“I’m very interested in the election,” says Sonia Chajet Wides, an eighth-grader in Brooklyn who is on the student council and head of the “No Place for Hate” club at her school. So when she started seeing quotes from the Trump tapes on her social-media feeds, she asked to watch the video with her mother. Listening to the Republican presidential nominee talk about forcing himself on women was overwhelming. Sonia started to cry, but also felt a sense of resolve: “I felt like I wanted to write something about it. I had so much going on in my head.”
Sonia reached out to her friend Kate, and Kate reached out to her friend Proof. Pretty soon, 16 13-year-old girls were on the text chain, encouraging each other to write something, to express their outrage over not just the tape but the whole election. “We really just wanted to get our voices out. We are 13-year-old girls who don’t usually have the opportunity to tell people that we have something to say,” says Kate Griem. As Sonia points out, just because they can’t vote, doesn’t mean they don’t have a voice.
Proof Schubert Reed, Eighth Grade
I am well aware of the privileges that I have as a white girl growing up in New York City. But, as a girl, I have seen sexism on a day-to-day basis. I know what it’s like to be told I voice my opinions too much when I do it half as much as the boy that sits behind me in history. I know what it’s like to be catcalled because of the Urban Outfitters muscle tee and shorts that I wear in 90-degree heat. I know what it’s like to be objectified and sexualized and judged and defined by my gender, instead of by who I am. Yet for most of my life, I have pegged these things down as small scale in the greater scheme of things. But now, I am becoming more and more scared of a validation that this day-to-day sexism would get under a potential Donald Trump presidency.
I am scared that under this presidency, our country will jump back a century to a time when girls were brought up to bear children and not much else, to a time when Lucretia Mott was thrown into jail for trying to vote, a basic civil right. I feel scared that the males in my life subconsciously agree with Trump and see me only as a sexual item, not an intelligent young woman. I feel scared that rape culture in our country is going to move up a notch from the unacceptably high level it is already at, and real culture is going to go down. And I feel scared, not of Trump as an individual, but of the population that he epitomizes — the xenophobic, misogynist, homophobic, racist population that is chalked up as a minority in this country, but that would grow much larger and be much stronger if Donald Trump was given the power to stimulate it and make it seem acceptable. I feel scared as a young woman living in this country. And I shouldn’t have to feel this way.
For a long time I’ve wondered what I would say to Donald Trump if I ever met him. Would I be nice, or passive aggressive, or just ignore him altogether? As I think about it now, I know that I would stand up to him. I would tell him that he makes me feel unsafe; that he is disgusting, and wrong, and represents everything that is bad about our country. I would tell him that I am more grown-up than he is because I believe in what’s right, and that I know he does not. I would stand up to him, and give him a piece of my mind, because keeping my mouth shut and acting like a kind little girl is exactly what he would want me to do.
Maeve O’Donnell, Eighth Grade
I don’t want to wake up in a country where young women think it is acceptable to be viewed as sexual objects, because it is just “locker-room banter,” or a country where Islamic people are targeted based on the racist conclusion that they are terrorists. I do not want to wake up in a country and find that we are not moving forward, that we are moving backward instead.
Donald Trump’s slogan is “Make America Great Again.” But when was America great, Mr. Trump? When people were discriminated against for their sexual orientation? When women weren’t allowed to vote because of their gender? Or was it when people were enslaved because of the color of their skin?
As teenage girls, we all face problems of self-esteem, insecurity, and body standards. Donald Trump’s utterly degrading comments about women are a huge negative influence. Trump is trying to argue that sexual assault is just a “distraction” from bigger things at hand, but sexual assault, and demeaning women, is never acceptable. I have been raised to believe that these kinds of comments from men in power are things from the past, so let’s keep moving forward.
Kate Griem, Eighth Grade
For as long as I can remember, I’ve considered myself a feminist. I grew up in a household that has always supported me, encouraged me, made me believe that I could change the bad in the world, and make the good better if I tried hard enough.
At first, Trump’s campaign was a joke to me and my family. How could the American people ever let a dumb, TV-celebrity businessman who doesn’t know how to sustain his own company become commander-in-chief of America and the millions of lives and dreams that live in it? As the months sped by, his bizarre, bigotry-centered campaign grew and grew. I would lie awake at night, thinking, worrying: What would happen to my sister, my little cousin, and my daughter, if she is to be born one day, if Trump became president of our country? What kind of world would they grow up in, knowing that someone who treats women as sex objects, toys to be picked up and cast aside and model in beauty pageants, or servants to cook and clean, has led and changed their country?
Now, I am crying. I am crying for all of the men, women, and everyone in between, who have been raised to believe that someone like him should head their country. I am crying because I am afraid to step out onto the street for fear I will meet someone who supports Trump, who is proud to call him their candidate. I am crying because we deserve so, so, so much more than a sexist, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, anti-choice, ignorant moron as a president. Our future daughters deserve better than this …
Aliza Hacking, Eighth Grade
Think about the long-term effects of a Trump presidency. Who has to deal with them? Not the adults who make up Trump’s voters, but instead the young girls of the world who already face sexism on a daily basis. Does Trump have any idea what it’s like to walk into a building with something as insignificant as a Starbucks drink or a striped shirt, and immediately be written off as dumb and incapable of academic success?
Imagine what today’s young women experience with a Clinton presidency versus a Trump presidency. One candidate presents the idea that girls can make a huge difference in the world and that no matter how many people try to bring them down, they are indeed capable of success. The other presents the possibility of a world stripped of any female empowerment, all simply because the leader of the country, who is supposed to be the ultimate role model for children everywhere, says that women are only useful for sex and eye-candy.
It’s despicable to say that women cannot be successful, and if Trump is going to say that about Hillary Clinton, someone with more political respect and experience than he will ever have, then I think it’s safe to say that the only person he really invests in is himself, even if that investment is only “a small loan of a million dollars.”
Minna Bachman, Eighth Grade
I am very much guilty of being addicted to my phone, as is most of my generation. I’ve also been encouraged my entire life to laugh at the people in the world who are trying to cause pain — I don’t let them. Donald Trump is a name that I’ve seen come up on my phone countless times in memes and articles and GIFs (the overlap of the three regarding Trump is endless). I’ve started to ask myself the question of how comfortable I really am with laughing at him. Because he scares me. It is dangerous to recognize him as only someone in my phone. How do we balance laughing at him and not taking him seriously and also recognizing how powerful his influence can be? It scares me that young girls are put through the traumas of body-shaming and slut-shaming and every type of humiliation reenforced by the internet, and the fact that this man is given a podium and a spotlight only shows how many people are listening. I don’t think that his words should have any place in the lives of young people, especially young girls, who are smarter than he’ll ever be.
Iris Mastny, Eighth Grade
As a 13-year-old girl, the idea of having Donald Trump as a president terrifies me. He has been accused of raping a 13-year-old girl. Even more horrifying is the fact that there is so little press addressing this.
Donald Trump insults and discriminates against anyone that is not a straight, white, cisgender, able-bodied male like himself. It is unacceptable. The way he treats women is disgusting. Saying that they should be punished for abortion? He doesn’t know (or care, for that matter) what it is like to be a woman; therefore, he does not get an opinion on the subject of abortion. I hopefully anticipate November 8, because Donald Trump continues to say more and more disgusting things as the days go by, digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself. But I am still terrified because a person like him exists in the world, and because his ideas are taken seriously by many people in America.
Jaylynn McCurdy, Eighth Grade
Imagine if Donald Trump were president. He wouldn’t have to regret anything in the public eye because of the supreme position of power he would hold, but wouldn’t you regret electing him president? The words he uses to describe women are rude and degrading. He continues to do this. Why? Because there is no one to stop him. Although newspapers write about these subjects, people seem to forget about them a week later. Writing these letters allows us to say something that sticks with people, and even if we can’t vote, gives us a voice in the election.
Nora Youngelson, Eighth Grade
My name is Nora
And I am afraid
Afraid that I have to grow up in a world where women are referred to as “it”
Afraid to wear a sleeveless top to school
Afraid to walk home in the dark by myself
Afraid that when I work just as hard as the person next to me I won’t get the same paycheck as him
I am afraid of what our future holds for women and girls
Afraid that if I ever have a daughter I’m going to have to tell her I’m sorry — there hasn’t been a female president yet
I do not want a man who has been accused of rape of a girl my age to lead our country
I do not want a married man who said he was attracted to girls like a magnet and would just start kissing them to become president of the United States
I want a woman in the White House
I want to grow up in a country where I don’t have to be afraid anymore
Where I do not have to worry about men grabbing women whenever they want
I want a world where women aren’t quiet anymore
Where their voices are louder and stronger than ever
I want Hillary Clinton in the White House.
Lucy Blum, Eighth Grade
As a 13-year-old, I feel very uncomfortable hearing Donald Trump’s words. I feel scared that our future president could be a man who forces himself upon women, who allows Howard Stern to call his daughter “a hot piece of a**,” and who thinks he can do whatever he wants to women because he’s rich and famous. Although I know that some men treat women like property, I never thought one of those men would be a candidate to be the president of the United States.
Mr. Trump: You disgust me. What you said that you did to women is unforgivable, and if you win the election, I will be afraid every second of the four years that you are president. You have spent your campaign humiliating people and making them feel ashamed, when really you should be the most ashamed and humiliated of all.
Nora O’Donnell, Eighth Grade
I am a teenage girl in America. I do not deserve to be touched, groped, or grabbed, and I know that, but it’s now apparent that 44 percent of Americans don’t. Those people are voting for Donald Trump, a bigot who somehow became the Republican presidential nominee.
I don’t want to live in a country where 44 percent of people condone this man’s behavior, where 44 percent of people think I’m not as valuable as a man because of my gender. If Trump wins the election, I won’t feel safe leaving my house, because of the fear that the people that support him might do some of the same things Donald Trump said he has done.
But that’s not the only reason Donald Trump’s America is dangerous. It’s dangerous because he might take away our rights to abortion, because he might never address the wage gap, because he might not take rape seriously. It’s dangerous because he doesn’t acknowledge the fact that women are intelligent, valuable, and independent.
