Misogynist-in-Chief

Nine months ago, after the release of the infamous Access Hollywood “grab ‘em by the pussy” audio footage that got Billy Bush sacked from The Today Show, my brave younger sister Jennifer wrote I Am You: An Open Letter to Trump’s Accusers and Promoters of Rape Culture. Both of these events suggested the promise of an honest conversation about the country’s regressive and damaging gender politics.

With Trump’s exposure (word deliberately chosen) as a misogynist pig of the highest magnitude, it seemed impossible that his presidential campaign could continue. After all, 51 percent of the American voting population?  Female. And for one beautiful moment, our male allies on both sides of the ideological spectrum united in rebuke at the notion of mothers, sisters, friends, wives and daughters seized by the genitals. Some of the language used to condemn Trump smacked of patriarchal appropriation (cough, Mitt Romney) but there was a brief, national consensus that a sexual predator ought not to be Leader of the Free World.

At the same time, women like my sister – a suburban wife, mother and broadcast journalism professional – seemed to reach a breaking point. Jenny’s long radio career makes her no stranger to working in a male-dominated field and the public and private discrimination and harassment that come with it. She’s tough, hardworking and certainly not a snowflake. But to read her story is to absorb the traumas of millions of American women who stopped feeling safe in their own bodies, and became aware of unequal opportunity, shortly after hitting puberty. We were tired of staying silent and refused to let Trump’s behavior become normalized for our sons and daughters. Pussygate was ugly. It was dehumanizing. It was painful. But if ever there was that overused trope, the old teachable moment, we were there.

Yet on November 8, 2016 the Misogynist won the election. The Electoral College perversity was more than an affront to a popular vote that overwhelmingly favored Trump’s opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton.  It was more than the selection of an inexperienced, proudly unread corporate grifter over the most qualified candidate to ever run for President. The real punch to the vagina was the clear opinion, articulated at the ballot box by voters of both genders, that the possession of lady parts is the ultimate leadership disqualifier.

How else to explain why white women in every demographic pulled the metaphorical lever for Trump more often than Clinton? Slate’s L.V. Anderson bespoke the November 9 anguish of the sane, Caucasian female minority and gave voice to the anger of intersectional voters: “What leads a woman to vote for a man who has made it very clear that he believes she is subhuman?…Self-loathing. Hypocrisy. And, of course, a racist view of the world that privileges white supremacy over every other issue.”

The months following the election – the effectual end of Hillary Clinton’s long career of public service, the elevation of a clownish, perverted reality television personality to the nation’s highest office, and above all, the undeniable truth that the climb from the pit of social, economic and political misogyny has barely begun – were so difficult. I stopped writing altogether. I avoided media – social and traditional – of every kind. Existential depression and disappointment. The knowledge that the country was under the executorship of a gaudy, classless and ignorant shithead who may or may not be in the pocket of Vladimir Putin. It was all too much.

But like many other Americans, male and female, I found my voice again. I stood with my Midwestern sisters at the January 21 Chicago chapter of the Women’s Marches. With renewed determination, I picked up a keyboard to critique a Trump administration that poses a cornucopia of threats to peace, security, freedom of speech and social morality.

The current occupant of the White House has brought a dizzying amount of shame and scandal upon the office and the country – in a very short time. Hateful immigration policies, withdrawals from international agreements, an illiteracy so appalling that complete sentences and a basic familiarity with American history prove too much to ask. Frederick Douglass deserves every moment of his surprising 2017 resurgence but come on…

And last week’s Twitter war between President Trump and the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe is a stark reminder that Access Hollywood is no regrettable fluke of early Aughts “boys will be boys” braggadocio. America’s leader is an active and determined misogynist. He will not be educated. He will not apologize. He will not even be discreet. However, could this ultimately work to the pissed off poon advantage?

Peter Beinart of The Atlantic writes:

“Hostile sexism seems to motivate women even when they merely observe it happening to others…There’s some evidence that Trump’s hostile sexism, as evidenced most infamously in the Access Hollywood tape released last October, has had exactly that result…”

It’s worth noting that Trump’s current approval rating with women is just 28 percent. Yes, #AllWomen. Even the white ones who’ve finally figured out that placing patriotism – and pussy – in this POTUS’ care is an act of self-annihilation.

