After three months of living with Donald Trump and hoping for the best, I continue to be dumbfounded by the strength of his support among women. We know 53% of white women supported him in the last election. (“Feminist Fall,” by Jessa Crispin, New Republic, March 2017.) Why they continue to feel well-served by this sexual predator and think of themselves as liberated leaves me to conclude they don’t fully understand feminism.
One woman enthusiast tried to rationalize her support. Because Trump is a successful businessman she said, he made her feel empowered. He understands, “I have the right and capability to make my own decisions and live the life I choose for myself.” (Ibid pg. 17.)
Her statement reflects a huge leap of faith, lacking any foundation, and ignores gains women achieved through the Labor Movement and political activism. But the real disappointment is she has a mistaken notion of the movement. Feminism isn’t solely about gender parity, which women have yet to achieve. Feminism is about breaking stereotypes and advancing inclusive values. That’s why it embraces Black Lives Matter, Transgender and gay rights and family leave for working men.
In the 1960s, the movement may have taken a wrong turn. To project their values, women thought they had to walk and talk like a man. They donned suits and ties and tried to mimic “the boys.” Later, some rebelled. They chose to accentuate their sensuality, tackling old prejudices about a women’s body head on. But as Jessa Crispin’s essay, “Feminist Fall,” suggests, issues about self-empowerment aren’t, strictly speaking, feminist values. They are male values. “When feminism can be used as a way to justify support for a candidate who boasts about groping women without their consent, and when broader female access to executive perches in Wall Street and Silicon Valley gets treated as some sort of movement-wide victory, then something clearly has gone wrong with our understanding of what feminism is and can do.” (Ibid pg. 17.)
When we advance feminist values, we are advancing ideas about harmony not only with each other but with every living species on the planet. Ultimately, we are talking about Mother Earth or Gaia. No feminist, man or woman, could support Donald Trump’s values. How many women occupy C-suites comes near to irrelevance because feminism is about lifting poor women, working women, people of color, ethnic or other minorities out of poverty and social oppression.
Crispin hits the nail on the head when she writes, “The liberation of women entail[s] nothing less than the overthrow of old systems based upon competition, greed and power.” (Ibid pg. 17) Until a majority of women understand that message, they will continue to mistake patriarchal values for feminism.