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After the election of Donald Trump–we will not mourn. We will organize

The Guardian – By Gloria Steinem – Thursday 10 November 2016

bonnie-schaefer-gloria-steinem-then-and-now
Photo: Gloria Marie Steinem is an American feminist, journalist, and social and political activist, who became nationally recognized as a leader and a spokeswoman for the feminist movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

This is a time of great danger, as most of us try to escape control by some of us, and old hierarchies reassert themselves. The risk is great, but so is the prize.

In my country, the white-lash and the man-lash have just created President Donald Trump, an unqualified candidate who came up not through politics, but through inheriting money, a gift for bullying, and being on television.

Though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, Trump won enough to get a majority of electoral votes. That was a move to the right not unlike Brexit and the rule of Prime Minister Modi in India. Yet I also have to admit that, in answer to the question I’m most often asked, I hoped but never quite believed I would see a female president in my lifetime. At least, not a woman like Hillary Clinton.

If a first female president were someone like, say, Margaret Thatcher, Sarah Palin, or another woman who knew how to play the game and win, I wouldn’t have been surprised. But Hillary Clinton didn’t just play the game; she changed the rules.

She insisted that women’s rights are human rights, that women can decide the fate of our own bodies, that workers of all races should get paid the same as white men for the same work, that fathers can and should be equal parents, that women’s rights and children’s rights should be fundamental to foreign policy, and that global warming was a reality. That’s why she was, and always has been, supported more by women than by men, more by voters of color than by white voters, and more by scientists than creationists. It’s also why she is deeply and vehemently resented.

There have always been women who could have changed the game. I was in college when Margaret Chase Smith became the first US senator to oppose Joe McCarthy, the Donald Trump of his day. Later, she also became the first woman whose name was placed in nomination for the presidency by a major party convention, yet that was as far as she got. In 1972, I ran as a delegate pledged to congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, a candidate for the presidency. Though she was only on the ballot in 14 states, she spoke out against the Vietnam war, and against racism and sexism in education and politics. In the public imagination, she single-handedly took the “white male only” sign off the White House door.

The truth is that for two and a half centuries, this country has excluded females of every race from its top leadership; also the 40% of males who are African American, Hispanic, Jewish, or otherwise seen as needing an adjective; also the 5% who identify as gay or lesbian; and also the 60% who can’t afford to purchase a college degree. There has been only one president who wasn’t married, and none who was openly atheist or agnostic. Add this up, and we’ve been selecting our top leadership from 10% of our talent at most. We may be giving birth to democracy, but there will be years of labor to come.

That’s why electing Barack Obama was such a crucial beginning. We were rewarded by his intellect and gift for unifying, his cool head and warm heart. I believe he will be remembered as a great president, yet he, too, was often paralyzed by corporate and religious powers that are deeply racialized and gendered, and include a male cult of guns. Sometimes I thought that, if his opponents had cancer and Obama had the cure, they wouldn’t accept it.

Though in public opinion polls, rightwing issues were rarely supported by more than a third of the country, their representatives were elected and re-elected by unlimited corporate contributions, gerrymandering by state legislatures, and low voter turnout. They took and kept control of the once centrist Republican party that had produced Margaret Chase Smith and was the first to support the equal rights amendment.

Now, we need to be aware that this obstructionist minority is still hooked on hierarchy and still opposed to issues of equality. Add the fact that many men, especially powerful men, haven’t seen a female authority since childhood, and they felt unmanned, threatened, and regressed by the prospect of Hillary Clinton in the most powerful position in the world. Add those white Americans who are about to become a minority for the first time, and are opposed to everything from birth control (because it lowers the white birthrate disproportionately) to immigration (because it doesn’t have racial and religious restrictions). Of course, this is guilt talking: they fear being treated as they have treated others. Finally, there is free-floating misogyny, hostility to Washington, and real economic suffering, all of which Donald Trump exploited, incited, or exposed. The result is: a lot.

I’m being realistic, not negative. Almost every issue of equality now has majority support in public opinion polls, ideas of race and gender are changing, activism and iPhones are exposing the racial violence that has always been there, sexual assault from the campus to the military is no longer hidden, and Trump’s very public misogyny has unified women, educated men and inspired activism. It’s the Anita Hill effect, but deepened and multiplied. Trump has helped to expose desperation among those jobless and working poor who support him only because they oppose Washington.

It is also telling that the angry third or so of this nation are desperate enough to support a soft and, by stereotypical standards, un-masculine man like Donald Trump. He inherited his power, has no athletic or military record and no financial success earned on his own, has cheated the hard-working white male constituency he now courts, behaves as a sexual predator toward women that alpha males are supposed to protect, and sports cotton candy hair and suit jackets that fly open to reveal a gelatinous mass. Though a man’s word is supposed to be his bond, his own lawyer warned: “Donald is a believer in the big lie theory. If you say something again and again, people will believe you.” To paraphrase the great Mary McCarthy, his every word is a lie, including “and” and “the”.

At times like this, Gandhi used to say, “The truth is revealing itself.” Because Trump came up through mainstream corporate media that depend on ratings and ads, not through a political party, media must take responsibility and refuse to give the next un-fact-checked despot the estimated $2bn in free exposure that was given to Trump. Centrist Republicans must also take back their shattered party from extremists. And even in this moment, we have to recognize that electing one African American president and nominating one potential female president was only a beginning. We all will have to learn that the president can only hold a finger to the wind. We must become the wind.

The truth has been revealed. The next few years are going to be hell. However, we know from family violence – the paradigm of all violence that isn’t in self-defense – that the most dangerous time is the moment just before or just after escape. This is when a person is most likely to be beaten or killed because she or he is escaping control.

I think this country is in a time of danger because most of us are escaping control by some of us. Just as we would never tell a woman, man or child to stay in a violent household, we will never go back to the old hierarchy. Despite ongoing threats, at home and in other countries, including a very racialized and gendered terrorism, we have many leaders who inspire democracy, who model it, and who know we are linked, not ranked.

gloria-steinem
Photo: Recent pic of Gloria Steinem early feminist leader from the 1960’s and 1970’s and still active.

Read entire article here

PS For all of us early fighters for feminism who know that we probably won’t see a women president in our lifetimes–we will not give up the fight for equality and freedom. We will continue to look at the progress we have gained and leave it to our daughters and granddaughters to carry on the fight. There is no bigger conspiracy in the world right now than suppressing over half of the population–females!

Posted by Teri Perticone

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