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F is for Feminism

Let’s get a a couple of facts out of the way:

1). I’m a feminist.

2). If you respect any of the women in your life, you should be one too.

Feminism, as defined by Merriam Webster is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes,” or “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.” For the sake of this conversation, let’s use both variations as working content, rather than the ludicrous urban dictionary definition. I’m currently reading Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist and one of the core takeaways is that as long as you adhere to the basics of equality, feminism is flexible. No matter how you react a word however, the truth is there’s a lot less respect for women around the world than there should be in 2017, and a lot of this inequality flies right under our noses.

In a previous post, I mentioned that pregnancy is considered a pre-existing condition in the recent Congressionally-approved repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). However after she read my post, my mother pointed out I was playing softball. Her point: under some pre-Obamacare insurance plans, not just pregnancy, but RAPE could be classified as a pre-existing condition in some states.  If ACA is fully repealed, non-consensual sex could still be categorized as such, depending on providers and channels of coverage.

This health care onslaught against women comes at a time when we have definitions like Urban Dictionary’s crawling around the Internet (even as a “joke,” it’s highly offensive and disturbing). And there are many who treat the label “feminist” like a curse word, avoiding it altogether. What’s wrong with being an acknowledged pursuer of equal rights?

Answer: Nothing.

The “problem” is that asserting modern equality of any kind (see: Black Lives Matter) upsets the status quo and is viewed as a threat by the reproducers of ideology. Humans are capable of great change, but are too often resistant and intellectually lazy about the associated effort. But here’s the reality: women are treated unfairly. In the workplace, in interpersonal interactions, and by too many governments.

Most of you reading this are probably well aware of the gender climate. Apologies – the last thing anyone wants is another lecture from a white man. I know I’m writing from a position of privilege on complex set of issues that don’t subjugate me.  All the more reason to speak,  to push for an end to these injustices. My life has been enriched by strong women who overcame obstacles they shouldn’t have had to. As a society, we’re standing on yet another precipice of choice between advancement and regression. If I’m in a position to support and advocate, I will and I must.

The examples of regression are numerous.  Headlines display a barrage of egregious physical and political violations. Last week a ten year-old who was raped in India was granted (oh thank you justice system) permission to abort her abusive rapist’s child. This same district horrified the world in the case of a brutal gang rape, where the driver blamed the victim for “being out too late” and not what he considered a “decent girl.”

We don’t have to leave American shores to find other disgraceful examples of sexual violence that debase a women’s person-hood. Baylor University football players are accused of drugging and raping female students as a demented bonding ritual. This kind of depravity treats half a population like a commodity; a viewpoint enforced by governing bodies who attack women’s access to healthcare. Iowa just swapped out Medicaid money for state funds, which limits those funds’ usage at centers that provide essential care if they also offer abortions. Life and death decisions for women are founded on the opinions of those who can’t possibly empathize – mainly rich, white men. 

It’s almost a mistake to label the aforementioned examples “regressions.” The word ignores the history and constancy of gender inequality. Nothing here is new, but somehow it feels freshly discouraging.

Until a few months ago, a path to gender progress in American was visible. Hillary Clinton was primed to be the first female President of the United States of America. Despite constant hectoring (see this satiric compendium of everything she’s been called) voters seemed to be With Her. Instead, “Grab’em by the pussy” Donald Trump won the election, leading to the Women’s Marches as a direct response. For many the civil unrest offered hope that we haven’t lost our sanity altogether, that as a democratic nation we’ll resist all forms of tyranny. 

Maybe I’m guilty of romanticizing that moment, believing the day’s momentum would propel women forward. Easy access to healthcare, freedom from toxic slut-shaming, working side-by-side with men without the spectre of sexual harassment. But progress doesn’t move in bursts. Unfortunately it comes in fits and starts. Knowing this, let’s keep standing and protesting.

