Among the more startling findings from early US election data is that 55% of white women voted for ex-President Donald Trump.
According to US exit polls – generated by a consortium of major media organisations, involving interviews with a representative sample of thousands of voters – white women (55%) were only slightly less likely than white men (58%) to vote for Trump (link news.virginia).
The big question is why? And what does this mean for the feminist movement?
In the lead up to the 2016 election, and during his four years in office, Trump was portrayed as everything that was wrong with masculinity and the enemy of empowered women everywhere by liberal feminist elites.
Four years later, the President who famously said he could grab women “by the pussy,” attracted a full three percentage points from white women more than he did in 2016.
The result has liberal feminists scrambling for answers.
“It turns out white women don’t have more of a conscience than their husbands. Turns out white women relate more to their whiteness than their gender. Turns out white women do not want any better for America than their husbands do,” writes Molly Jong-Fast, a white, upper-middle class, liberal feminist author and journalist for such renowned publications as the Daily Beast and New Yorker.
Molly, like so many liberal pundits, was caught off guard by the groundswell of support for Trump among white women. Much the same way as she and her colleagues failed to predict Trump’s win over their candidate, Hillary Clinton, in 2016.
It’s not hard to see why. A quick look at Molly’s class profile reveals she is the living embodiment a liberal media elite. For three generations, her family has made a living out of avoiding the harsh realities of working class life. Both her parents were writers, novelists and academics, as was her grandfather.
These days, Molly lives in the prosperous, heavily-gentrified New York neighbourhood of Manhattan, where she has three children to a husband who is a university professor. Hardly a good position to be evaluating the desires and motivations of everyday Americans. And yet, without a hint of irony or shame, she professes to know more about these same people than they know about themselves.
Using a handful of sentences, she sums up the position of all white women who voted for Trump as either having no conscience, racist tendencies, or lacking the backbone to vote outside their husband’s preferences. She may be right.
But ask yourself, what does three generations of poetry, prose and cocktail parties – as Molly and the like have experienced – tell you about the harsher realities of American life?
Rather than reflect on the differences in experience between women along lines of race, class, access to opportunity, proximity to poverty etc. and how this might effect the lens through which President Trump is perceived, liberal elites like Molly reductively suggest less woke white women in America are either racist, have no conscience, or are not empowered enough to vote outside their husband’s interests.
As a journalist, the obvious thing to do would be to pick up the phone and call white women and ask why they voted for Trump. The reason this wasn’t done is partly attributed to laziness but more because it is likely to blow a whole in the contemporary feminist fairytale – the perpetuation of which the likes of Molly depend on to make a living.
Could it be these white women voted for Trump because they are part of the disenfranchised and steeply declining fortunes of the American working and middle class – many of whom were misled by Trump’s anti-establishment facade and (broken) promises to restore the American worker to her former glory?
Could it be these white women were simply glad Trump was able to avert war with North Korea?
Or after decades of being crushed, misled, and murdered by the American corporate dictatorship (read: military industrial complex, prison industrial complex, pharmaceutical industrial complex, finance industrial complex), could the idea of a brash-talking political outsider have appealed to them? A guy who wasn’t afraid to go to war with America’s shadowy intelligence agencies; the same agencies every American knows were responsible for the deaths of John F Kennedy, Robert F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and millions of others at home and abroad during the course of their tyrannical era fascism.
Or maybe they are just white supremacist, capitalist, fascists. Ultimately, liberal feminists wanted the 2020 election to be a “repudiation of Trumpism.” What they got was a repudiation of contemporary feminism.
The feminist movement is best understood as consisting of three waves. The first wave, occurring in the 19th and early 20th century, was mainly concerned with women’s right to vote. The second wave, at its height in the 1960s and 1970s, refers to the women’s liberation movement for equal legal and social rights. The third wave, beginning in the 1990s, refers to a continuation of, and a reaction to, second-wave feminism.
Third-wave feminism, which Molly is a part of, has plenty of critics, many of them female and many of them feminists. Where first and second wave feminism were stoic, heroic, necessary, and ultimately successful, third wave feminism is said to lack any kind of direction or coherent goal.
It is said to be overly American-centric and ignore the plight of women of colour, lower class women, and women abroad.
And it is said to fail in acknowledging the ground made during the far more cohesive first and second waves of feminism.
The third-wave feminist fairy tale portrays women as a unified front with a common goal. But anyone with even the most basic understanding of capitalism knows this to be false. Under the current financial system, women find themselves on either side of the capital/worker divide. These days, it is less left versus right, or male versus female, as much as it is rich versus poor. Women, while statistically more likely to be poor, still exist in multitudes either side of this divide.
Capitalism pitches a woman with a business against the women working for her. A recent example of this is Beyonce Knowles, who was caught paying her female Sri Lankan “sweat shop” workers $AUD 8.50 a day to make her Ivy Park Sporstwear range.- half the average Sri Lankan wage.
The sportswear’s tagline range professes, “To support and inspire women who understand that beauty is more than your physical appearance.” As the iconic journalist, John Pilger puts it: “What matters is not your gender but which class you serve.”
Similarly, there is a distinct lack of gender solidarity in Hillary Clinton’s move to push through one of the biggest arms deal in history to Saudi Arabia – a country with one of the worst records of violence and discrimination against women – who then used the weapons in the ongoing war against Yemen, to the tune of thousands of dead women, children, and men.
The truth of it is, third wave feminism is a fairytale. Women are not unified. We need only have observed the Democratic National Congresses’ scandalous presidential candidacy race to see just how fanciful feminist solidarity has become. .
I generally don’t go in for politics. It’s outside my job description (which is simply to tell the truth). But it was hard not to fall for Hawaiian surfer, ex-combat veteran and DNC presidential candidate, Tulsi Gabbard. Running on a platform of peace, compassion, equality, and an end to the military industrial complex, Tulsi looked to be JFK reincarnate. After appearing on Joe Rogan twice, as well as The View, and a 40 minute interview on my own bumbling surf podcast, she rocketed into contention for the presidential candidacy with many, including Rogan, claiming she was the person most likely to bridge the growing political divide in America.
But after coming to blows with Hillary Clinton in successive presidential candidacy campaigns and destroying Vice President, Kamala Harris, on live television over her ties to the prison industrial complex, Tulsi was banned from taking the stage in the DNC candidacy’s televised debates. It doesn’t get much more anti-democratic and anti-feminist than that.
In the end there are basic truths we can agree on.
Rich, woke, white women do not speak for all white women. White women can be as intoxicated by charismatic Nazis and fascism as anyone else.They can also be bought off by the prison industrial, military industrial, pharmaceutical industrial, and financial industrial complexes. Women can be privileged, painful, disingenuous, out of touch, bourgeoise parasites.They can also be fearless crusaders for truth, peace, decency and compassion.
The question is, which side are you on? – Jed Smith