Written by Megan Keil
If you know me, you know I don’t actively hide my dislike for Donald Trump. I’m actually kind of happy, in a very round-about way, that he’s our Republican nominee. It’s not like he’ll ever get my vote, but the attention (albeit negative for him) that he’s bringing to the issues of gender equality and domestic violence are very eye-opening. As a woman here in Tanzania, it’s unfortunate that I have to deal with sexism nearly every day, whether it’s something small, like not being able to wear certain clothes around my village, or something a little more threatening, like the drunk man who kept touching me on a packed daladala (local bus) ride, or the man who swiped his hand up my butt while walking down a busy road with friends in my banking town. The point is, I’m not the only one to have to deal with these issues. Nearly all of my PCV friends who are women have similar stories to mine. It’s also not just PCVs. I’ve been here for over a year, but my female students have spent their entire lives growing up in this country and being forced to deal with situations like these nearly every day.
With all of the focus on something that Donald Trump and his supporters claim is just “locker room talk” now out in the open, it’s the perfect time to have an open discussion about the harassment women face day in and day out. If I’ve learned anything about politics from my time outside of the States, it’s that America really is being watched by the entire world. It’s not just other developed countries waiting to see who we vote for, it’s also developing ones. In the past few months, every time I have told an acquaintance that I am from America, one of the first things we talk about is the race for the presidency. While I am very open with my political ideals, sometimes so are they. I have a few teachers with whom I’ve gotten in political arguments with simply over the fact that they think that Donald Trump would be a superior president over Hillary Clinton because he was born with both an X and Y chromosome. They’ve flat out said to me, “but, he’s a strong man” even after I tell them the fact that he has no political experience or that he has never held an office that he has been voted into. Anyway, that’s beside the point.
The point is, we need to have this conversation now. And we need to keep talking about it. We need to bring up the times in the past that we’ve talked about it. We cannot afford to let this conversation ever end. It’s not only up to women to stand up for themselves and say “I’m a victim. This happened to me, but I’m not going to let it stop me from living,” but we have to bring men into the conversation and let them know that how they treat women and the words that they use to talk about women (both inside the so-called “locker rooms” and outside them) have consequences.
Now is the time to talk about the touchy topics so that, in time, we no longer need to have these conversations. With America being on such a world stage, it’s imperative to not only our community, but the communities of those thousands of miles away that we address these issues once and for all.
I urge everyone to bring up this topic of conversation and let the men in your life know what you have to deal with. Talk to your friends. Talk to your brother, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, nephew, or child. Talk to anyone who will listen. Try to talk to those (nicely) who may not want to listen. We will never reach a state of true equality if only half of the people are actively talking about it.