Among the jumbled, troubled feelings I had when Trump was elected was one of betrayal. I felt betrayed by my own gender. How could so many women vote for Trump, who displayed a cavalier and disrespectful attitude toward women? How can we fail to elect a woman president at this late point in history?
Many countries have elected or appointed female heads of state. By my quick count of Wikipedia’s list, since 1940 there have been no fewer than 160 female heads of government and heads of state throughout the world. Thirty-five countries have female leaders right now. The United States is lagging far behind, in spite of the fact that we have a two hundred year old women’s movement. Countries that have a far more oppressive attitude toward women overall none the less have elected or appointed women to the highest government office. Why can’t we?
For one thing women in this country tend to vote along party lines rather than voting based on gender. I can attest to this. I never would have voted for Sarah Palin. Probably few people voted for or against Hillary based on her gender, at least not consciously. I think that to understand the failure of this country to elect a woman president or even vice president, we have to look deeper.
I was overjoyed when Barack Obama was elected president. I am very proud that our country could elect a black man, but I was not surprised that a black man was nominated to run for president sooner than a woman. I was more surprised, though glad, that Hillary did so well. Black men were at least nominally assured the vote on February 3, 1870, with the passage of the 15th amendment, which states that no one can be denied the vote due to “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Women were denied the vote until passage of the 19th amendment which prohibited sex-based restrictions on voting in 1920. That is 50 years later! Women had been fighting for the right to vote for one hundred years by that time. I hope that this country will nominate and elect a woman of color four years from now.
This country is very patriarchal and male-dominated. The sleek car and the hand gun, two phallic symbols and symbols of power, are among our status symbols. They capture the imagination of young people and are often associated with American life. Endemic to our culture is the image of the Lone Ranger, the heroic rugged individual who rides into town to fix everything and rides off alone into the sunset. The individual is celebrated, not the group. This is a masculine oriented point of view. Women are more associated with the archetype of the collective. The male assertion is “look what I can do!” The feminine version is “look what we did!” Other cultures, though male dominated in other ways, value the collective much more than we do. We have a history of pioneers striking off on their own to settle the wilderness, and this image is deeply embedded in our national imagination.
Trump projects this archetype, as have quite a few previous presidents. He styles himself the plain talking self-made man, although of course he is neither. He is a college educated son of privilege who says many things that aren’t true. He wants us to think that he is the lone hero who can come in and fix it. Hillary showed a lot of toughness in her policies, her stamina, and her stance, however her slogan, “we are stronger together” was all about the feminine principle and the collective. These are not yet strong in the national imagination, although they should be. Even though I understand this, I find it shameful and embarrassing.