November 5, 2016; New York Times
In the Sunday New York Times, Jill Filipovic does a quick and searing feminist analysis of the dynamics that have propelled this election season. It’s well worth reading—not in preparation for voting, but for what comes later.
In it, she asserts:
After eight years of our first black president, for many of the men used to seeing their own faces reflected in the halls of power, this trend away from white male authority has simply become intolerable.
Mr. Trump offers dislocated white men convenient scapegoats—Mexicans, Muslims, trade policies, political correctness—and promises to return those men to their rightful place in society. With his string of model or actress wives, his beautiful pageant girls on competitive parade and his vulgar displays of wealth, Mr. Trump embodies a fantasy of masculine power reclaimed. Mrs. Clinton, an unapologetically ambitious woman running to take the place of a trailblazing, successful black man, symbolizes all the ways in which America has moved on—and in her promises to help alienated men catch up is the implicit expectation that they, too, must change.
This is one of those moments when we need to consider the things that systems do to resist change. For one thing, they try to correct for the forces that threaten to unbalance stasis. Most NPQ readers have watched carefully and even participated in many of the movements for race and gender equity in this country—for the inclusion of the marginalized. And with the advancement of those movements, there was no way, in systems terms, this was not going to create a prolonged shriek of protest. And, through all of that, it becomes especially important to keep a set of goals in sight, as excruciating as it sometimes feels.
Filipovic writes that whichever way the election goes, our work will be cut out for us. “It’s impossible to say whether a female president would help normalize female power and heal some of the rifts made visible by this election,” she tenders, “or if she would so enrage many men that these gaps will only cleave wider.”
“The men feminism left behind” she writes, “pose a threat to the country as a whole. They are armed with their own facts and heaps of resentment, and one electoral loss, even a big one, will not mean widespread defeat. Other Republican candidates are no doubt observing Mr. Trump’s rabid fan base and seeing a winning strategy for smaller races in certain conservative, homogeneous locales.”
Filipovic ends with a dreamy kind of appeal for men to get in touch with, if not their feminine sides, then at least something more gender-fluid. Still, her warning is a reminder that we have miles to go before we sleep, no matter what happens today at the polls—but our journey so far should make us immeasurably proud.—Ruth McCambridge