(An anonymous guest-post that the author shared with her family shortly before requesting I publish it here as an open letter. If you want to submit a guest-post of any shape, size, and topic, send me a message.)
Dear Mom & Dad,
This November, I will be voting for Biden/Harris.
I know that you don’t agree with this decision. It is important to me that you know why I made it. For all of these sections, I have rigorously researched and considered the options. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read and consider my findings. I’m happy to discuss them further.
In short, voting for Donald Trump puts my career, my health, my safety, and the planet at risk. I know this sounds extreme. I know this makes me sound like a sensitive snowflake/cupcake/lefty liberal. Despite this, I believe my conclusion is reasonable. I’m legitimately scared for what my future will look like if Trump wins in 2020.
Since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, I have been sexually assaulted… more times than I care to remember. One was a co-worker grabbing my ass and cornering me at a party. Some others were multiple men deciding their right not to use a condom was more important than our agreement to use protection. Earlier this month, a man literally non-consensually pinned me down and grabbed me by the pussy.
When I’ve called these men out for their behavior, they all responded with the same words: “I was in the moment.” I don’t want to live in a world where that’s an acceptable excuse. Could you imagine if we lived in a world where that was an acceptable excuse for any other type of violence?
These aren’t just bad apples. For the most part, these men are good people. They’re fitness junkies, music enthusiasts, and Ivy League graduates. They’re sons, friends, and brothers. Someday they may be fathers and partners.
Their behavior is more than their own: it’s a direct result of the culture we live in.
We live in a world where the Proud Boys are operating on a core tenant of “Venerating the Housewife.” Not the stay at home parent. Not the wife/partner. The housewife, whose only permissible occupation is caring for the family.
We live in a world where if a man decides he wants to have sex with me at any time, even non-consensually, it would take a public and excruciating trial to attempt to enforce any legal repercussions. Where I have to expect continued sexual assault, in various forms, as a reality. And where I continue to “do nothing” in fear that any action I take will have severe repercussions.
We live in a world where the president of the United States has laughed off the fact that he, and other men, can “do anything you want” to women and it’s okay because they “just let you do it” as locker room talk.
That’s not the world that I want to continue living in. In order to make this a reality, I need leadership who–at a minimum does not embody this behavior so blatantly and unapologetically–and at a maximum passes legislation to protect people like me.
My Health & The Planet
This fall, I got the chance to explore Yosemite, one of the most beautiful corners of the world. Immediately after, I spent weeks trapped inside my apartment with a sore throat and burning eyes because the air quality was unlivable. Literally unlivable. The-sun-is-merely-an-orange-glow-obscured-by-haze unlivable. You’re experiencing the same suffering in Colorado as I write this letter.
Trump has pointed to poor forest management as the cause of these fires. This means he carries just as much of the blame. For 2021, Trump has reduced funding for state and private forestry programs by $12.48 million compared to 2020. Additionally, Trump has threatened to stop FEMA funding for victims of wildfires in California when over 60% of the forest in the state is federal property (and under Trump’s jurisdiction).
Whether you believe in global warming/climate change is irrelevant. Whether you believe in forest management is irrelevant. In the case of the wildfires impeding your quality of life and mine, Trump is not practicing what he’s preaching and is not putting our money where his mouth is.
And just like how human intervention can make the problem worse, human intervention can make our communities healthier to live in.
On the financial health side, a vote for Trump is a vote to make [my siblings] more likely to be ineligible for your healthcare. It’s also a vote that makes it more difficult and expensive for you to obtain health insurance outside of a traditional employer. I don’t want our family’s flexibility or health to be impacted that way–our lungs, our loves, and our lives.
On September 22, 2020, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order effectively banning anti-racism and anti-sexism workshops in the workplace. You can read the official order from the White House here. I’ve read it. All of it. While some may interpret this executive order as having good intentions, my research has led me to believe that [interpretation] is misguided at best. At worst, it appears to me that the language in this order has been manipulated to prevent further progress for racial and gender equality in the workplace.
