How to Get in the Way (Even When Things Are Terrible)
I’ve worked as a writer and editor in and out of Portland for more than a decade, covering sexuality to politics. That means however infuriating the day’s political circus is, my job is to take a deep breath and get reporting.
But watching the Brett Kavanaugh hearings this past fall felt like a breaking point. His smug testimony was a flashback to every man in my life who has dismissed and belittled me. It was a rare moment when I felt speechless, too upset to even write.
Feminist scholar Sara Ahmed says: “When you expose a problem you pose a problem.” I mulled those words while I thought about Christine Blasey-Ford, speaking up to become a problem for Trump’s political machine, despite knowing it would derail her life. Would I have done that? I usually report on the news, rather than being the news. How much am I willing to get in the way?
I happened to be in New York City as the hearings came to a demoralizing close. Burning with anger, I biked to Trump Tower. I assumed there’d be a protest, and I needed to shout.
When I pulled up to the menacing black monolith, there was no chanting crowd to be found. But I noticed a family with a tween daughter holding signs by their sides that read: “Believe Women.”
“Are you here for a protest?” I asked. “Yeah!” they replied, surprised. “We thought there would be one.” “We could just be a protest,” I suggested. “But I don’t have a sign.” The daughter excitedly reached into her bag and pulled out poster board and a Sharpie. I wrote, “We All Hate Trump.”
We stood there, four of us with our signs. Immediately other people started standing with us. A group of young women showed up in red shirts that said “Believe Women.” Two women appeared on bikes with a tiny dog in their basket. An elderly Canadian couple stopped in, too. Suddenly, we were a group, growing stronger with the arrival of each stranger adding their voice.
What does a protest like this do? Will it make Trump sit up and take notice? No. Will it end sexism? No. But it made me feel like I was finally in just the right place, getting in the way. In the midterm elections last fall, a lot of new people turned anger into action, too: at least 300,000 more Oregonians voted in that midterm election than the one four years prior.
Showing up to vote once every two years may not be enough, either, but it’s a good start. And if my Trump Tower stop taught me anything, it’s that if we really want to change things, we have to get in the way whenever we can.