Being a feminist right now feels foolish and pointless. It is not what we would want for our daughters, writes Alison O’Connor
t’s difficult to escape the conclusion that parenting advice to today’s daughters should be to curb your ambition, carry a can of pepper spray in your handbag, and learn early on how to turn a deaf ear.
There is a real worry that to continue to raise our girls to believe in feminist ideals — the belief that men and women are equal and should be treated as such — is a fool’s errand and will not serve them well in life.
In the 10 days or so since the election of Donald Trump as the US president, the shock has gotten less acute.
But it has mutated into a horrible dread about what Trump in the White House will mean for the world over the next four years.
If his part of the campaign was utterly devoid of common decency, it’s impossible to see that quality being introduced as part of his presidency.
For women, there is a very legitimate need to feel afraid, to be on guard, not to be seen to overreach.
Just two weeks ago, I would have said I believed feminism would ultimately only succeed when the movement managed to enlist more men as advocates working on behalf of women, persuading other men, from the inside, that this was a cause worth supporting.
But now that sort of naive thinking seems better applied to the la la land I apparently lived in prior to that US election where more than 60m people voted for Donald Trump and that included just more than half of white female voters.
It is that female vote which truly defies belief, and induces such distress.
As US comedian Samantha Bee described it, a majority of white women, faced with the historic choice between the first female president and “a vial of weaponized testosterone” said “I’ll take option B. I just don’t like her”.
There are some small consolations, such as that one female group strongly supported Clinton, and that was young women. She won women 18- to 29-year-old 63% to 31%. She did address these young women in her concession speech.
“To all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion,” she said.
“And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”
Really? After what Hillary herself experienced, and the stoicism which was required in order for her to stay the course of that appalling misogynistic, hate-filled campaign, it strikes me as almost irresponsible for a mother to tell her young daughter to think as big as Hillary did.
The personal price that Hillary Clinton paid for running in this campaign, full of spite and lacking all civility, is incalculable, and that would have been the case even if she had won.
It was never the case that Hillary was going to perform miracles for the feminist cause during four years in the White House, no more than Barack Obama could for black people.
But her election would have meant so much, and been such a beacon to point to for young women and girls.
In hindsight, of course she should have properly addressed the issues of her integrity, and she was too easy a target in terms of being aligned with money and with elites, not to mention being aligned with her husband Bill.
But so much of what went on was simply to do with the fact that she was female.
That femaleness of the Democrat candidate, combined with Trump’s misogyny towards all women, was whipped up into a monstrous cocktail which saw him take the big prize.
So not only did we lose the opportunity of the first female president of the US, but the feminist cause was set back immeasurably.
This is not just a man with respect issues when it comes to women but one who divides the female race into two — those who are attractive and should consider themselves immediately flattered by his aggressive sexual attentions, and those “dogs” and “slobs” who, as he sees it, are ugly, and fit for no more than the scrap heap.
Should President Trump run out of ideas on how he might further oppress women, he will surely be assisted by his chief strategist in the White House Stephen Bannon. Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News, a hard-right US news website does not just dislike women, but clearly despises them.
It’s worth checking out some of the past Breitbart headlines: ‘Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?’, ‘There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews’. ‘Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy’, and, last but not least, ‘The Solution to Online ‘Harassment’ Is Simple: Women Should Log off’.
In a radio interview in 2011, Bannon referred to certain professional women as “a bunch of dykes” and compared them unflatteringly to women such as Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter, the conservative US commentator. He said there were some “unintended consequences” of the women’s liberation movement.
“That, in fact, the women that would lead this country would be pro-family, they would have husbands, they would love their children. They wouldn’t be a bunch of dykes that came from the Seven Sisters schools up in New England. That drives the left insane, and that’s why they hate these women.”
It seem utterly unbelievable to be even reading such things let alone the person responsible for saying them or publishing them, is the newly appointed right-hand man of the US president-elect and they both appear to be of the one mind on such matters.
I’ve had some men (needless to say not gay men or trans or from minorities) say to me in recent days that it is time to “get over” the upset of Trump being elected, and that it won’t be all bad. But the truth is it has already happened.
What we saw and heard over the last few months went way beyond bad, and that was before the man got into power.
The gap between the genders has widened hugely, not necessarily with men actively agreeing with Trump, although clearly many do, but simply by men, from the privileged position of being white and male, being unable, or unwilling, to recognise and identify with the devastation wrought by Trump’s election.
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