Part three of the Everyday Empowerment series for women and girls
TWENTY years ago I argued with a newspaper colleague that America would elect a black president before it would elect a woman. “No way!” he said, “Racism is still endemic in the US.” It shocked me that an educated white man had no trouble identifying America’s pervasive racial hatred but was completely blind to the misogyny that ran just as deep, if not deeper.
Two decades and eight years of a black male presidency later, that same blindness has helped elect an unashamed bigot to govern the most powerful nation in the world. Of course white racists voted for Donald Trump on Nov 8 but it was white misogynists who won it for him – male and female; Americans who would rather elect a white man with a flawed character and no experience than a white woman who is arguably the most qualified candidate ever to run for president.
Most black people, especially women, got it – 94 percent of black women voters and 80 percent of black men voted for Hillary against racism and misogyny. The additional 14 percent black female vote over the male indicates they voted intersectionally, as black and as women. It would seem that black women’s historical experience of racial oppression better places them to identify other forms of prejudice directed towards them as women.
When 63 percent of the white male vote is for Trump we can say there are a lot of sexist, racist men out there. No doubt many of them are also those disillusioned blue collar workers in the $50,000 plus income bracket we’ve been hearing so much about, though how that offers excuse or explanation for electing a tyrant is not clear. But when 53 percent of the white female vote is for a man who calls women pigs and slobs and grabs them by “the pussy” when he feels like it, we must conclude there is a lot of denial or self-loathing out there, that misogyny is woven into the white fabric of that demographic.
French philosopher, Michel Foucault, once said: “There are forms of oppression and domination which become invisible – the new normal.” But in Trump’s America the truth is this: misogyny never had the opportunity to become the new normal; it is still the old normal, the same white, male supremacist old normal he ran his campaign and won on.
Let’s not be fooled by predominantly white male commentators who would have the rest of us believe the Trump vote had nothing to do with gender or race, that it was ALL about the absence of a credible Democratic candidate (presumably a male one); a backlash against the new liberal establishment, the political elite (so they vote for the old conservative elite instead?). Of course there were other factors involved, but blaming Hillary for those who voted for such a profoundly inadequate candidate is perverse.
We can console ourselves with the fact that Hillary won the popular vote, but in the end we are allowed to be aghast that Trump was ever in the running, that his sexual assault boasts became vote winners. We are right to stand open mouthed when we see more than half of white female voters mindlessly shoot themselves (and us) in the foot; women who, like many of their male counterparts, have a perennial tendency to search for the paternalistic figures they were raised to respect, even when that respect is not reciprocated.
When asked about Trump’s degrading sexist comments, one “Babes for Trump” supporter articulated it perfectly on the BBC documentary, Trump’s Unlikely Superfans: “I think all guys are kind of like that.” Misogyny is her normal. Women like her grew up with Trumps; they are her father, brothers, uncles, colleagues. Sexism is the wallpaper of her life, as culturally familiar and universal as the golden arches.
When Hillary hit back at Trump’s “woman card” tweet, saying: “If fighting for women is playing the #WomanCard, well... Deal me in.” it didn’t rally the support it should have because the very women who needed the solution couldn’t see the problem: all guys are like that. Misogyny is so home-grown in American culture it is still that most dangerous of monsters – an invisible one. Until now.
If Barack Obama was the symbol for a post-racial America then Hillary Clinton’s demise was not only a “whitelash” but a slap across the face wake-up call for how much further we are from a post-feminist America, never mind a “malelash”. Why are we shocked? The American Women’s Rights Movement always lagged behind the Civil Rights Movement; black men gained the vote in February 1870 ― FIFTY years before women finally won suffrage in August 1920.
So why, despite everything, am I optimistic? The good (and the bad) news is this: the genie is well and truly out of the bottle – the new President of the United States of America is the world’s poster boy for rape culture. Trump’s antipathy for political correctness has at least revealed, once and for all, the ugly underbelly of America, including the “alt-right” and the “manosphere”. But this petulant, bombastic troll isn’t just what 63 percent of white American male voters look like, he is a global beacon for neofascism. The fact that some of your friends and family are okay with that makes you feel sick. Good. Nobody can pretend any more. No more denials. No more excuses. No more nicey-nicey. There is a time and a place for tolerance and collegiality and this is NOT it. There is no “working together” with a despot.
It is time to take a stand as never before: shout it from the rooftops of social media, protest in the streets, become politicized. It is time to think about who your friends are and whose side they are on. It is time to be brave, to defend our freedoms. It is time for women to march on Washington and it is time for men to stand with us.
They say the darkest hour is just before the dawn. I believe it. Trump and his followers have brazenly thrown down the gauntlet to women and men across the world. The monster is no longer invisible; it spews venom from every twitter feed and news stand across the globe and threatens our children’s futures. Will we stand by as he grabs us, our daughters, our mothers, our sisters, our wives, by “the pussy” or will we grab him by the balls right back?
On January 21, 2017, the day after Trump’s inauguration, women and men from all over America and the world will unite for the Women’s March on Washington – an inclusive protest for anyone, anywhere, who supports women’s rights. It will start and finish at the Lincoln Memorial, from 10am to 5pm, where the great Martin Luther King Jr gave his stirring I Have a Dream speech in 1963. The world will see that dream is still very much alive — and this time it is for women.