At 16, I knew everything. Had I been truly wise, I’d have dropped out of school and kept my good opinion of myself. As it stands, the older I get, the less I know. Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair, seems to share my state of bewilderment. (“From 9/11 to 11/9” by Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair, Dec/Holiday ed. 2016, pg. 42.) Writing about the recent presidential election, he marvels that the country has put its faith in a man with 75 lawsuits pending against him, two them for fraud. What’s more, by the president-elect’s own words and based on complaints registered by a number of his victims, he is a womanizer who gropes them without their consent. Even so, as Carter observes, 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump in the last election.
When I read that last statistic, I asked how it could be that so many women supported a sexual predator? What trick of mind allowed them to give their vote to a male who treats them as inferior creatures? Have they forgotten that as late as the 1900s, women fought to overturn laws defining them as chattel? (Click) By way of comparison, can anyone imagine that 53% of African Americans would vote for a man who proposed to stimulate our economy by returning to slavery?
I understand a woman’s self-doubts are many. She hears of her inferiority from the mother who expects no more of her than that she marry well. She’s learned it from the pulpit, from the mores of society and the laws of our nation. The notion of inferiority is so ingrained that had I been given a $1.00 for every woman who has admitted she’d “never vote for a woman,” I would have retired in splendor.
In “Minor Threat,” Hannah Levintova explores the depth of this bias in the juvenile justice system. (Mother Jones, September 2016, pg. 37-41, 64) The disparity in the way boys and girls are treated is remarkable. Because of their gender, girls are likely to spend extended periods of time in lockup for minor infractions, like bad language Though the sin is paltry, the perception is that these young ladies are “in danger of becoming morally depraved.” (Ibid pg. 39.) Based on her review, Levintova concludes the juvenile system is “stacked against girls from the start.” (Ibid pg. 39.)
Many of us see this disparity in our society. We understand a river of misogyny runs deep and wide in America. But how do we free women caught in the matrix? Women who live with their eyes wide shut? In this last election, 53% of white women and 39% of all women preferred to trust their abuser rather than trust someone of their gender. These statistics are stunning.
Madeleine Albright has written that women who don’t help other women have a special place in Hell. I fear a situation far worse. If those of us who cherish our modicum of progress don’t find a way to free the chattel-minds of our sisters, after the next few years of regressive leadership, even Hell won’t take us.