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Knife-Sharpening Nasty Women

Submitted by on November 9, 2016 – 11:56 pm 8 Comments

As with millions of people, I have been struggling to process the results of the US election. I wanted to write something about how I was feeling because writing can be healing for me. But my words kept running away from me, hiding somewhere I couldn’t reach them.

Then my 18-year-old niece Aline, who voted for the first time, posted the following on Facebook. I thought it was fiercer and more eloquent and hopeful than anything I could write. She gave me permission to reprint it here. —PCN

*****

knifeI woke up this morning feeling unbelievably small, sore-throated, and unable to shake this Zora Neale Hurston line from my head: “No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.” I think I skipped straight from numbness to knife-sharpening.

I recognize that I still come from a place of relative privilege and that this election doesn’t hold as many tangible risks for me as it does for others. Even as a daughter of immigrant and refugee parents, I’ve been lucky enough to have socioeconomic security and education.

But I know how alienating it feels to be a young woman. There’s something desperately lonely about being a teenage girl, especially a nonwhite one in largely white spaces, especially one who’s always wanted more for as long as she can remember.

It’s the kind of Otherness that you can feel anywhere, it’s that pang of fear while walking down a street alone at night, that silence when someone says something casually racist or sexist because you don’t want to be a bitch, that urge to dumb yourself down in conversations so you don’t seem unaccommodating.

It’s almost painful to watch how consummately civil Hillary Clinton’s been in the wake of these results—I’m not asking her to act otherwise, because I understand why she needs to be—but the injustice behind that rationale makes me upset.

I saw a Facebook comment about her in the wake of her concession speech calling her a “power-seeking bitch”—ostensibly for having the sheer nerve to campaign for president in the first place—and it made me think about all the names we have for women who dare to vocalize wanting. Nasty woman. Bitch. Cunt. Et cetera.

The fact that this election’s revealed the vitriolic hatred at America’s core makes me angrier than ever, but I’m glad I’m still feeling something. If fighting to make this country better means I’ll be the nasty, bitchy nightmare of a woman I always feared I’d become, I couldn’t be more excited.

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