Forty-six years ago, Germaine Greer wrote in The Female Eunuch, “Women have very little idea of how much men hate them.” Well, now we do.
On Tuesday, faced with a choice between a highly competent if uncharismatic female candidate and the deranged distillation of the angry white male id, America chose the latter. (Or, at least, the Americans whose votes count most in the Electoral College chose the latter: Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.) We don’t yet have a full picture of the electorate, but according to exit polls published by the New York Times, 54 percent of women voted for Clinton while 53 percent of men chose Donald Trump. Men—joined by white women, a majority of whom voted for Trump—banded together to award the presidency to the most shamelessly misogynist candidate in modern history. They’ve given us a kakistrocracy because they couldn’t bear the sound of Clinton’s voice.
The fact that white women displayed so little gender solidarity is not that surprising; many women have always identified more with their race or religion than their sex. Near Trump Tower in Manhattan Tuesday afternoon, I saw a vendor selling buttons that read “Hot Chicks Vote Republican.” Women at Trump rallies donned shirts emblazoned with “Adorable Deplorable.” Given what our society values in women, it’s understandable that large numbers of women wouldn’t want to see themselves in someone reviled as shrill and unfuckable. Writing in the Atlantic earlier this year, Peter Beinart surveyed some of the academic literature on the anxieties that powerful women provoke in both genders. “A 2010 study by Victoria L. Brescoll and Tyler G. Okimoto found that people’s views of a fictional male state senator did not change when they were told he was ambitious,” he wrote. “When told that a fictional female state senator was ambitious, however, men and women alike ‘experienced feelings of moral outrage,’ such as contempt, anger, and disgust.” The rage is more aggressive in men, but it’s there in women, too.
As those of us opposed to Trump and Trumpism absorb the trauma of what happened in America on Tuesday night, there are going to be vicious recriminations on the left. I don’t begrudge any Bernie Sanders supporters the consolation of thinking that their man could have saved us from this calamity. All of us are grieving, trying to make sense of the worst thing to happen to our country in modern history. All I can say is that I’ve been to Trump rallies in the Midwest, South, and Northeast, and I never saw a single sign or T-shirt about free trade. I never heard chants about NAFTA or TPP. What I heard was “Trump That Bitch” and “Build That Wall.” When Clinton delivered her heart-shredding concession speech, traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange reportedly booed and chanted “Lock her up!” They know Trump’s victory was no rebellion against Wall Street.
Over the summer, University of Michigan researchers Carly Wayne, Nicholas Valentino, and Marzia Oceno surveyed 700 citizens, asking them whether they agreed or disagreed with statements such as, “Most women interpret innocent remarks or acts as being sexist.” As they wrote in the Washington Post, the researchers found that “sexism was strongly and significantly correlated with support for Trump, even after accounting for party identification, ideology, authoritarianism and ethnocentrism.” It’s striking that Zephyr Teachout, perhaps the congressional candidate most closely aligned with Sanders’ ideology, lost her upstate New York House race by a significant margin. Maybe Sanders could have won the general election—but not because his politics were better than Clinton’s, even though they were.
Had Clinton won, she would have done more than shatter the glass ceiling. For 25 years, she has been a synecdoche for unseemly female ambition. (In 1996, a 4,000-word Weekly Standard essay titled “The Feminization of America” ended with these words: “To put it more simply, Hillary is welcoming men to their new role as the second sex.”) Clinton ran for president on an explicitly feminist platform and promised a half-female Cabinet. Her victory would have been a sign that the gender hierarchy that has always been fundamental to our society—that has always been fundamental to most societies—was starting to crumble. It would have meant that men no longer rule. We have to come to terms with the fact that a majority of men would rather burn this country to the ground than let that happen.
One optimistic assumption undergirding the Clinton campaign was that we were moving toward a world in which gender would become less and less of a fetter on the shape of our lives. In such a world, women would have as much claim to leadership and full citizenship as men. Two weeks before the election, I went to a rally that Clinton and Michelle Obama held in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. They were introduced by women: former North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan and Democratic Senate candidate Deborah Ross. “Little girls hear the ugly things that have been said about women in this campaign, and it makes them feel terrible and doubt themselves,” Clinton said, and it struck me as unusual for a politician to speak about little girls’ feelings as a matter of political significance. For one afternoon, the rally offered a vision of what political stagecraft might look like if it were practiced by women and for women. Looking around, I thought, Maybe this is how politics feel for men all the time. And then I thought, No wonder they don’t want to give it up.
Still, I thought we were going to get there. I thought my daughter was not going to be consigned to a lesser life than my son. I no longer do. We are going to lose Roe v. Wade. There will be no push for paid leave (whatever Ivanka Trump might promise) or a higher minimum wage. If Trump’s campaign is any indication, our new administration will be a priapic junta. Roger Ailes was too toxic to remain at Fox News but not too toxic to be a close Trump adviser. Campaign CEO Steve Bannon has been charged with domestic violence and accused of sexual harassment. As Indiana governor, Vice President–elect Mike Pence signed a cruel law mandating the burial or cremation of miscarried fetuses. Trump’s first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, grabbed a female reporter so hard he left bruises on her arm, then tried to smear her as “delusional.” Trump senior communications adviser Jason Miller took journalists to a strip club the night before the Las Vegas debate. “Women, you have to treat them like shit,” Trump once said. It might be America’s new unofficial motto.