Darlena Cunha is a contributor to TIME
In the days after the election of one of the most vocally sexist man in recent history, many women, particularly women of color, are reeling, experiencing waves of despair and rage. Many of their male friends and partners are trying to be there for them, and many others are trying to diminish them. Some men are doing both at the same time.
If you truly respect women and your non-male-identifying friends, spouses and significant others, there are ways you can be supportive and ways you absolutely should not. Here’s a short list:
Don’t tell us to relax or calm down.
Our feelings are valid. We have witnessed a man with multiple sexual assault accusations brought against him be elected our primary leader. We have seen fellow Americans laugh at and dismiss “locker room talk,” we have been forced to accept misogynistic jokes and bold assertions of assault. We are being told to suck it up. We are being told we do not matter. Don’t add to that.
Don’t laugh at us.
I’m not talking about the derisive belly laugh you’re picturing. Of course, you wouldn’t do that. But do not smile as we cry, in that uncomfortable, awkward space between us and you. Breathe in that discomfort. Understand it. Internalize it. Do not allow your biological self-defense mechanisms to distance you from this.
Don’t be edgy.
The devil needs no advocate. Telling us that we’re wrong about how bad this could be is gas-lighting. Words were said and those words mean things. We must believe our victims. Remember, Trump has gleefully recounted “the good old days” when people used to be “carried out on stretchers” for voicing dissent.
Don’t ask us to look for a silver lining.
Many of us are injured to our core. We’ve found out that about half of America supports someone whose words suggest he believes us to be liars, to be less than, to be uppity and undeserving. We’ve been told in no uncertain terms that our reproductive freedom will be revoked. We are living under the threat that many of our human rights could be taken away. We do not have to be optimistic right now. We have to mourn. Let us. Mourn with us.
Don’t say that it’s time to put differences aside and work for a better democracy.
Trump is not politics as usual. He has made it clear he does not respect the rules of this country, the Constitution. He may go back on those words and play by the rules set out before him, but we reserve the right to eye him carefully until we see that start to happen. We do not need to rally around his hateful rhetoric for the good of our nation. We need to fight against that rhetoric normalizing. That is working for a better democracy.
Don’t tell us everything will be OK or ask us to put faith in God.
You don’t know things will be OK, and the idea of God from other religions is currently under attack. Instead, help us make solid plans for self-care and recovery until we’re strong enough to put faith in ourselves and our country again.
Simply be with us quietly.
Hold our hands. Listen when we speak. Try to envision the world we see opening before us. Allow us our personhood.
Use your privilege to talk to your peers.
Tell them what we’ve told you. It is up to you to help bridge this gap. The type of men and women who voted for Donald Trump likely cannot hear the people fighting for their rights and lives. They can only hear words from those they assume to be wise leaders, white men.
Support us in our actions.
If we go to a protest or an organizing event, come with us. Lend us strength, not only in your presence and solidarity, but against those that might harass and harm us, but who still decide to respect you.
Take action yourselves.
Read our Constitution, look up the historical struggle of people of color and women in this nation, arm yourselves with the contextual basis of racism and misogyny in this country so you can help us fight it.
Do not talk over us.
In your fervor to help, do not talk over us, step on us, or elevate yourself to a mouthpiece of our pain. Lend your voice to the chorus that is ours.
Together we can make America great. Not again. Possibly for the first time in its history.