This election season could really use a dose of Alison Piepmeier right now 

Yes, I’m a Feminist!

Dear Alison,

Our community still, and continually, grieves your loss. Each time I see a student or faculty member biking by the Cistern, I envision you on your way to or from campus, your glorious wavy long hair (back before you lost it again with the last rounds of chemo) jetstreaming beneath your helmet. I can picture you cruising along with adorable Maybelle strapped in behind her proud mama — a beloved professor, mentor, friend. It’s a beautiful memory: you happily in your element and at the height of your considerable intellectual powers, going your merry way in your easy-going preferred mode for getting around, even before the damn brain tumor made it your only option. Because on a bike, as you wrote on your blog, “We get to breathe in the air, notice the world around us, and feel alive in a way that a car just doesn’t promote. Plus, I never have to search for a parking spot. I ride up to the door of my office and get off my bike. That’s it. Fantastic.”

And yet I also have to say I am somewhat relieved that you of all people, champion of respect and equality for everyone, you who articulated time and again why violence against women is unacceptable, aren’t having to notice and endure this world at this particularly not-so fantastic moment. Just weeks after your death, the College’s semester kicked off with fraternity bros being arrested for sexual assault, and the fall has gone south from there, with our embarrassing excuse for a Republican presidential candidate bragging about that same lewd, illegal, and unconscionable frat-boy behavior (or in his lingo, “locker room talk,” as if it’s appropriate there). Trump sounds more like a Thomas Ravenel ventriloquist vying for a spot on Southern Charm than a candidate for president of these divided states.

Oh Alison, we miss your voice; we need your wisdom and your “Feminism Y’all” torching wit to absolutely eviscerate or preferably castrate The Donald. You’d remind us that the denigrating language and demeaning objectification of women as “pussy,” “dog,” or “fat pig” that Trump spews out with his lascivious grin is being mirrored far beyond a tucked-away Access Hollywood tape, but is alive and well on our campuses, in our locker rooms and board rooms, and yes on what should be our most respected stage: a presidential debate-turned-national debacle.

It’s beyond time, I’m pretty sure you might say, to elect our first female POTUS — especially given that she also happens to be the most vetted, experienced, intelligent, and proven presidential candidate we arguably have ever had. But more that, it’s time for feminists, which is to say women, men, and human beings of any sort to believe that a person’s full humanity should be honored and respected, and no one should be discriminated against because of his or her gender or genitalia (regardless of how grabby it may seem to vile brats who feel entitled to whatever they want) to upturn the tables, to thrash through the ceilings, to shake out the Hollywood buses, and say, as strongly as we know how — “no more.” No Trump, not ever. No more alcohol-fueled campus rapes. No bullshit pay disparity. No sexual trafficking. No Miss Universe no matter what she weighs.

Oh Alison, I’m sorry that you’re having to watch this abysmal display of human ugliness from wherever it is you are. My hope is that the hereafter is more like the blessed media blackout and serene evening breezes we experienced before the post-hurricane electricity was restored, when the constellations were our overhead lights and the silence our balm, when neighbors came out to check on each other and lend a hand.

And if not that, I hope that maybe somewhere you are pulling up a bar stool in some heavenly Husk or Stars, ordering an extra fiery Bloody Mary, and doing campaign play-by-plays with your fellow Charleston femmes. You’re in good company up there, with Angelina and Sarah Grimke; Anita, Carrie, and Mabel Pollitzer; Mary McLeod Bethune; Septima Clark, Ruby Cornwell, and a host of other Lowcountry sisters who have opened doors and swept clear walkways; who have marched and protested and inspired movements; who have filled blackboards and books with words and lessons that celebrate, uplift, and unlock the potential in all people; who taught justice, loved mercy, and walked humbly and fiercely; who have loved this crazy world for all its beauty and goodness in spite of all those who slapped them down with words or actions.

In your final column, your incredible love letter to us all, you spoke of your gratitude for this “beautiful life,” and you broke our hearts as you wrote how, “little by little, I’m learning that who I thought I was is sliding away.” For you Alison, for Maybelle, and all our feminist forebears up yonder, I promise you this: I for one will not let who I believe we are and can be as a country, as a community, slide away. Trump will not have the last word. Hate won’t win. And we won’t just say “no;” we’ll proudly say, as you encouraged us to, “Yes, I’m a Feminist.” Yes, it’s a beautiful life. And we’ll say it with love and joy and hope, over and over again. Yes. Yes. Yes.


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