The Election, Transformation, & 2020 Nonbinary Feelings

In 2020, we are learning that our feelings are neither linear nor binary:

they are entangled, intense, powerful in their layers and "opposites."

We are learning that the more we breath into and make space for simultaneous truths, the more we can find our collective vision, strategy, and power, together.

For this is a historic moment of elation and joy and crushing sadness and wise fear.

We can be immensely grateful we start to put brakes on someone who desires to be a dictator.  We can center in our gratitude the Black, brown, and Indigenous organizers and activists and their white allies whose efforts produced this win.

We can remain mad as hell that almost half the country watched Trump for 4 years and still wanted this man president. 

We can be appreciative for more room to maneuver in our resistance to oppression. 

We can be scared he and many powerful Republicans refuse to concede and openly plot a coup.

We can be shaken to our core that so many white voters tried to pull down the scaffolding that remains of our democracy. 

We can be enraged that so many white voters sanctioned Black and brown suffering—again.

We can celebrate that Biden and Harris won.

We can grieve that white supremacy + patriarchy won in this election, too—because Trump was not repudiated by most white voters.  

We can be heartbroken all over again by the white supremacist patriarchy in this country, and all the pink hats of white women that did not seem to matter.

Exit polls are currently showing more, not less, white women voted for Trump in this election than in 2016.

(This statistic has shattered me this week.)

We can find more words to name that a feminism that is not shaken to its core by what so many white women voters just tried to do, is not feminism—it is white supremacy.

We can commit, going forward, to studying the coalitions that feminist foremothers built across race, gender, class, sexuality, and religion.

If we have financial resources, we can give to their retirement funds to compensate their intellectual labor as we study their work.

We can learn feminist history's resources of resistance and be accountable to its wisdom, its invitations, its theory and praxis.

We can thank the legacies of coalitions, past and present, while also recognizing the costs of building those coalitions.

We can be exhausted with the Democratic party’s failure to reckon with the white supremacy in its fold.

We can continue to critique how the Democratic party marginalizes, even blames, the very Black, brown, and Indigenous progressives whose labor wins these elections and thus gives this country a chance at healing and reckoning.

We can be inspired by a new historical moment in the Democratic party: that Kamala Harris has been elected vice-president. 

We can know the limits of representation for changing systems.

And we still can feel joy that VP-elect Harris is already changing the world for the kids who look up to her and see themselves. 

We can honor the brown and Black children who now see themselves represented in the highest offices of leadership. 

She is already changing the world for the little boys who will learn to see, recognize, and celebrate brilliant women of color in leadership. 

She is already changing the world for the grown women who get to see not only a woman as a VP, but a woman who will remind men in power “I am talking.”

We can believe Tara Reade. 

We can make space today and tomorrow for survivors of sexual assault who cannot celebrate Biden’s win.

We can teach a feminism in which we seek accountability for harmful actions and abuse of power.

We can practice a feminism that is rigorous and wise enough to theorize a world not divided into a simplistic binary of good and bad men, good and bad people. 

Rather, we can reckon with how we are all entangled in the violence of heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, economic oppression, transphobia, ableism, fatphobia, colonialism, settler colonialism—though, we are not equally harmed or harming either.

We can believe change is possible at the grassroots level.

We can center in our celebrations the long-term, brilliant organizing of Black folks, people of color, and Indigenous people and their white allies, all of whom came together to stop this “freefall into hell,” as AOC put it. 

We can also grieve, as AOC reminded us, that many of the very organizers who won this election for us wake up everyday and struggle to pay their rent because their labor is not compensated, recognized, and valued within patriarchal white supremacy.

Those with financial resources can thus celebrate by FUNDING Black and Indigenous and Latinx and Afro-Latinx and Muslim and Jewish progressive organizers who pulled off this win. 

We can put the joy of our celebrations into action steps that support and resource the Black, brown, and Indigenous leaders who organized in Arizona, Georgia, Detroit, and Philadelphia.

We can especially recognize and learn to better support the labor of women and nonbinary folks of color and trans folks who led their communities to this win.

And, as we start to process the particular traumas of the past 4 years, now that we might feel slightly safer to feel more of our feelings, we can weep all over again that half this country does not understand egregiously abusive power— or understands it exactly and supports it. 

We can name and critique how conservative white evangelical theology has so aligned itself with patriarchy and state power, that too many folks who practice it cannot discern the evil of patriarchal white supremacy

We can name and study that the form of white supremacy we need to dismantle is rooted in the abusive power of white Christian hegemony and its role in creating racial hierarchies in western colonial history.

And, we can, simultaneously, recognize the work of interfaith coalitions today to make changes. (While challenging in what contexts the very term "interfaith" remains Christian hegemonic, too.)

We can also recognize the resistance movements throughout history of religious women, including those who resisted the makings of modern western capitalism and patriarchs and who were killed as witches.

We can turn toward and learn from the suppressed voices of a long history of resistance.

We can let ourselves take a deeper breath, carve out a few more moments of love, delight, joy, and nourishment—because the world we are fighting for is one of love, delight, joy, and nourishment.

We can try to allow the fight or flight or numb responses from last week and the last 4 years to de-escalate in the tissues of our exhausted bodies.

We can also feel the hyper-vigilance that is a more than reasonable sensation as we— as a country— try to leave a sociopathic abuser.

We can name again and again that this abuser was enacting 400 years of abuse, that he was a reflection of a centuries deep violence, and that millions still support him.

We can trust the knowledge we have of surviving abuse: Anyone who has ever tried to leave an abuser knows the transition is the most dangerous time.

We can honor that we are scared.

We can trust our grief today. We can still be afraid an attempted coup is coming, is perhaps already here in broad daylight.

We can take extra safety precautions the next 70 days and also know that our joy and dancing in the streets are important, too.

We can grieve what we witnessed this past week and the past 4 years and the past 400 years and the past centuries of the rise and fall of patriarchal, militaristic empires.

We can trust that entangled grief and joy and relief and hope and anger have the energy when directed with love to fuel our collective change and transformation.

We can feel what is human and earthly and imperfect and painful and hopeful, all of it.

We can honor that integrated energy in order to transform the world.

Just like we can learn to think and analyze the world in nonbinary ways—because the realities of this world are not binary—we also can learn to embrace that feelings exist in dynamic, nonbinary ways, too.

We can trust all the knowing our bodies, spirits, and minds hold in this historic moment of witnessing, reckoning, and utter exhaustion.

We can prepare ourselves for the next stage of this process to fight for a democracy.

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Author: Kimberly B. George holds a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from UCSD and an M.A. in Religion from Yale, where she was a merit scholar and postgraduate fellow in Gender Equity and Policy. She is the founder of Feminism School, which offers courses and 1:1 and small group consulting to religious leaders, teachers, and professionals who seek graduate-level training in feminist and ethnic studies histories in order to inform their own leadership, influence, and activism.

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