Women in the Trump Years

There is no reason for women to love this administration. It is full of men who still feel that women’s liberation was bad for men, bad for women, bad for families, for America, and for the world. At a moment when Saudi women are gaining the right to drive a car (granted by men of course), men in power in America are headed in the opposite direction.

Men want to overturn Roe v Wade, but, and this is perhaps even more worrisome, they want to take contraception away from women and families. GOP men long for the return of the Old Testament Biblical role of women as submissive to men. I have heard men in the GOP blame women for the demise of the nuclear family. (If these same men had paid their workers better families may not have required two paychecks to get ahead.) Myself, I guess I might credit God who gave women brains that are wired in such a way that they are not always best used for only child care and housekeeping, and men who claim a direct connection with the deity who do not know this.

Our political committees, more than ever, resemble some old-timey church synod. The face Congress presents is a table full of groomed and pampered old white men either looking stern as an inquisitor (Mitch McConnell) or smiling maniacally (everyone else). If Roy Moore is one of the new faces joining this group, women are in for some really biblical-level judgmental pronouncements at least or lots of supposedly holy vitriol that ends in legislation that sets women’s rights back decades at most.

What are women to think as they watch these peak years of white male backlash against women and black folks, with black women getting a double whammy? What are women to think when many white men and even some white women elect as our President a misogynist-in-chief who is so immersed in his wealthy white male privilege that he does not even believe misogyny is a real word? Men may not wear creepy white sheets with pointy masks to put women back in their place but they have access to centuries-long, tried-and-true methods to keep the little woman in line.

Fortunately, women are more empowered than ever as a group from at least four decades of meaningful work, often combined with managing busy, productive families. Collectively women are not at all intimidated by these troglodytes. But in our private moments we are worried that the progress women have made in terms of exercising autonomy may be blocked by these throwbacks, something that has happened too many times before to be at all acceptable in the 21st century.

Many women, now retired or incredibly successful in their careers, feel free to go on the attack against powerful men who have been secret Cro-Magnans for decades, forcing women to “get past them” or “show proper submission” so that they may grant these women dispensation or permission to enter this male domain, but only as humiliated acolytes. Now women can speak up about men who intimidate women through sexual abuse or the threat of sexual abuse. These women made it through the gauntlet and got rewarded with successful careers. They now can argue that this is not a true “rite of passage” but only one practiced by men with a social sickness, men who possess antisocial traits. They have an opportunity to pave a less humiliating path to success for women in the future.

Perhaps you are bothered by my rather mixed metaphors but it points out the rich mine of male imagery that descends through the literature of centuries of male dominance. Perhaps more primitive times called for more muscular behavior, but the entire arc of history brought us to this moment when brains, rather than muscles are the currency we value. Men and women may have developed in ways that allow their minds to work differently, but brain power does not vary by gender.

As a woman, what I see is that, hopefully, this administration presents to the world as a last-ditch attempt to assert white male authority in America once and for all. It looks like men are winning and that this battle of genders will go on and on, but it also looks like men are losing. They have had to “go rogue” to hold on to power. They had to create the “pod” people from disenchanted Americans caught on the downbeat side of changes they do not understand or want. They accomplished this by haranguing them 24/7 with fake news, fake political promises, fake religion, and fake sympathy. In other words men did this by cheating. But women do not intend to let the troglodytes reign again. Women, at least most women, do not seem susceptible to becoming “pod” people or falling prey to the GOP male-dominated attack on a future that will still, inevitably, arrive.

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