This is a social construct.

Ever since the election I can’t stop thinking about social constructs. When I was in school we often joked about how first years were obsessed with the idea that gender was a social construct. It’s true, but just because something is a social construct doesn’t mean it has no real world consequences.

And yet, as I see executive order after executive order passed limiting everything from immigration from predominantly muslim countries to hiring of federal employees, I can’t help but think about how we collectively create much of our own reality. Without the consent of the governed, Donald Trump is nothing but a man writing his personal opinion on some paper. Democracy doesn’t work unless we all agree to act within it’s constraints.

But this isn’t just about Donald Trump, but also the system that gave him legitimacy. It’s about capitalism, an economic system that thrives on the exploitation on low-wage and unpaid workers. It’s about how we understand success in this system. Our collective understanding of success is about financial gain and acquiring assets such as homes and vehicles. It’s about money itself. The value of stocks in the stock market is more often then not influenced by public perception of the well-being of a company. As more of our banking goes online it becomes clear that money is nothing more than numbers on a screen.

I think about this while I sit at work day after day. I think about how some days I am sick or exhausted or depressed. I think about the sunny days when I would rather be outside finding beauty in our world. I think about how if I didn’t have my job I would be able to pay rent or buy food or afford health insurance. In a capitalist system our ability to exist is literally determined by the labor we provide. It disadvantages so many women, people of color, poor folks, and people with disabilities.

So why do we agree to these structures? After all, our participation is essential to keeping these institutions powerful. What if we all chose to withdraw our consent from oppressive systems that we exist under? What would the world look like?

For the most part I think we either don’t realize our own power within these systems, or else are afraid about what follows that kind of revolution. We stay with the devil we know because we can’t imagine what a more egalitarian system would look like, or because we have achieved small success in this system and don’t want to forfeit our privileges.

And yet I think as more and more people become dissatisfied with our society, it will become our responsibility to construct new realities where we value people more than labor, and relationships more than monetary gain. Where we understand identity politics to be less about the individual and more about our collective definition of what labels represent. Where we understand how different facts and theories have been shaped by their historic context, and where we allow them to change as we do.

I think it is hard to change how we imagine the world and I think it takes a lot of time. But I also believe we all have the power to create change. Through art and theory and conversation and protest we put our ideas out into the world and allow them to germinate and be influenced by others, and slowly transform what we understand to be truth.

That is what it means to be a social construct. And idea is built by many and with it comes consequence.

Some thoughts on the election, in no particular orderΒ 

1. I woke up this morning in the arms of my girlfriend, and I thought “how could anyone hate this thing we have, this sweet early morning thing we have, this warmth against my spine flowing to my heart, this love which has opened up wells inside me, so I always have more love to give?” How could they hate us?

2. My mom told me that she couldn’t remember being this distraught since JFK was shot. She’s not a very political person, but she wept when Hillary lost. I hope she sees a woman president in her lifetime.

3. I want to be empathetic to those who feel disenfranchised by American politics but I’m angry that their vote came at the expense of so many lives.

4. I want to be able to utilize my anger, but my heart is broken and I am tired.

5. I can’t stop thinking about my wrists, and how close my veins are to the surface. We are, all of us, so fragile.

6. “Misfortune had made Lily supple instead of hardening her, and a pliable substance is less easy to break than a stiff one.” -Edith Wharton

7. Sometimes guardian angels are the people organizing protests and writing petitions and organizing resources and offering money and to walk people home. They are everywhere if you are looking for them.

8. We did not start “making things political.” Sodomy laws made death a punishment for being gay in America. Until 2003 you could be arrested for being gay in 14 states. When white people came to the United States they brought black slaves and committed endless atrocities against them. They committed genocide against Native Americans for land. Β Disability was treated with institutionalization which was often violent. Marital rape wasn’t criminalized until the 1970s, around the same time women received the legal ability to apply for credit separately from their husbands. All of this was legal. They made our bodies political, and our ancestors had to fight for our freedom. We are still fighting. We will not stop being political until we are all liberated. (My liberation can not ever come at the expense of anyone else’s).

9. For all the disagreements I had with her, I feel for Hillary Clinton. The sexism she experienced (has experienced, is experiencing) on a national stage has been an unsettling reminder of how we value ambitious women. I hope I channel her steely perserverence. I hope somebody has hugged her and told her she matters.

10. Β You matter. You are valid. You are good. You are not monstrous or disgusting. You are not dangerous, except to the heterosexist white supremecist ableist transmisogynist system. You are a brilliant offering to the world around you. Your resilience is inspiring. Your vulnerability in the face of hate is breathtaking. You are cared for and loved. It is not alright now but I will fight to make it alright to you, wherever you are.

All my love,

Marnie