Donald Trump has grabbed America by the pu**y, and it’s women who will suffer…
The US election was a choice between a good woman and a terrible man, and the terrible man won.
A while ago, a friend set me a problem. “Why,” he asked, “is feminism structurally weak?” Feminism should, after all, be a dazzling powerful political movement. Women marginally outnumber men. The evidence that we are the subjugated class is everywhere, from the wage gap to sex ratio in senior jobs to our woeful absence from political positions to the grim inequality of the housework split to the daily drip-drip-drip of advertising telling us exactly how wrong our bodies are.
Those things should fit together into a simple plan: get the biggest gang together and force the other side to turn over what’s ours by right. But this has never happened, and today it has failed to happen on a tragic, global scale. Donald Trump has beaten Hillary Clinton because he was a man running against a woman. There are many ways to dress up his victory, but only one that explains it. This was a referendum on sex roles, and America voted racist penis.
It didn’t uniformly vote penis, of course. The popular vote was tight, and a lot of Americans looked at the two candidates and chose the one with political experience and principles over the failed businessman voicing barely coherent demagoguery. This was not a “hard choice between two flawed candidates” or a hunt for “the lesser of two evils”, however much the press insisted it was, and however much many people reflexively felt this to be true. This was a choice between a good woman and a terrible man, and the terrible man won, because being a man is more valuable than being good.
The spurious anxiety about Clinton’s emails (a “scandal” in which she was only guilty of making the same mistake that Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice had made before her and using personal email for government business, sloppy but hardly the height of corruption) stood in for a general feeling that something must be wrong with her. Indeed, for her whole career, she’s been told she’s wrong. She’s been called a feminazi, and accused of being a phony feminist sellout. She’s been criticised for smiling too much, and for not smiling enough. She’s been labelled a Communist, as well as a neoliberal Wall Street crook.
She’s none of those things. But she is female, and that is the unforgivable thing. Of all the things that I am raging over today – the racism, the lies, the hideous irrelevance of the sexual assault allegations against Trump – perhaps what I’m most angry with is my own confidence that this time being female might not matter. Yet, it mattered when the Democrats found themselves suddenly, mysteriously drawn towards the whimsical radicalism of Bernie Sanders. It mattered when the Republicans chose as their opponent to Clinton a man who represented everything about entitled white male fury. Nothing in this election has mattered more than the fact that Clinton is a woman.
So it’s not just a painful irony that the man she’s lost to is the man who bragged about grabbing women by the pussy: it’s a democratic statement of women’s place in the world. Every #Bernieorbust voter who felt OK picking Jill Stein but not a woman who could actually win: this is your president.
Every self-professed liberal who’s said “I’d love a woman leader… just not this woman”: this is your president too. You looked down into the Trumpian abyss and saw the violence, the cosiness with Putin, the KKK endorsement, and yes, you saw the pussy-grabbing too; and you weighed all that against a woman in power, and decided you just weren’t ready to let her have her chance yet.
That includes women as well as men, of course. Because one of the reasons we – meaning women as a class – have never managed to properly get our shit together is that it’s very easy, and very seductive, for us to think of ourselves as “people” first. The trouble with being a large and disempowered class is that it’s easier to flit your affiliation to the group in charge than it is to organise several million downtrodden people. Meanwhile, men continue to think of themselves as the only kind of people that matter. Women do not “vote with our vaginas”, as a rule. Maybe it’s time we looked into that.
Because, as bad as Clinton’s loss is symbolically for women, the practicalities of it are going to be even worse. A conservative justice on the Supreme Court could kill off Roe vs Wade for good. Clinton’s platform explicitly included plans to legislate for maternity leave and fight against male violence; Trump is not so much a step backwards as a boot in the face for those issues. We’ve been told so many times that feminism is winning, has won, has gone too far. Our revolution never even arrived, and today we meet the backlash.