All posts edited by Madeline Ricchiuto.

Friday, March 11, 2016

I Can't Handle a Trump Presidency

So the US primaries have been going on for quite some time now, but I've been avoiding them pretty much at all costs. With many debates having already happened, we're getting down to the final stretch and soon enough we shall have our nominees from each respective party. For myself and many others that means its time to start coming to terms with who 'the people' have chosen to represent themselves and start thinking further into the future about what it means should they be elected. Thats why there's recently been a surge in articles about Americans fleeing to Canada should Trump actually become president.

I have an admission to make. I am one of those people. And its not something I say lightly. To many it may seem like a joke - as if many of us wouldn't actually leave or aren't serious about following through but its true. I, and many other people, don't want to live in an America where Trump or anyone like him is able to come into power.

But its way more than just not wanting to live there. If my only objection was disagreeing with his policies then I wouldn't feel so adamant about leaving - a problem I'll add that I can't really have seeing as he doesn't have any real policies (those he has put up are vague and disastrous at best). The issue lies in what his election represents about the American people and their values they share with him.

Trump has placed himself as the bastion of the conservative, fundamentalist, base. He has taken some of their more ridiculous views (such as literally building a wall between us and Mexico) pushed them to their most extreme and many are just eating it all up. His politics represent all the negatives people associate with politics - avoiding answering questions, not dealing with the real issues, providing meaningless ideology and not actual plans: in essence he is just a balloon of hot air and empty words. But he's managed to distance himself from it all by insisting that he is just a frugal businessman - an outsider to the world of politics. Supporters see him as untouchable - so much so that he can only be brought down by himself.

He has shown time and again that he is overtly and explicitly racist. From his attitudes towards immigrants, refugees, and Muslims, to the more recent refusal to condemn the KKK despite half-hearted tweets "decrying" white supremacists, Trump not only represents modern implicit racism, structural racism, but explicit and direct racism as well. He is a cornucopia of racism. How many of Trump's supporters have said they support placing refugees and immigrants into concentration camps? Or, remember that time Trump supporters were OK with holocaust-style registries for Muslims and Jews? Trump's campaign pits minorities against each other and especially tries to get millennials on board with his anti-immigrant rhetoric. Only this past week we are seeing more and more of the violence at Trump rallies. Not to mention how much he is suppressing media and those who disagree with him at his events.

Think about what that means if he gets supported and eventually put into power. It means that many of the people who don't support some of his more racist views still voted for him. They would be complicit in furthering that agenda. It means that they saw Trump's racism, xenophobia, sexism and oppressiveness and thought that we could let them be for a while and instead focus on some other issue (probably some babble about the economy or 'making America great again') like a trade-off. It means to me that they are racist because they are willing to accept and encourage racism.

Don't get me wrong, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and the like aren't only problems with the Trump campaign. You'd be hard pressed to find me a single Republican political campaign on a state or national level that didn't have at least one extremely regressive prejudice. For example both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio for example have shown definite racism, especially in their immigration policies, and prejudice against LGBTQ+ people with their positions on marriage, and particularly trans issues. However, though they are definitely extremely problematic they don't seem to be, in my mind, on the same level as Trump. Their policies are bad for all minorities but unlike Trump I don't see the same hostility in their supporters.

A Trump presidency scares me, not just on an ideological level, but on a personal level. People who turn a blind eye to such blatant racism will likely turn a blind eye to other social issues too. Racists tend to also be homophobic, transphobic, and sexist. With Trump as a president I worry not just for the American political system but more importantly that America's diverse population won't be safe walking around and being themselves. It makes me worry about my own personal safety and that of my friends. Trump's supporters have shown themselves to be extremists in all senses of the word. They are angry, rowdy, and most importantly violent. It terrifies me and I'm a white male, and if you saw me on the street you would probably assume I was straight. I can only imagine what others must be feeling in response but I imagine that it is immeasurably worse than what I feel.

I'm not giving up before its already done. I've still got fight left in me and I plan on fighting and being active against a Trump Republican ticket. I know that there is support of that cause from both liberal and conservative activists alike. Even much of the Republican establishment don't want him to win because he is so out of control but, if a non-partisan effort against Trump and the Democratic nominees political power can't win out against Trump then I think I'll be burned out. My fight will be gone and then, just like our autonomic nervous systems response to stress, my response will probably be to run. To avoid. To move away - back here to the UK.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Madeleine Albright, Gloria Steinem, and The Problem with White Feminism

Photograph: Agrees Latif/Reuters
It shouldn't depress me as much as it does, but I'm somehow always more disappointed when people who share my name do stupid things. Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem stepped up this week to talk about feminism and how it relates to Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton. Which is something that needs to be said, for all that Senator Bernie Sanders the sort of guy who practices what he preaches, he also has the benefit of being able to do so. Because he is a
white man, he has privileges others don't.

Where Senator Sanders and Republican hopeful Donald Trump can yell when they become passionate about a topic, Senator Clinton can't. She took a few moments longer than her male colleagues to get back on stage after a break during a debate, with a comment about the line for the women's bathroom, and was seen by some as "disgusting" for daring to remind the world that women pee too.

