Exhausted. Broken. Emboldened. There was a broad range of feelings hanging in the air in the Game Room of the Tinkham Veale University Center on Tuesday evening, Nov. 15, at Roxane Gay’s discussion “Trump and Trauma: Feminism, Vulnerable Lives and Power.” Despite this, Gay’s sardonic humor cut through the tension with ease. Perhaps her Twitter bio puts it best: “…if you clap, I clap back…” Gay held no reservations for clapping back at Donald Trump.
Roxane Gay is a feminist writer, professor at Purdue University and opinion writer at the New York Times. This, however, in no way prepared her for the results of this year’s election. “The media got it so wrong, that it’s really kind of shocking still,” she said.
A large contribution to the shock of liberals at the outcome of this election is the Internet. People can construct bubbles of like-mindedness for themselves on the Internet, which lulled them into a false sense of security.
“If you’re in a bubble, that’s your choice. You have to willfully break that bubble and read news sources that are not just yours,” said Gay. Gay’s primary news sources are the New York Times, but her favorite conservative magazine is The American Conservative. Gay advised that the best way to break that bubble is to have a more diverse reading diet.
Many people find themselves asking a question of which choice is better, fight or flight. Gay responded that ideally the choice is fight.
“I understand the instinct for flight, but where do you think you’re going to go that’s better? Canada is not a utopia,” said Gay. “The world is a complicated place, and when you are an other, there is no safe haven.”
To Gay, an important factor to look at is the privilege that allows people to consider leaving. Part of Gay’s motivation to stay is fighting to protect those who cannot just up and leave.
“You have to find ways to create the solace and safety that you are looking for at home,” said Gay. For those who ask marginalized people, “What can we do?” Gay’s response was blunt but effective: “Stop asking … you need to figure it out for yourself…. Step into roles of change, do research … advocate for those with less privilege.”
The discussion eventually led to the Trump constituency. Gay said, “I’m just tired. I thought we were further than this, that people are racist but we’re getting better…. That’s why I’m still so shocked.”
Her concern is that things are going to get a lot worse in the next four years. “What is troubling is that his followers will hear him on T.V. saying don’t do it … and see that as code, whether it’s there or not.”
Ending on a brighter note, Gay discussed the relationship between millennials and the Democratic Party going forward. “I think [the Democrats] are going to be far more open to the millennials than they were.… I think the DNC was really hurt that millennials loved Bernie (Sanders) more than Hillary (Clinton)…. Now they are listening to the millennials,” said Gay.
At the end of her talk, she emphasized the importance to get involved in the political process: “Run for office. You can make actual change.”