I stand with the women who march: Anatomy of a backlash

January 18, 2017

Politics would make a great spectator sport. How many years did Donald Trump question President Obama’s legitimacy, spreading the cockamamie lie that he wasn’t born in America? One soft-spoken Congress member from Georgia questions Trump’s legitimacy and Baby Hands has a full scale meltdown. It’s entertaining! But it’s not funny. It’s real. And people know this and they’re getting involved. And I don’t mean on Twitter.

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Instead of focusing on the circus of Inauguration Day (No wonder Ringling Brothers is calling it quits. Who can compete!), my focus is on the day after and the Women’s March on Washington. Trump may have secured Pat Boone to sing at his event (Glad to know Pat’s still alive!), but the real star power will be in the streets with an estimated 200,000 marchers in DC. Julianne Moore, Jessica Chastain, and Chelsea Handler will be there and a lot of other women who Baby Hands will surely tweet about. (“She’s totally overrated. A real dog.”) And an estimated million people will join sister marches around the country, including here in Portland. You should see my wife and daughter there.

Unlike a lot of “pop culture feminism,” the march promises to be truly intersectional. I’ve written about intersectionality in this blog. Let’s just say, for now, that feminism doesn’t just belong to middle-class white females with degrees in Women’s Studies. The organizers of the march have made a point of making it open to all identities who see the new oppression of sexually harassing politicians as a growing problem and the liberationist positions of feminism as the solution. Their four-page statement says upfront, “Our liberation is bound in each other’s.” So expect to see bell hooks marching alongside Katy Perry and Malala Yousafzai next to Scarlett Johansson. Trump may have 3 Doors Down, but they’ve got Solange. You can read the full statement here:

Guiding Vision and Definition of Principles

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I wanted to locate this march historically and sociologically, because this isn’t just about a president who brags about sexually assaulting women. The election of Donald Trump represents a significant backlash against the empowerment and true equality of women and girls. Susan Faludi popularized the concept in her award-winning 1991 book, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. The text was a crucial theoretical component of my doctoral dissertation on the rise of racist skinheads and I just pray she is working on a 2017 edition.

So here’s the mini-version of her thesis. Faludi argues, with convincing evidence, that each time women make collective gains of empowerment there is a corresponding backlash that tries to push them back into their second class role. She lays out three historical periods in the twentieth century.

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First was the women’s suffrage movement and what has become known as first wave feminism. Among the gains made were things like access to birth control and, in 1920, the right to vote. This political empowerment was met in the 1920s with the double backlash of the flapper and the housewife. One was cute and ditzy, like cartoon Betty Boop, the other was obsessed with care for the home, the children, and a new invention, fashion magazines.  The message was clear, women don’t politically organize, they have fun or wash their hair before hubby gets home.

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The second wave was about women’s economic empowerment during World War II. As men were off at war, many women were in factories and shipyards, building the weapons of war. Their symbol was Rosie the Riveter. The federal government funded daycare. Theaters were showing films starring Betty Davis, Lauren Bacall on other dames who didn’t take any guff from men. And women had their own money with no men telling them how to spend it. When the war ended in 1945 and the men came home, it was time for women to leave the tank factory and go back to the kitchen. Betty Davis was replaced with Marilyn Monroe and the 1950s became the glamor era when women were meant to be seen and not heard. Backlash #2.

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The second wave feminist movement socially empowered women in the 1960s and 1970s. Betty Friedan’s book 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique, and her National Organization of Women brought women into the streets on a range of issues, including workplace harassment, pornography, and abortion rights. “Women’s Lib” became a part of the counterculture of the baby boom generation and every aspect of culture was inspected through  feminist lens (although it was typically a white feminist lens). The great attack on patriarchy was met with the third backlash in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan and the ultimate weapon – THE SUPERMODEL. More than ever women were bombarded with the message that they were their looks and would only lose power as they aged instead of gaining it.

It has been argued that Faludi helped launch third wave feminism in the 1990s. Third wave is more intersectional and not afraid to take on micro-aggressions along with macro power structures. But Faludi’s model would predict that the turn of century wave of personal empowerment for women (including transwomen, lipstick lesbians, Muslim feminists, and a bunch of other cool categories) would be met with yet another backlash. Who would have guessed that this backlash would have come in the form of a TV gameshow host with a fake tan, fake hair, and a wall of fake news stories.

