An Open Letter to My Straight, White, Male Friends

by Katie Simon

Dear Straight, White, Male Friends,

This election has affected me, a privileged white woman, more than I ever could have expected. I feel angry, sad, frustrated, disappointed. I am, to put it mildly, furious.

I assumed that my friends, my community, and my country valued me. I assumed wrong.

I assumed that my community would mourn with me. I assumed that all of you, my straight, white, male friends, would stand with me. Over the past week, I’ve discovered that I assumed wrong.

As a country, as a planet, as individuals, we will all be hurt by the Trump administration. I know that though Donald Trump’s presidency threatens my safety simply because I am female, it poses a far greater threat to the tens of millions of Americans who are not white and well off and living in a liberal city, as I am. But straight, white men will be spared in a way no other group can hope to be spared. For the most part, their personal safety is not threatened; their bodies are not threatened; their rights are not threatened. (Perhaps this will change, but I cannot imagine Donald Trump will choose a course of action that would disadvantage his own demographic.)

Every single woman I have spoken with in the past week has been utterly devastated by the result of this election. We are afraid for our health, already preparing for the worst case scenario by ensuring that we have birth control to last us through a full presidential term: “IUD” is trending on both Google search and Facebook. We are preparing for the worst case scenario because that is what has been promised to us.

Some of you, my straight, white, male friends, have shared this loss. Some of you have been wonderful, have been allies, have promised to fight for me. This means more to me than you will ever know.


But the majority of the straight, white men I have spoken with have demonstrated a disturbing lack of concern, a defeatist attitude, a disinterest in listening or acting. The reaction of this majority has shocked me. I assumed every one of you, my male friends, would be outraged. I assumed wrong.

I assumed that you would share my reactions:

I am so, so, so angry that another generation of men will grow up in a society that says sexual violence is acceptable, that it will not damage a man’s career or life, that men can continue to get away with it. That the burden of sexual violence falls on women. Over the past week, violent messages and sexist and racist slurs have been graffitied on bathroom stalls in high schools across the country. I knew it would be difficult to change the perspectives of grown men, but I used to believe that the next generation would be different, because they would be raised in a society that valued women, that would not stand for violence, that fought tooth and nail against sexism. I don’t believe that anymore.

I don’t believe that attitudes toward women and toward sexual violence will change in my lifetime. I used to think that we were making significant progress, that my world was becoming safer, that my voice mattered. I don’t believe that anymore.

I am dreading the changes that the Trump administration has promised. But even if, somehow, there were no significant policy changes, this damage is done. Sexual violence is excusable. Women are less than.I do not think that the every one of fifty million people that voted for Donald Trump is racist, Islamophobic, sexist, misogynist, xenophobic, homophobic, anti-woman, and pro-violence. But every single one of those people decided that a racist, Islamophobic, sexist, misogynist, xenophobic, homophobic, anti-woman, and pro-violence man should be put in the position of highest power. That these things were not dealbreakers. This has broken my heart.

All fifty million of these people chose to empower a man who threatens my safety, my rights, my wellbeing. Every single one of them made this choice. And many of them, incredibly, were women. Many of them were white women. Many of them have exactly as much to lose as I do.

Fifty million people spoke out against me. Fifty million people think that I don’t deserve to be safe, that I should not have authority over my own body, that I can be overlooked. Fifty million people.

Fifty million people.

I am frustrated and disappointed in many of you, my straight, white, male friends.

I assumed every one of you would share my reactions. I assumed that even though these issues might not affect you directly, you would be furious. I assumed wrong.

I know that you, the men in my life, love me. So I assumed that when my safety became threatened on a national level, all of you would be furious. I assumed that when men across the country tweeted their delight that they could now “grab women by the pussy,” you would be angry. I assumed that you would leverage your position of power to support me. I assumed that you would want to listen to me, that you would follow my lead. I assumed wrong.

I do not frequently bring up the sexism and violence I have experienced in casual conversation. But I assumed that when these issues were brought to the table, you would feel as I have felt: frustrated, angry, lost. I assumed that every one of you would stand with me, that you would want to do everything in your power to help. I assumed wrong.

I, like every woman, person of color, LGBTQ person, immigrant, and Muslim — anybody who is not a straight, white, privileged man — cannot afford to lose a single ally. We especially cannot afford to lose you, because our present reality gives straight, white men a degree of power, a voice, that most of us cannot access. You can influence and impact more quickly and effectively than most of us can. It is not fair, but it is true.

We cannot afford to lose you. We cannot afford it.

I am done being quiet about my experiences of sexual violence and everyday sexism, of keeping those experiences contained within conversations among my female friends. I am done assuming that all of you understand my day-to-day traumas and the many, many ways in which our experiences of the world differ.

It’s not enough for me to say, vaguely, that I experience harassment, that I feel unsafe. Every time I am affected by sexism, that I am made to feel unsafe, that I am discriminated against, I’m going to tell you. I hope that sharing these specific examples can help make my world more real for you.

I assumed you knew my experience, but I assumed wrong. These are not vague problems. And in Donald Trump’s America, they will only get worse.

To my straight, white, male friends: I need you. All of you. Each of you.



This post originally appeared on Medium and has been reprinted with permission.

Top photo via Donald Trump/Facebook

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