Nasty Women Push Back, Colltalers
An off-the-cuff remark by Donald Trump has thrown, almost by chance, the U.S. presidential campaign into global relevance, by adding it to a growing discussion about sexual harassment. It catapulted the issue to center stage, just as allegations against him gained momentum.
By calling his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, a gratuitous, ‘nasty woman,’ at their last debate, the GOP candidate unwittingly hooked up the long and mostly shallow campaign to a wave of worldwide protests against violence toward women. Clinton should thank him.
Internet memes, of course, followed. More importantly, thought, it was a fitting coda for their third confrontation, in the final weeks of a particularly, well, nasty run, that’s barely touched other major issues of our time, such as climate change, poverty, and nuclear weapons.
Now, whether the proverbial half of the population will take the hint and cash it on the polls, it’s another matter. Pollsters have often failed to gauge voter turnout or the precise extent of women’s power to elect officials attuned to issues such as reproductive rights and equal pay.
Also, while some of those issues concern everyone, not just women, when it comes to choosing leaders committed to progressive policies, it’s wise to avoid focusing on gender, or race, or class, for that matter, as that may hinder a more comprehensive approach to change.
This sort of dynamics may explain Trump’s support among females, after even more offensive sexual asides have come to light. Or the surprising number of African Americans who did not feel kin to or endorsed the candidacy of Barack Obama, or cared for his presidency.
It’ll be a historic milestone if the U.S. elects its first woman as president, but in context, the remarkable fact about it is that it’s taken so long, way behind one too many nations that have already done it. And although her tenure will mean a lot to women’s rights everywhere, it’d be too unfair to expect that her election per se, or the power of her office alone, will be enough to settle all questions related to such rights.
Remember, some accused President Obama of not only not having done enough against ingrained racism in this country, but that on his watch, racial hatred has been aggravated, a charge that is as unjust and inaccurate as it’s leveled with the primary intent to soil his legacy.
For in some ways, while the presence of the first African American in the White House may have enhanced racial issues that predate his administration, some of the violence was just another calculated effort to undermine his authority from actually promoting needed changes.
Even that President Obama could not prevent the brutal massacre of black youth in U.S. streets of the past eight years, his election did move the needle of racial equality. The terrifying number of incidents aside, more Americans felt affected by them than in the past, and not always in a negative way. Change travels by bike, while public dissatisfaction moves to the speed of light, specially through social media.
In the case of a woman president, it’s not just the glass ceiling that will come crashing down, but an entire establishment and chain of command, not used to follow a Commander-in-Chief
who wears makeup and has spent 30 years of her womanhood under public scrutiny.
Many in Washington, and certainly everyone on Trump’s camp, may not want a President Hillary, but the world is definitely ready to finally deal with a woman holding the most powerful job in the world. And so it happens that it was her opponent himself who may have linked her directly to what thousands in Argentina, Poland, Brazil, India, Pakistan, Mexico, Israel, among other places, took to the streets to protest.
Over the last few weeks, rallies in major Latin American cities have called attention to the rape and murder of an Argentine teenager, demanding more than justice for the victim. The unprecedented emphasis is being pushed for laws that really protect all women.
Solidarity marches in Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Mexico have driven the point with one of the few tools women have in their arsenal to demand change: rally in increased numbers to force powers that be to act. That and to vote, naturally.
In Poland, a draconian anti-abortion legislation failed to make the cut after thousands of women, dressed in black, denounced what would have essentially punished mothers and families, and left off the hook dishonorable men, besides not addressing related social implications.
In India, Pakistan, and other Muslim countries, women are pushing back against the notoriously misogynist Qumran-inspired Talaq law, which grants a husband special divorce privileges denied to women. By threatening a ‘food boycott,’ nothing less, wives are calling attention to an ancient travesty of tribal rule, often used as a (‘justified’) defense by those accused of the horrible practice of honor killings.
And it’s also made of women, 13 of them, the group behind the humanitarian flotilla trying for years to break Israel’s maritime blockade, so to deliver aid to Gaza Strip Palestinians. Once again, the Women’s Boat to Gaza was stopped and escorted back to port by the Israeli Navy.
The group included 1976 Nobel Peace Mairead Maguire, and retired U.S. army colonel Ann Wright, and it was unharmed. But a similar flotilla was raided in 2010 by an Israeli command, killing all volunteers on board. A single revolver was found on the boat, it was reported.
Even Saudi Arabia has seen some carefully monitored progress of women issues with its recent first time ever elections that included them both running and voting. Indeed, that really means something for a male-run, authoritarian regime, known for routine public beheadings, and lack of a constitution, where women can’t venture alone in the streets, and drivers are constantly harassed simply for driving while female.
It’s more than happenstance that Trump’s insult connects these unrelated protests around the world to the Americans who formed a human chain in front of his properties in the U.S.: they’re fighting against the same sex harassment and discrimination they’re all target of, being in South America, Asia, Africa, or anywhere else. In that context, a Hillary presidency will indeed make a huge, beautiful difference.
Two final points before we all get home to dinner: it’s true that being a women doesn’t automatically turn a leader into an advocate for reproduction rights, equal labor compensation for both sexes, income inequality, and less use of military force to achieve political goals.
History is full of female leaders who have purposely ruled authoritarian regimes, or whose natural inclination showed an absolute lack of empathy to members of the same gender, or equally oppressed minorities. Call it the Margaret Thatcher standard, if you want. We won’t sue.
Like her, many of these leaders actually reversed arduously conquered civil rights and labor concessions aimed at working mothers, for instance, or freedom of choice. And some have done that without losing support from a large swath of constituents sharing their gender.
Why? Ask some smart people. Our second point is about the many men who feel conflicted, not about siding up with women on harassment or inequality, but about their own flawed nature as individuals and the instances that their behavior towards women was also condemnable.
Often, the politics of social change, and the need to support a tough platform that leaves no room for violence and sexual oppression of women and minorities, are at odds to one’s domestic demons, or inability to act with integrity and be accountable to inexcusable behavior.
All we can say to these men and partners, who are willing to face the consequences of their actions, and are truly engaged in making it better, even if it means losing those they actually hold dear to their hearts, is: don’t give up. Try again. Get help. Be truthful no matter what.
That’s one of the many unintended consequences of electing a female to president of the nation: it forces people, men and women, to confront issues hardly ever addressed by male leaders, mostly not by fault of their own. Society, even liberal models in the so called West, are far from just, and male privilege is a given not everyone wants to revisit. But they should, and if they need it, a Ms. President can help.
In the 1970s, a white male rock star was criticized for using a slur word on one of his hits. But what was missed by those objecting what now is called race appropriation was the essence of what John Lennon was singing about. ‘Women Is the Nigger of World’ is, as often his lyrics are, an accurate and unvarnished observation about the reality we all share, where even slaves treat badly their wives.
That reality hasn’t changed much, as the rape and murder of the teen in Argentina attests. Not as long as a candidate to the presidency of the world’s most powerful nation has no qualms about insulting women on national television. Or while such candidate is still supported by them.
Neither it will change coming Nov 8. Or the day or year after, even. But one day it will. And what’s happening now will have a lot to do with that change. Hopefully those around then will be able to say they helped it to come to reality. I hope you join us. Have a peaceful week. WC