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The new War on Women began before the Trump candidacy. But the fact that the first female major party candidate for president was defeated by a guy who runs beauty pageants and brags about never having heard his latest wife fart was the tipping point. More disturbing than Trump’s “grab ‘em by the pussy” comments were his flock, chanting “Trump the bitch” at his rallies. It was like an army of anti-feminists had suddenly been released from the gates of hell. And now their fake “Good ol boy” (Lordy) and his porn-model wife are moving into the people’s house. Don’t expect much support for women’s issues for the next four years. They’re already going after Planned Parenthood.

My cousin, Chamisa Kellogg, is in DC for the march. She’s an incredible artist who has created the piece below to commemorate this moment in history. She just sent me this message – “The ‘Pussy Grabs Back’ drawing was based on a photo I took at a protest in Portland, Oregon two days after the 2016 Presidential Election. As the Million Women’s March 2017 draws near, I find myself reiterating my goals and beliefs in gender equality, and the importance of affordable healthcare for all, including women (who may sometimes need abortions). I’m selling high-quality archival prints of this drawing on my etsy shop, and all profits from sales will go to Planned Parenthood.”

You can purchase a print at THIS LINK.

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So women will be marching in 2017 just like they marched in 1917. But the beautiful thing about Faludi’s model is the backlash never pushes women all the way back to where they were. Once women have tasted political, economic, social, and personal empowerment, that genie doesn’t go back into the bottle. It may be one step backwards, but there were two steps forward first. Donald Trump may want to make America great “again,” back to a time when women were more like Melania, seen and not “being a bitch,” counting calories and not wage gap data, but he’s looking at more than one march coming his way. The future is female.

See you in the streets.

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Douchebags, Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The perils of wounded masculinity

May 25, 2016

Last summer when I began pointing out the parallels between white supremacist tactics, fascist movements and the rhetoric of Donald Trump I felt like a lone voice in the wind. Now the concern that Trump is bringing a populist form of fascism to America is bouncing around the mainstream, from the Village Voice to the Brookings Institute. Of course, last summer I thought the Trump crazy-train would derail by Thanksgiving as Bush or Rubio became the rational choice of the Republican Party. I have never been so wrong in my life. I completely underestimated the number of deluded people willing to dive into a cult of personality. They aren’t a silent majority, they are a very noisy minority. A very noisy white minority.

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Much has been made of the fact that the core of Trump’s base is “undereducated” (Trump’s word) white males. Yeah, many of those are whites who think Latino youth in the streets of Albuquerque protesting Trump are the shape of things to come. But as important is the “male” part of the phenomenon. According to a recent Gallup poll, 7 in 10 women have a negative view of Trump. Another poll found that almost half of Republican women can’t see themselves voting for Trump. Trump doesn’t really want the minority or female vote and heaven help us all if he wins the White House without it.

I’ve been writing about how Trump reminds me of the white supremacists I’ve studied for thirty years. He also reminds me of another idiot I’ve studied; myself. He reminds me of myself before I became a feminist. Before I grew up. You have to ask yourself one question, why do women hate Donald Trump so much? Are they just “dumb bitches” who don’t understand politics? Should they just be seen and not heard and vote the way their men tell them? I think I get Trump and the thugs who love him. I used to walk in their shoes.

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Much has been written about Trump’s horrible treatment of women, especially since the recent New York Times article, “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private.” As soon as he declared his candidacy, his voluminous amount of sexist comments were trotted back out. The guy who said, “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass” might become president. Women are just eye candy for his beauty pageants and women who oppose him are “ugly.” His first wife implied that he raped her before he dumped her for one of his lovers. His groping of women is Cosby-level. And it goes on and on and he, oh, he just won another state. What the hell is going on? (And don’t dare suggest that he has small hands!)

The larger answer relates to the concept of backlash. There’s a white backlash similar to the one that Ronald Reagan, with his mythical tales of black welfare queens, rode to the presidency in 1980. They see Black Lives Matters protestors and Latino protestors threatening their special rights as whites (aka, white privilege). But there’s also gender backlash, the same one that Susan Faludi wrote about in her bestselling 1991 book. The advancement of women threatens male power and so the war on women begins again. Trump doesn’t want to have to be “politically correct” and neither do his followers. And nothing is more threatening than the prospect of a female president. After eight years of a black president, then a lady president? What’s next, a gay president? It’s hard out here for a straight white man. Save us Donald! Our essential masculinity is under attack!