Barack and Michelle Obama: Mr. and Mrs. Frustrated, Hopeful Every American

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“I’ve been around long enough to remember presidential contests where the incumbent and his team were roundly shunned by presumed successors of the same party. Al Gore dodged Bill Clinton as much as possible in 2000, and in 2008, John McCain wisely steered clear of Dubya and his war-mongering, deficit busting tenure. This year is different. Because we have a sitting President empowered by the highest approval ratings of his second term, who cares about the progress through which he has led the American people and the threatening menace posed by an authoritarian demagogue aspiring to the White House. And he is married to a partner of equal rhetorical gifts and passion for her gender, our children and our country.

Hillary Clinton is going to make a fine Commander in Chief. She is smart, tough, experienced, empathetic and practical. But damn those Obamas are something else, aren’t they?”

Read the full post for Contemptor.

 

Come Back to the Trail Hillary: You Have Much More to Say

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“As Donald Trump’s institutionalized misogyny and penchant for sexual assault continue to grab headlines, Team Hillary remains steadfast that her perspective on these issues should be simple – she doesn’t have one. After all, her husband, former President Bill Clinton had/has his own infidelity challenges, so she can’t touch Trump’s perversions. His campaign is only too happy to jump on her own alleged aggression toward Bill Clinton’s accusers.

Allow me to dissent from the generally accepted school of thought that quiet is a good thing. A silent Clinton is not doing herself – or the nation – any favors. I’m all for Hillary’s temporary seclusion to prepare and brace for a debate tomorrow night in which anything – quite literally – could happen. With Trump in the full scorched earth mode of almost certain November defeat, she has to be ready. However I’m also inclined to agree with Joel Benenson, Clinton’s Chief Strategist and Pollster, who told The New York Times last week: ‘You take nothing for granted…You campaign all the way to the end, and you regularly look at what’s ahead and you manage time and resources to get the most value out of the candidate’s time around the country.'”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Revenge Of The Ballot: Women Don’t Need Help Or Permission To Send Trump Packing

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“Women sitting in the middle of the political spectrum, farther to the right or even the young far left may be tempted to tune me out, but I ask that you keep reading. No matter my personal belief that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified and judicious candidate for President in modern history, this piece is not trying to convince you to develop love for someone you don’t. Clinton has had decades in the public eye to either endear or alienate herself to voters for a wide variety of reasons. We’re all entitled to our opinions and comfort levels. I also wouldn’t think of asking anyone to cast a ballot in her favor simply because of gender.

But disregarding our respective public and private politics, there’s a bigger, far more malevolent force at play here that threatens to roll back just about every goddamned advance for which we’ve worked together. I speak of course of Donald Trump and his insane, dangerous, hateful campaign. This is a year that must transcend buckets (or baskets of deplorables). We’ve reached a decisive moment when every female must ask herself: “If I vote for anyone other than Hillary Clinton, will I be able to live with the consequences – and myself – on November 9?”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

For American Women, Trump Campaign An Exercise In Gallows Humor

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“As Trump’s national poll numbers continue to drop after last week’s disastrous parade of misogyny and tax dodging reveals, the impatience becomes tougher to bear. I just want this to be over already and I know I’m not alone. As a woman, as a thinking person, as a citizen of the world’s greatest democracy, I am truly and deeply aggravated, angry and offended that Donald Trump has come this far. One of our top two contenders for highest office is a “pathetic coward who can’t handle the fact that he’s losing to a girl (thank you Elizabeth Warren).”

How much longer can we find reasons to laugh through the pain?”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Debate This: Clinton Exposes Mansplaining, Creates National Dialogue

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“This past Monday night Hillary Clinton delivered a knockout debate performance against her rival and misogynist-in-chief Donald Trump. Clinton’s completely mastery of subject, pacing and gravity were no surprise to anyone who’s ever watched the former New York Senator and Secretary of State tackle issues of substance over a 30-year career. Her preparedness is legendary. Donald Trump’s pettiness, undiagnosed ADD and ignorance are of equal fame. The debate went down exactly as expected, and markets and major media outlets almost uniformly declared Clinton the winner.

An unexpected outcome of Monday evening’s contest, however, were Clinton’s moments of genuine human warmth and adorableness (the Internet is quite taken with “The Hillary Shimmy”). And with a brilliant combination of patient smiles, blank stares and steely calm, she also singlehandedly did more to expose the foolish, insulting harbingers of mansplaining that American women endure every single goddamned day of their lives.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.