[Content Note: Misogyny; objectification; sexual assault.]
We have a plumbing problem.
Well, we did have a plumbing problem—a bathroom sink that simultaneously leaking and not draining. But then we called a plumber, and now it is fixed.
The plumber who did the work—well, I might add—was a middle-aged white man. He was kind to the animals and so considerate about not making or leaving a mess.
He also stared at my boobs a lot, and commented on my tattoos. I smiled and I said thank you, and he used the excuse of trying to guess how old they were to stare at them a little longer. I made polite conversation, with my back to a closed door. Holding his gaze, like two people just happily chatting, I reached for the doorknob behind my back and held onto it, just in case.
Later that evening, I told Iain what happened. He said the only thing he could say, being a decent man who would never audit my report of the experience: "I'm sorry, babe. That sucks."
I told him about how much I hate that I cannot get angry; that I cannot express, in my own home, what I am feeling when a man treats me like that, makes me uncomfortable. How much I hate that I have to behave as though everything is normal, because if my contempt does not remain thoroughly concealed, a man who is merely inappropriate could become dangerous.
"I know. It sucks. I'm sorry."
We went on to speak about other things—the details of our workdays, and, inevitably, politics.
Being the people we are, it would no doubt be a feature of our nightly conversations, even were it not at the center of my work, and my every waking moment these days.
Somehow, we came again to the subject of Donald Trump and his sexual abuse. We collectively marveled and shivered and seethed that a confessed sexual predator had been elected president.
I told Iain I was so ashamed, thinking about it. Thinking about Theresa May or Nicola Sturgeon or Angela Merkel, any of the female leaders around the world, having to meet with Donald Trump—having to walk into the same room as him, shake his hand, smile, pose for pictures with him.
It's not that I fear he will physically harm them; I expect—and hope—they will never be alone in a room with him, anyway. It's just the goddamned indignity of having to share a space with a man who has bragged—bragged!—about sexually abusing women.
And they will not be able to say or do whatever they want. Not with the world watching. Not with a man who could escalate from inappropriate to dangerous, in ways that would affect millions of the people they have sworn to protect.
Instead, they will have to stand with this man, our president-elect, who may say something inappropriate, away from the microphones, or do something inappropriate, away from the cameras, and they will have to behave as though everything is normal.
Because this is what it is to be a woman in a world full of men who believe that they own us. Even when you are the leader of a nation, you are still obliged to navigate the same humiliations as an average woman facing an ogling plumber.
This is the way of the world for women.
That is not an inevitability. That is the result of choices that other people make. Like the choice of (a minority of the population of) a nation to reject a competent, qualified, good woman and instead elect a serial sexual predator as their president.
I think about the female leaders who will have to share space with our president-elect, and I am ashamed.
One reason, among many.