I want to talk about misogyny. Not your default, patronizing, overtly sexist misogyny of the Mad Men male. Not even your blatant, boorish, intimidating misogyny of the sort we have seen gorilla knuckling around media platforms this last year and a half. No, I am talking about female misogyny: the mistrust, denigration, and fear of women—especially powerful women—by other women.
Female misogyny elbowed its crude way into my head during the primary season, when (like Stephen Colbert, I gag to say his name) Donald Trump let loose the first of his galling attacks on “the fairer sex.” We know the litany of those attacks like Catholics know their prayers: Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina, Rosie O’Donnell and Ariana Huffington, the beauty queen Alicia Machado. Fat. Pig. Slob. Dog. Disgusting animal. And then, the gloriously transparent and full-frontal video that ankled its way out of its cement footbath last week to resurface in the Washington Post. As each of these reality TV/Howard Stern episodes revealed its tawdry head on national television, there sat at the rallies, behind Il Duce II, the exuberant, waving, white women.
What are these women thinking? I ask myself. How can they, in the 21st century, support an ape like Donald Trump? How can they laugh and jeer at his comments about women’s menstrual periods and dogfaces and piggy bodies? How can they ignore that video in which he crows about kissing women without their consent, grabbing them by the pussy, and appropriating them for his use like some disposable object?
I have come to the conclusion that such female Trump supporters—palpitating to the image of a strongman, in the grip of their hope for a Messiah (always male) to redeem us of our presumed collapse into liberal perfidy, so hopelessly indoctrinated by our patriarchal culture—such women automatically display a deep and innate suspicion of powerful women who dare to demand rights for other women. Such women have a deep-seated misogyny against their own sex.
No, you might argue, it is just a clash between conservative values and liberal values. Some of these women might have supported Carly Fiorina after all. Except that Carly Fiorina—offering equally feeble qualifications for the top office in the land as her main rival—was easily and early on swept away by Trump, despite the backlash for denigrating her looks on national television.
The most disturbing and startling manifestation of female misogyny shouted out to me from my Facebook page yesterday. It was an echo of the mob mentality Trump’s followers have displayed when calling for Hillary Clinton’s arrest over the supposed criminality of deleting those emails. And it came from my twin sister, a Franciscan nun. My sister had shared a clip showing the moment Donald Trump, during the second town-hall style presidential debate, growled at Hillary, “You’d be in jail.” A friend of my sister’s replied to the post, saying that she’d stood up and cheered when Trump threatened Hillary with imprisonment. My sister “liked” the reply and agreed that she had cheered too.
We are talking about a Catholic nun, folks. What does it take for a nun to support a man whom the Pope himself declared not a Christian? An adulterous husband with children from three different women? A man who perpetrated a dangerous and defamatory lie about our president’s birth? A self-proclaimed billionaire who has swindled contractors and workers, has lost several fortunes on bad business deals, and almost certainly has not paid federal income taxes for twenty years? A xenophobic man who identifies with Vladimir Putin and vows to build a wall on the Mexican border to keep out those “Mexican rapists and murderers”? A man who defames a whole group of human beings based on their religion? A civilian who never served in the military and yet denigrates Senator McCain for having survived a brutal internment as a Vietnam POW? A 69-year-old braggart, narcissist, creep who has said he would date his own “hot” daughter if he were not related to her? And finally, a lascivious predator who, at the age of 59, was recorded boasting about hitting on a married woman and forcing himself on other women, about impulsively kissing them and grabbing them by the pussy?
What kind of Bizarro world have we entered?
I realize that conservatives like my sister vote Republican because they fear a liberal shift in the makeup of the Supreme Court. That they deplore abortion and gay marriage and fear that our country is going the way of Sodom and Gomorrah. That they equate patriotism with our military might, respect for law and order, and the national myths perpetrated through John Wayne movies. (Don’t you just love the scene in The Quiet Man, when John Wayne drags Maureen O’Hara, tripping and falling, from the train station down to the village?) Conservatives are afraid, very afraid. They sense the coming loss of demographic power based on membership in their shared white, European, Christian heritage, part of which is the comforting image of the strong, protective male leader. And the only way to make sense of the ever more rapidly changing landscape is to see others’ rights and freedoms as a direct violation of their own, especially in the religious arena.
I don’t dismiss their concerns about fiscal responsibility, conflict of interest regarding the Clinton Foundation and the State Department, jobs, and what they see as an erosion of their way of life. I respect their convictions if not their beliefs. But I do not understand how they can subvert those convictions in this election year by supporting an absolutely reprehensible man transparently gaming the political system for his own ego and gain. The only sense I can make of it is that, “something [else] is going on here.”
And that something else is good old Christian Patriarchy. My sister and I were raised in a Roman Catholic family with a strong male presence. My mother was not submissive, and I think she chafed under the assumptions of the day, that the man wore the pants. Still, I am pretty sure she laughed when Jackie Gleason threatened to knock his wife’s head off. My father was old-school working class dominant. After him came two older brothers, then an older sister, and finally my sister-the-sister and me. We youngest siblings were both primed for patriarchy (as was our older sister, now a retired CEO and happily married lesbian). But somehow the changes of the 60s and 70s swept the older sister and me left of center, while my twin entrenched herself on the right and, under the influence of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and that ilk, drifter further and further in that direction.
My sister lives in a system where men are fathers and women are sisters. A system founded on a core virtue of obedience to male authority. A system that recognizes only two sacramental roles for women: the Convent or marriage. Either way the woman is subservient to the man. The man knows best. I am exceedingly close to my twin, but I know that in questions of judgment she will always defer not to my incredibly smart, compassionate, and wise sister (and God knows not to me, an early defector from the Church) but to my brothers. Just as my father could not be faulted, my brothers are the embodiment of good and right for her. That they are Christians enhances their claim to wisdom, but I have to conclude that their gender does as well. They are voting for Trump, one—the businessman and family patriarch—just to shake things up in Washington; the other—ex cop and Fox News devotee, because he has drunk the Kool-Aid of vitriol against “Crooked Hillary” and would, at any rate, never depart from the GOP ticket.
Sure, I have questions about Hillary. But her history, policies, and keen intelligence far outweigh my concerns about her relationship with Wall Street or deleted emails or for God’s sake her husband’s infidelities. And the sheer revulsion her opponent’s sexism, racism, xenophobia, arrogance, mendacity, and general thuggery generate in me makes me all the more ready to combat the misogyny directed at her by males and females alike.
Though Madeleine Albright suffered a backlash from younger women for her Second Wave feminist inspired comments in support of Hillary’s candidacy, I do think “there is a special place in hell for women” who follow the male misogynist’s dirty political playbook this election season. And after the spectacle last Sunday of the apoplectic, predatory Trump snorting and hovering and glowering around his opponent, I do ask women who gleefully and unconscionably cheer his threats to jail Hillary this one question: “Have you no shame?”