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I used to buy into that kind of thinking, the zero-sum game between men and women. We were opposite sexes. I performed the role of masculinity I was taught, defending any attack by “manning up.” Then I took out a loan on a clue and went to college. Women are not the opposition, they are the salvation. Instead of dismissing them (and raping them), we should be listening to them. I tell young men the most revolutionary thing they can do is ask the women in their lives what they think and then actually listen to their answers. Donald Trump has never done that (or at least the Trump caricature he performs for his flock). And his beauty queen wife stands behind him. “He’s not Hitler!” she promises.

Here’s what makes Trump the king of the douchebags. It’s not his endless lies that his followers ignore, dismiss and excuse like battered wives who will put up with the abuse as long as the husband promises to take care of them. (“Believe me.”) It’s the simple fact that Trump cannot admit that he’s ever made a mistake. Even the bashing of Heidi Cruz was not really a mistake to him, he just wishes he’d done it differently. He routinely says he has no regrets. He as no ability to share his internal monologue because his internal monologue probably just sounds like, “Tits, ass, tits, ass, tits…” What does Donald J. Trump have to regret anyway? He’s the perfect American, he says.

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Meet the regret king, me. As you evolve, you probably look back at the last version of yourself and shudder. I was using the word “feminist” before I knew how to act like one. I was callous with the women I dated, used sexist language, and, worst of all, failed to really hear those I was in serious relationships with. I’d like to apologize to all those females, including a Facebook friend who’s bra I snapped in eighth grade. And I’m sure 2026 Randy will think 2016 Randy still had a lot of work to do. To be a decent person you need humility and to know that you’ve probably been wrong more than you’ve been right. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable.

Instead we get Bully Trump who “hits back” twice as hard when he thinks he’s been hit. Maybe somebody should tell him about the guy to asked us to turn the other cheek. He wants to build a wall around America like the wall he’s built around himself. It’s the wimps that wanna listen and share their feelings. He just wants to knock the hell out of his enemies. He’s a sad man who reminds me of so many sad men I know and the one I once was.

The media has tried to create a similar narrative on the left, the “Bernie Bro.” Supposedly there are an army of Sanders supporters rioting in the streets who will use sexism to defeat Clinton. It’s a myth easily dispelled by the wide support Sanders has from women and minorities, but it’s still something to guard against. Clinton and Sanders and their supporters don’t benefit from the same lack of introspection that Trump celebrates. None of us do. And throwing rocks at cops just drives the sheep into Trump’s tent.

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 8.48.54 AMLook, there are plenty of white people who don’t understand the Black Lives Matter movement or Latino protestors taking to the streets. Are they racist? Well, some believe America is being handed to “underserving savages,” so those people are. Even more Trump men see their old-fashioned John Wayne masculinity threatened by empowered women, gay, lesbian and transgender people. They can’t even protect their females from the mythical transsexual predator in the Ladies Room. They’ve already surrendered the toilets at Target. What’s next? America? Where is the white man’s man who can make America great again?

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This election is going to be decided by women. Will they follow their men into Trump’s douchbag circus of doom or stand on their own, vote their interests and save the rest of us dumb-asses from ourselves?

Douchebag note: I have to be honest, I’ve never really known what an actual “douchebag” is. About a year ago a female friend suggested it might be more sexist language I should abandon. I listened but the sound of the word fits so well with who it describes, I held on to it. My friend Jen just sent me a note on the word and I defer to her feminist wisdom. She said, “This issue I have is that you are comparing a man to a dirty vagina that needs to be cleaned and in this scenario the vagina is a) dirty and needs to be douched to get cleaned which is obnixous and false b) he is lower than a dirty vagina and c) because he’s so sexist equating him to a vagina cleansing product implies that the worst thing he could be is a woman’s vagina which is in fact one of the most amazing things on the planet.” Agreed, vaginas rule! She also offered the other argument with this piece: Could “douchebag” be a feminist insult? Thanks, Jen!

Earlier Trump blogposts

Who the Hell is supporting Donald Trump?

I told you Donald Trump was a fascist!

Mr. Trump, kiss my anchor baby

Trump Part 2 – This is what fascism looks like

Donald Trump is the new face of white supremacy