Senator Sanders even came out and criticized his own supporters for their comments about Clinton: "anyone who is supporting me who does the sexist things - we don't want them." Essentially saying that no one, not even Senator Bernie Sanders, wants the BernieBros.

That said, you can respect what Senator Clinton is trying to do, you can respect how much harder it is for her and fellow candidate Carly Fiorina than their male competitors, and still disagree with their politics.

However, that seems to have escaped Former Secretary of State Albright when she appeared on stage supporting Senator Clinton and went on to say that "there's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other." Albright's said this before, but the connotation this time is that no woman should vote for a candidate who isn't a woman. As if the fact that both Clinton and Fiorina are women surmounts any other obstacles one could have in voting for either candidate: Clinton's emails, Fiorina saying that Roe v Wade ought to be overturned, Benghazi, Fiorina's track record as CEO of HP, Clinton's voting record, Fiorina's tendency to ambush children for an anti-abortion rally.

The list of objections you could have to either of these candidates is seemingly endless. And none of those objections should be ignored simply because both Fiorina and Clinton are women.

On a similar note of "White Feminist Icons Being Terrible This Week" Gloria Steinem's "Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie" comment has earned her quite a bit of ire from young women who happen to support Senator Sanders over Senator Clinton in the Democratic race. Steinem did take to Facebook to issue an apology, but it has the same tone we've come to expect from these apologies. Its a classic "sorry not sorry" about how we should be proud of young women for being politically active and celebrate that, but not at all contradicting her implication that young women only think of how to gain favor with men. Which, for a feminist icon, is a pretty damning sentence. How much more sexist could you get than saying that young women will do whatever the boys want?

All this does is further highlight the gap between White Feminists and the rest of the world. Because Feminism is not about voting for women just because they are women. Nor is it telling young women what they should do with their votes, or even, with themselves as a whole. For Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem to treat young women with this kind of condescension, well, its patronizing. It also hints at what lies at the heart of White Feminism - racist, classist, homophobic, transphobic selfishness.

For White Feminists, women get more radical as they get older and get pushed out of power, women should band together under the common cause of being women - bar all else. Its the sort of feminism that gives us a Suffragette movie without any mention or sighting of suffragettes who don't fit the straight, white, always-fashionable mold. Its the sort of feminism that can stand on a stage and support a woman who helped found the Prison Pipeline in 1994*, who takes money from Wall Street backers but refuses to explain why they want to hear from her, who uses her personal email to correspond as Secretary of State, who was against gay marriage until 2013.

We women do not exist in a vacuum, many women are not white, are not straight, are not rich, and can see Hillary Clinton only as a supporter of a system that would seek to suppress them.

That does not invalidate them from being feminists. It only prevents them from joining that exclusive club, White Feminism.

And who really needs that? No one. No one needs the feminism preached at us by Gloria Steinem, by Madeleine Albright, by Hillary "I'm not Establishment because I'm a Woman" Clinton.

We do need a woman President, but we need one we can be proud of. And for me, that woman is not Hillary Clinton. If she is for you, go right ahead and vote my friend, just don't condemn me for not following.

* President Bill Clinton's 1994 Crime Bill disproportionately incarcerated people of color, and since Senator Clinton is basing much of her experience on her husband's presidency, she must also take accountability for the mistakes made under his administration.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

7 Lessons We Need to Learn from Amber Amour

I think it's fairly non-controversial to say that rape victims deserve justice and respect. I've previously written about how we need to start changing the conversation surrounding rape victims and how they need to be recognized for their strength rather than seen as weak. Rape victims are not weak. They are amazingly strong and nobody I know proves that more than my friend Amber AmourAmber, a rape victim herself, started a non-profit to help raise awareness and support for girls who have been raped. She started the  #StopRapeEducate campaign where she has run workshops around the world educating people about the realities of rape and how to support victims, all the while raising awareness through her street chalk projects.

I met Amber while campaigning for same-sex marriage in my home state of New Jersey before she started the #StopRapeEducate project. During the campaign she was always upbeat and smiling. She really lifted everyone's spirits, especially mine, and truly made the work so much better. She is an absolutely amazing person and I have nothing but love and respect for her. You can imagine, perhaps, how startled I felt as my friend’s tear filled face started filling up my news feeds. It wasn't because I hadn't seen the picture (I'd seen it weeks earlier) but because it meant that Amber’s story was going viral.

Amber had been in South Africa working on her project when she was raped. Unlike many victims, Amber went straight to social media for support - putting into practice her activism, looking for support and human compassion - and she continued to "live-blog" her whole experience with the ordeal. I've been following her updates from the beginning offering my love and support to the choir of voices on her pages. 

I first saw the story on HuffPo, but now the Examinerthe Independent, the Daily Mail and many others have all jumped onto the story. Of course, the curse of getting mass media attention is that not all of that attention is positive. However, there are some lessons we need to learn from Amber's experience: