About that Hug

Like many others during the election campaign, I watched Trump’s “Access Hollywood” video. I didn’t really want to, having already seen “The Apprentice” clip of Trump telling Brande Roderick that it would be a pretty picture seeing her on her knees. That was lewd enough and should have handed him a sexual harassment suit on the spot. But, of course, it didn’t. So, I hesitantly tuned in to his commentary and cringed at the appropriate parts. But it wasn’t just the commentary that got to me, it was also Billy Bush’s insistence that Arianne Zucker give Trump a hug. In that moment, I witnessed the arrogance from a male that a female’s affection is requested—no—demanded—of a woman when it is clear that they are uncomfortable with doing so. Arianne played along and then conceded her place that she was going to be the objectified eye candy to both of their pleasures. Trump’s and Bush’s victorious grins were unmistakable. It was painful to watch. And it hurt.

I am not a hugger. I do not openly embrace people because I am fiercely protective of my body. I learned that the hard way, through months of enduring the assault of a male who considered my silence a quiet affirmation to do whatever he wanted—without asking—without my consent. I was fifteen. I was scared. Couple this with racist undertones and you’ve got yourself denigration on multiple levels. Since then, I have diligently worked to cultivate my mind over my body, caring very little about pretty and more about smart. I still moved through the ups and downs of dating, enduring decades of catcalling, inappropriate touching, sexual harassment, lascivious comments made about my body, and the insistence that I am required to hug (or kiss) anyone when truly, I don’t want to. It still makes me uncomfortable.

During the election, we witnessed the horrifying reality of Trump supporters that openly condoned his behavior, even a woman donning a shirt that said, “Trump can grab my ….” If that isn’t an affront to the thousands of women, men and children worldwide that have or will endure the uninvited sexual contact of others, I don’t know what is. Sure, she was giving her consent, but what’s magnified is an endurance of behavior that isn’t, in any normal sphere of decency, acceptable. It was painful to see. And it hurt. It reminded me that the experiences of those who are victims of sexual assault and harassment are irrelevant and continues to perpetuate our silence. I am your friend, your colleague, your sister, your mother, your daughter, your girlfriend, your wife. Do not touch me without consent. Do not ask me to touch you. Do not take from me the right to protect myself either silently or vocally. Do not—touch.

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Joie N. Lê

Joie Norby Lê is an educator, writer, and mother of three. She has a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis in Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. She is a guest speaker on qualitative research methods, diversity in the classroom, and topics related to Viet Nam's orphans of war. She geeks out on poststructural philosophy and historical fiction.

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