What women fear after Trump wins US presidential election

My Singaporean friend in the US thinks the end of the world is coming.

She is studying in New York City and knows of an Asian-American woman who was sexually harassed in the aftermath of the elections.

Although the harassment of women and minorities is nothing new everywhere, my friend fears that Mr Donald's Trump presidential win has legitimised hatred towards these groups.

The news over the weekend seems to bear this out. According to media outlets such as The New York Times and Huffington Post, there have been numerous reports of attacks on minorities in the last week.

A 12-year-old Muslim boy in Florida was accused by his schoolmates of being part of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

At another Florida school, some students put up signs to differentiate "white" and "coloured" water coolers.

Then there are the heartbreaking stories of women in hijab being physically attacked in the US. One woman said she was choked after her hijab was yanked backwards by a man in San Jose, California.

Did Mr Trump on his own turn parts of the population into bigots?

No, of course not.

Did he, with his rhetoric against Muslims and Hispanics, make it okay for some of his supporters to act on their bigotry?

And will he, with his sexual objectification of women, embolden men everywhere to act like him?

Perhaps.

Why is this scary for women, both in the US and elsewhere?

In a world where women are still paid less than men - yes, including in Singapore - a female president would have shown our daughters, nieces and ourselves what they can achieve with ambition and hard work.

Now, we fear what our sons, nephews, uncles, co-workers will see in President Trump.

SEXISM

The casual sexism that most women encounter at home or in the office - throwaway comments about thighs, looks, dressing - now has an ambassador.

This is a man who got elected despite boasting that his celebrity status made it okay for him to grab women in a certain, vulgar, way.

This is a man who has judged women on a number scale, fat-shamed a Miss Universe winner, and made fun of the looks of the women who accused him of sexual assault. He flippantly called the comments "locker room talk".

But in January, a "groper-in-chief" will take his seat in the White House.

As Commander-in-Chief, he may make good on his promises to limit US women's reproductive rights, and to defund Planned Parenthood, a network of clinics in the US that offers health checks and birth control for free or at low cost.

It is no wonder that my friend's aunt, who lives in California, is worried about what the future holds for her daughters.

"I have two daughters and the last thing I wanted was a president who has very little respect for women," said Madam Helen Dhanaraj, 42, a Singaporean who has lived in the US for 18 years and is married to a US citizen.

"Now that Mr Trump is President-elect, I can't help but feel a little vulnerable in terms of our overall safety and dignity."

But there is a silver lining.

Madam Dhanaraj pointed out that on the day that Mr Trump was elected, so was Ms Ilhan Omar, a former refugee, who made history by becoming the first Somali-American legislator in the US.

So was Ms Pramila Jayapal, the first Indian-American woman elected to the House of Representatives in the US Congress.

Ms Kamala Harris became the second African-American woman and the first Indian-American (her mother was Indian) elected to the Senate, and there is already talk that she could run for the White House in 2020.

These are women, and minorities, who are fighting on.

You should, too.


This article was first published on November 14, 2016.
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