Shiloh Gonsky, Eighth Grade
The world we live in today is on the verge of breaking. We, as women, cannot take another offensive blow from Trump. Having Trump’s filthy words all over the media is attracting young girls to read about him. What they read is him calling us fat, pig, dog, disgusting animal, bimbo, piece of a**, gold digger, weak, and b**ch. Every time Trump says anything about a woman, a piece of me breaks inside. I feel like he’s chipping away everything good and replacing it with a bomb. A bomb for every woman he’s ever hit on. But the thing that Trump doesn’t realize is that at some point those bombs will go off. And instead of destroying women, they will ignite them, and our nation will create stronger girls, stronger women. Fighters.
Francesca Rutherford, Eighth Grade
Last year a group of my friends and I decided to start a feminism club. But what we did not realize was that just starting the club was not enough. Kids in our grade would come up to us and tell us that gender equality was not an issue because women already had rights and that women are the ones who treat men unfairly instead of vice versa. Boys would tell us that there are so many double standards and they were going to start a masculinity club. This disgusted my friends and I and we didn’t know what to do. This is just a much smaller-scale version of what is happening in our society, especially if Donald Trump becomes president.
Rosa Lander, Eighth Grade
I have stopped being surprised by the awful comments that Donald Trump makes. I listen to what Trump calls “locker-room talk” while I attempt to do my homework. And I try to forget what he has said and done to girls like me, but I can’t. I can’t forget the way he talked to the former Miss Universe, or the vulgar words he used on that bus. I will never be able to forget the way he insulted the parents of Captain Khan, a war hero, for their religion. I will never forget the monstrosity that he is at debates. I will never understand how he can insult everyone on the planet except for the rich, white, Republican males and still have this many supporters. Millions of people are still in support of a reality where children are raised hearing the most crude and offensive terms daily, and where every single person has been insulted by a potential leader of our country. The fact that I am not surprised anymore, that is what is truly terrifying.
Stella Mahler, Ninth Grade
I am a white teen living in America. The education, justice, and economic systems all work in my favor. I go to Bard, a prestigious college-prep high school, with four other students from my middle school, all of whom are white. Why might this be? Because the education system does not work in favor of people of color. In the words of Yara Shahidi, it has become that children of color “are the anomaly if they succeed, and the expectation if they fail.” And what will Trump do to fix this broken, racist education system? Nothing. In fact, he will attempt to run it as if it were a business, and soon enough only wealthy white children will succeed, then only wealthy white men, and so on.
When women succeed, the country succeeds. When people of color succeed, the country succeeds. When people of Muslim or Jewish or Islamic faith succeed, the country succeeds. To bring it closer to home for the white Christian folks, when Jill Stein or Gary Johnson succeed, Trump succeeds, and when Trump succeeds, the country falls. Who will you be voting for?
Tess Lovell, Eighth Grade
I have something to say.
I am not wooed by sexual harassment.
I am sorry that you cannot control yourself if a pretty girl walks in the room.
I do not think it is okay to grab a woman regardless of what she thinks.
If you touch me without consent,
It is sexual harassment.
I think it is absurd that you are teaching girls
That they can excuse a grope,
That they did not agree to.
Do you know what it’s called to force someone to have intercourse with you?
And now it doesn’t seem like “locker room” talk,
No, do not touch me.
No, I do not want to give you a hug.
No, I do not care if you are a “star.”
I AM NOT AN OBJECT.
Keep your hands away from me,
Because I am entitled to my own body.
I refuse to let you romanticize rape.
I have a voice, and you are drying it up.
I feel it fall away with every objectifying word you say.
I AM NOT YOUR PROPERTY.
Let me have privacy.
Let me have security.
Let me have me.
I am more than my legs.
I am more than my cup size.
Listen to what I have to say, because I have a voice.
Let me own MYSELF.
I am a HUMAN.
TREAT ME LIKE A HUMAN.
Sonia Chajet Wides, Eighth Grade
Women are over 50 percent of this population. And yet the man who is running for president of the United States of America says that it is justified for him to “grab a woman by her p***y” because he is famous, and because she is a brainless toy who will let him. I do not want to live in a country where this is tolerated. And if people are taking a man seriously who believes that women and Mexicans and gay people and Muslims and so many others are inferior to him, then we are automatically regressing into the worst periods of our country’s history.
This election is about more than two politicians (or really just one politician). This is about stopping hatred from convoluting our country. Donald Trump represents the absurd beliefs that I used to consider rare but are now being brought to the major political stage. When I say I am a feminist, when I get angry about rape jokes or disgusting, sexist things people say, this is what I mean. I don’t hate men. And I don’t deny the privileges I have. But I am an advocate for women’s rights because there is a man who people are taking seriously as a potential leader of America who rates women on a scale of 1 to 10 and talks about how he can’t stop himself from kissing “beautiful women” and who comments on a woman’s legs! I am not an item. I am a woman and I am an activist and I am a feminist and I am proud.