The Trump Effect
Don’t talk about Trump around Uncle Dave, ok?” my grandmother had told me when I arrived at her house for Thanksgiving. “Just don’t talk about the 2016 election at all tonight. We don’t want some explosive argument over dinner.”
I agreed, knowing that I couldn’t talk about any political issue at Thanksgiving with not only Uncle Dave, but any of my relatives—I didn’t know who voted for who, and that unwelcome uncertainty loomed over me the rest of the night.
As a feminist who has shared her grievances with Trump over social media, would I ever be able to engage in a political discussion with any of my relatives during Trump’s administration that begins this 2017? Or would that unwelcome uncertainty be present in our family gatherings for the next four—or, dare I say, eight—years? What did this 2017 election do to our relationships?
Today, politics is a polarizing aspect of our lives. It always has been, even before I was born. Still, the modern political era has never felt such a dramatic spike in terms of political awareness, political discussion, and political activism for millennials. Although “young adults preferred Clinton over Trump by a wide 55%-37% margin,” as the Pew Research Center discovered, Trump still won the electoral college and now the younger generation of voters must deal with the ramifications of that victory.
However, what does this political divide within our nation mean for us millennial feminists, who primarily supported other candidates other than Trump? When 53% of men voted for Trump, does this change our relationships with male peers, co-workers, friends, relatives, or partners who have voted for a president who has unashamedly said many misogynistic statements over the years?
In fact, a review of research shows that it does change our relationships with male suitors!
Yes, the apprehensive climate of our country has also caused more tension in romantic relationships—more than 1 in 5 Americans in a relationship reported this. Due to this, many millennials now are hesitant about seeking new relationships online. Even as I mindlessly swipe through Tinder, I’ll see men who post on their profile that they hate Trump, and other men whose profile picture is of them yelling with a Make America Great Again baseball cap on at a crazed rally. With those MAGA-wearing men, I immediately swipe left—no matter how cute he may be. This is true for many of my feminist friends as well; those who we see support Trump online immediately become less attractive to us.
Additionally, among those surveyed in a recent research effort to discover the impact of President Trump on relationships, the political climate for millennials is far worse than other generations today. So much so that 22 percent of millennials have broken up with someone over political differences.
Unfortunately, this situation also changes our relationships with not only male suitors, but everyone in our circles, especially among tight-knit friends as well. When my friends and I go on vacation, we have to make an effort to not discuss politics. In drunken states, this is occasionally unavoidable. Other times, we’re all so stressed about the future of our country that we put off our push notifications for The Washington Post and go back to playing beer pong. Still, this wasn’t the case before the 2016 election. We never had to make a conscious effort to avoid political discussion before. Now, we do, for the sake of not only our stress levels, but for our friendship as well.
As an outspoken feminist, this political climate has changed many aspects of my social life with partners, friends, and family. It’s challenging to navigate such a treacherous sea of uncertainty at family events, especially since my car’s bumper features an anti-Trump bumper sticker—so my personal viewpoints are on public display even to those relatives who don’t even know what Facebook is.
And so, I am now unsure about how my relatives feel about my rights and freedoms. If I had to seek an abortion, would my grandmother renounce me? If I told them of my sexual assault experience, would an uncle of mine tell me I was “asking for it”? If I told them I’m currently not interested in getting married, would my cousin say I wouldn’t be able to be on my own since I need a man to support me?
All of these questions hang in the back of my mind at family gatherings now— questions I might not have asked if not for the 2016 election results.
All of these questions hang in the back of my mind at family gatherings now—but I am not the only one. Countless relatives, friends, peers, and co-workers who are feminists share this experience. As the Star Tribune reported, nearly 40 percent of Americans have said that the 2016 election has damaged a close relationship. Some of that 40 percent include myself and my loved ones. My cousins and I whisper about our opinions of Trump’s administrations at family dinners, fearful that Uncle Dave may overhear. An aunt I was once friends with on Facebook has now blocked me and not spoken to me due to my anti-Trump and feminist views. I put on my dating profiles to not bother me if you’re a supporter of Trump.
In this divisive political landscape, what can feminists do to maintain relationships with people they have known for so long; people who don’t agree with the principles and goals of feminism?
Well, the answer is truly unclear. For us millennials, this is a new obstacle we must overcome that has been unexpectedly thrown in our path. The only way to act is to stick together, support one another, and never be ashamed of what we stand for. We must be not only feminists, but proud feminists.