This executive order directly impedes my initiative to create a more inclusive and diverse culture at [my employer, a well-respected tech company].
As you both know, I’ve been working with the executive team to build our company’s first Inclusion and Diversity program. Our employees are predominantly white and male. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with that. However, it means that as a young woman in the company, I notice and fall victim to blind spots caused by unconscious bias at a significantly higher rate than most of my colleagues. For example, early in my time at [my employer], I realized that I was the only person being asked to take notes in meetings. While this is an important task, it also restricted my ability to actively participate. I gave my colleagues the benefit of the doubt, I didn’t think they were assigning this task (and/or expecting me to handle it without asking) maliciously. However, it was important for me to point out the pattern before a precedent was set. It’s possible, and understandable, that a colleague of mine could’ve gotten the promotion over me because they participated more in meetings. It’s also possible–and likely–that this task could follow me even if I was promoted. This is something that happens to many young women in their careers as a direct result of gender stereotyping (whether intentional or completely unconsciously!)
Fortunately, I felt comfortable enough to point out this pattern to my manager. Unfortunately, my manager was not equipped with the vocabulary, experience, or resources to feel equally comfortable in that conversation. This is understandable; I’ve been aware of this issue for my entire career. This was likely the first time he was asked to consider it.
Regardless of my good intentions, this conversation made my manager feel uncomfortable. My manager didn’t actively mean to impede my ability to participate and may have been embarrassed of this unconscious bias.
Trump’s order states that “Government contractors shall not use any workplace training that inculcates in its employees any form of race or sex stereotyping or any form of race or sex scapegoating.” This includes content where “any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.”
As of this summer, [my employer] is a government contractor. Under this order, a training that I helped organize–one that would help colleagues like my manager understand how a history of gender stereotyping continues to exist in our workplace and build habits to combat this harmful bias–could be seen as a risk for the company. While I am not asking that men feel discomfort on the account that they are men, I am asking that we explore unconscious biases that exist for many men due to their life experience. This in itself could be considered a stereotype. For our executive team, which consists of entirely white men (aside from our HR director who is working with me on this program), this equality-seeking program would likely be a risk they aren’t willing to take.
The order claims that it was enacted to “promote economy and efficiency in Federal contracting, to promote unity in the Federal workforce, and to combat offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating.”
For hundreds of years, assuming women were incapable of holding positions of leadership in corporate America was considered American sex stereotyping. Restricting conversation around our current challenges in the movement for gender and racial equality in the workplace directly restricts our ability to make progress.
How much should I care about the economy if I can’t be an equal player in it?
I Know It’s Hard
I know that Biden isn’t the ideal candidate. I know you have concerns about his family, his mental fitness, and his policies. For me, the importance and urgency of these criticisms fail in comparison to the concerns I’ve expressed above. I’d rather address these concerns for four years before the next election than with people being more comfortable assaulting me.
I know you’re tired of encountering ignorant people saying awful things about the President. I know you’re tired of the left and the media ignoring the working class people in this country who are disadvantaged and under-served. I know you’re tired of empty promises from career politicians.
But I also need you to know that it’s crucial for me to vote for Biden/Harris and it’s also crucial for me that they win. In that, I have to ask that you reconsider your vote.
Voting for Donald Trump is voting for men to continue to get promoted faster and paid more than me. No matter how hard I work. And preventing me from speaking about it.
Voting for Donald Trump is voting to delay action that ensures we can breathe clean air and obtain affordable health care.
Voting for Donald Trump is voting for a continued culture of locker room talk that validates the aggressive and sexually assaultive behavior of the men around me.
This November, I’m asking you to consider my future over politics. I’m asking you to have my best interest at heart – as you have for my entire life. [I’m asking you to vote for Biden/Harris.]
With love, admiration, and respect,