Sunday, July 30, 2017
Feminists are the problem dontcha know?
I wrote a piece for DAME Magazine this week in which I explain why I believe (have always believed) that the first woman president will most likely be a conservative. It starts off with some discussion of what happened in 2016:
How many different ways can we get the message that women don't count? Just this morning, in fact, two female GOP senators who have consistently voted against the repeal-and/or-replace health-care bill—even as one of them has been threatened by the secretary of the Interior—were overshadowed by Senator John McCain, who swanned in with his surprise "no" vote, and guess who emerged the hero? McCain's vote even moved Democratic senator Chuck Schumer to tears—but he seemed unmoved by Murkowski and Collins, and even the disabled activists who put their bodies on the line.
At least Schumer is consistent, because earlier in the week, as he unveiled the Democrats' new slogan and strategy—"A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future"—it seems pretty clear that both parties have decided to run against Hillary Clinton in 2018, pushing their truism that it was the terrible Democratic candidate who did herself in. That narrative of the campaign was set in the early days of national stunned disbelief when various pundits and political players with axes to grind told the tale of a group of angry white working-class men whom Clinton allegedly ignored in favor of a campaign which foolishly assumed that in 2016, a majority of Americans were decent people who would be persuaded to reject the most openly misogynist, bigoted demagogue in modern political memory.
She was right about that. She won 3 million more votes than he did. But some quirks of the system gave Donald Trump the victory anyway when the Republican party united behind him and cobbled together a decisive electoral college victory. Nobody could call it a democratic result but by the archaic rules of the electoral college he became president and she was relegated to diving into a bottle of Chardonnay and wandering the Chappaqua woods.
And women all over the country muttered under their breath, "Yep. Even when we get the highest score, we still don't get the job." We simply don't count, no matter what we do.
Women are half the population but only hold 20 percent of the political representation in the U.S. federal government. We place 100th in the world for female political representation with only 20 percent of offices held by women. The business press cheered wildly at the news that the share of women CEOs surged in the last year—from 4 percent to 6 percent. Women comprised just 7 percent of Hollywood film directors last year, down 2 percent from the year before. Across the board American women are lagging in leadership posts in absolute terms and in comparison to other nations.
As the early days of shock turned into an inchoate need to vent and share, women's frustration and despair found at least some expression in the woman's march which morphed into a grassroots movement that is working all over the country to resist the Trump administration and elect Democrats to office. Nonetheless, it became clear that any talk of the election as an illustration of the enduring sexism and misogyny in our culture was not going to be tolerated.
As Rebecca Traister chronicled in her brilliant post-election profile in New Yorkmagazine, when Hillary Clinton herself dared to mention it as a factor in her defeat, pundits and analysts held her up for ridicule accusing her of making excuses for her own failure and demanding she apologize. When she tweeted congratulations to the new DNC chair, a well-known columnist responded with a simple command to "retire" suggesting that even having the temerity to participate in social media was unacceptable. A Daily News columnist put it more bluntly: "Hillary Clinton, shut the f— up and go away already.”
And women who voted for Clinton got the message, loud and clear. It wasn't just about her. It was about them too. As the New Yorker's Daniel Kibblesmith satirically remarked, "It is time for Hillary Clinton to disappear from our magazine covers and our television screens, and gracefully retire from public life. Ideally, taking all other women with her."
But the fact that nobody wants to reckon with the truth does not change the fact that sexism did play a role—a big one—one so big that, if you stop and think about it, is so obvious it's shocking that there's even any controversy. After all, the reaction of the Republican party to what everyone assumed was be the inevitable nomination of the first woman presidential nominee was to choose a man so crudely misogynist that he was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women and getting away with it. Republican voters wore T-shirts that said "Don’t be a pussy. Vote for Trump"; "Trump that Bitch"; "Hillary Sucks, but not like Monica"; and "Hillary for Prison." They sold pins that had pictures of a boy urinating on her name. And that's just for starters.
These lovely items weren't just produced on the sly by enterprising entrepreneurs catering to the fringe. They were sold at the Republican National Convention, the gathering which introduced the nation to the "lock her up" chants that resembled nothing so much as an angry 16th-century mob hysterically demanding a witch burning.
It was vulgar, rank misogyny. It was primal. It was explicit. And unlike the crude subterranean racism that roiled beneath President Obama's two races, it was sanctioned by the highest reaches of the GOP and celebrated before a national television audience. And yet we are supposed to pretend that it didn't happen. And if it did, the woman was asking for it because she was a terrible candidate, even though she won 3 million more votes.
Despite the virtual gag order on talking about sexism in 2016, there have been some intrepid souls who have analyzed polling data and it backs up what we all saw with our own eyes. The Blair Center Poll from the Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society at the University of Arkansas polled 3,668 individuals immediately after the election using the Modern Sexism Scale, a tool similar to those employed by social scientists to detect racial resentment. They asked people to agree or disagree on a scale of one to ten with the following statements:
Many women are actually seeking special favors, such as hiring policies that favor them over men, under the guise of asking for “equality.”
Most women interpret innocent remarks or acts as being sexist.
Feminists are seeking for women to have more power than men.
When women lose to men in a fair competition, they typically complain about being discriminated against.
Discrimination against women is no longer a problem in the United States.
The results are very thorough and complex and show that the 2016 electorate was very much in the grip of sexism. 36.2 percent were clearly sexist and another 16.7 were neutral, although if you have a neutral response to those questions it's a good indication that you aren't exactly a crusader for women's rights. Over half the public has a pretty low opinion of women and their response to those questions explains why nobody wants to hear about it.
Please click over to read on about why the majority of white women voted for Trump, how the GOP became so sexist and why they are still able to produce a woman leader from time to time without disturbing the patriarchal system. Phyllis Schlafly came up with a formula that not only served conservative women but served the conservative movement as a whole.
And, by the way, I do hope fervently that I am wrong and that it will be a feminist who becomes the first woman president. One got more votes last time, so it's certainly not impossible. But any liberal feminist woman is going to have some big hills to climb even within her own coalition.
digby 7/30/2017 09:30:00 AM