico pay for this wall and that is the end of it. We are doing this. You are doing this. This is happening. This is the truth.
Now, we will be subjected to it for the next four years (ostensibly). This brand of inflexibility is appalling in a world leader, but it also feels deeply personal. Noxiously familiar. It is the mysterious, primordial, destructive force I have felt pressed on me my whole life.
One night, my dad was driving my family. He had a habit of looking at his phone while he was behind the wheel (like a goddamn millennial). We asked him to stop, as his behavior was both illegal and unsafe. He didn’t. We asked him again. He said it wasn’t affecting his driving. We asked him again, with more passion. He said we were all crazy. The rest of us started freaking out. He got overwhelmed by all of us freaking out, and freaked out back at us. We ended up swerving to pull over. We were lucky we didn’t die.
Now, who is at fault? Should we have trusted him to keep driving, even though he was compromised? Should we have not distracted him further by asking him to put his phone away? Should he have heeded our advice? Or perhaps, should he have not insisted on driving, despite knowing he would be tempted to look at his phone?
There’s something about a lot of old white guys, even when they are like my father— liberal, lovely, kind, caring, and sensitive—they can be inflexible. There is a hard line somewhere. There is a contempt for vulnerability—not necessarily for tears, although often those too, but for admitting you cannot do something, or that you are wrong. Or that you need help.
And now, America is my family, and Trump is driving. Except he’s not only checking his phone, but he is drunk, and also asleep.
Here’s what I want you to take away from this.
Men. straight, white, cisgendered men. I love you so. But don’t be like my dad. Or Trump. Or possibly your own dad. You struggle with this already, I know. I’ve watched enough cinema to know that this struggle is, like, REALLY INTENSE. I’ve sat with and listened to many men who are deathly afraid they will turn into their dads. Perhaps this fear is what, in turn, makes them so repulsed by Trump’s personality and cultural image, which is different than what repulses marginalized folks.
My advice, based on years of listening, observation, studying gender, and most of all loving, men—friends, family, and partners—is this.
Accept your vulnerability
Maybe you know it intimately, and choke it before it surfaces. Maybe you met once, and are strangers now. Whatever your relationship, learn its ways. Love it, even. It’s something many women and other marginalized people have to do all the time, because we’re confronted with the possibility of extinction or bodily harm or the degradation to our humanity, daily.
You are subject to twists of fate and bad decisions, yours and others, just as we all are. Fighting your vulnerability will not make you less susceptible. It will only hurt you and the people you love (and who desperately love you back).
I’ve seen many of the precious, amazing, wonderful men in my life fall into this trap, and it breaks my heart. It is also endlessly frustrating for the rest of us who have to accommodate you. Your vulnerability will allow you to see others’ pain more clearly, and help them more effectively. You must do this IN SPITE OF the haters— the people who will call you a pussy (if Trump can say it so can I), and the women who will possibly not go on dates with you, because they don’t know what to make of a vulnerable man.
I accept and recognize the pressure you are under to be this way. However, lots of marginalized folks wake up every day, and have haters (or worse) simply for being alive— for standing up for themselves, for asking for more.
The good ones will not be scared of your softness, and the great ones will love you more for it. Our children will thank you, just as I am grateful to my father, a flawed and glorious man, for not repeating all of his father’s mistakes.
Trump is president. If he is impeached, he will have been president. He has already made an indelible mark on all of our psyches. There is nothing we can do about that. However, with this moment, we have an incredible opportunity as Americans, as men and women (and all those who are in between or don’t subscribe to any), as young people who will someday run the show, to see how change truly can begin with us. Within us.
Vulnerability and the ability to accept feedback with grace are what will make the next great leader, woman or man. We know now, as women and all who have lived under the heel of someone else have known for thousands of years, that being hard means you appear strong, but eventually, you break. And when you break, pieces of you hit other people on their way to the ground. A good lesson for us all, but one that men especially need to learn, because you are often the ones in the positions of cultural and political power.
You don’t have to drive the car. You are still valuable in the back seat. We still love you in the back seat. The back seat is where I do most of my daydreaming.
Natalie Houchins is a graduate of Northwestern University, with
degrees in Theatre and Gender & Sexuality Studies. She is a writer and
actress based out of LA, who is perennially homesick for Austin, TX.
She currently spends her free time hiking, watching Battlestar
Galactica and resisting the Trump administration. For more information, visit her website: www.nataliehouchins.com.