Countless women saw it. Few of us will forget it. That room full of gray-suited, gray-haired or balding men sitting at a huge conference table discussing the future of women’s health care. No—scratch that last word. Donald Trump’s men don’t give a squat about the “care” of women. They don’t even like women.
“Fat.” “Pig.” “Dog.” “Slob.” “Disgusting animal.”
“When I come home and dinner’s not ready, I go through the roof.”
“I think that putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing.”
“There has to be some form of punishment” for abortion.
The list of Trump’s assaults on women goes on and on…and on. And just as his statements about Mexicans and Muslims have led to increased hate crimes against them, so, too, have his assaults led to increased hostility toward women.
Results from a recent Wharton School study suggest that Trump’s campaign bravado about grabbing women “by the pussy” has “driven an increase in men acting more aggressively toward women.”
In January, for example, a well-known Republican in Greenwich, Connecticut, called a town worker “nothing but a bloodsucking lazy union employee.” Then, moments later, he reached from behind to place his hand between the worker’s legs and pinch her genitals. Before the assault, the 71-year-old man told his victim, “I love this new world. I no longer have to be politically correct.”
In an article for The Guardian, Jessica Valenti notes a prediction made by philosopher Richard Rorty nearly 20 years ago. He wrote that “people tired of ‘having their manners dictated to them by college graduates’ would look for a ‘strongman to vote for.’ He thought progressive gains around race and sexuality would be rolled back and that ‘jocular contempt for women [would] come back into fashion.’”
“Jocular contempt?” I’m not laughing. Are you?
Since 2004, every GOP election-year platform has included support for a personhood amendment that would give constitutional rights to zygotes and place their rights above those of the women in whom the cells multiply.
Eight years later, in 2012, GOP men became obsessed with defining rape. There was “legitimate rape,” “gift from God rape,” “easy rape,” and “honest rape.” Even as far back as 1990, one Texas gubernatorial candidate told women: “If [rape is] inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.”
Who the hell thinks like this?
Certainly not German psychoanalyst Karen Horney (pronounced horn-nigh) (1885–1952). She is credited with founding feminist psychology—a response to Freud’s theory that neuroses in women are due to their penis envy. Horney asserted that Freud’s theory also extends to men and boys, that their neuroses stem from their envy of women’s ability to bear and nurse children.
Barbara Engler, in her book Personality Theories, says this “womb envy” is rarely acknowledged by men. Instead, it has taken “subtle and indirect forms, such as the rituals of taboo, isolation, and cleansing that have been associated with menstruation and childbirth.” In addition, men “disparage women, accuse them of witchcraft, belittle their achievements, and deny them equal rights.”
In other words, if a man can’t bear children, he can assert his dominance by controlling a woman’s ability to do so.
Add to that concept the belief of fundamentalist religions that wives should submit to their husbands’ God-given authority, and you have the perfect storm for women as slaves.
At least we’re not there yet. But are we headed that way?
Mike Pence’s evangelical Christian view of women has been in the news lately. He has said he “never eats alone with a woman other than his wife,” and he doesn’t attend events serving alcohol unless she is with him. (Because clearly, if he drinks, he’ll become that wild and crazy guy women fantasize about and want to seduce. And clearly, he’d have to submit.)
Pence’s thoughts and behaviors simply aren’t normal. For him, any woman who is not a virginal Mary is a tempting Eve. And every Eve is just one touch away from destroying a godly man.
Writing for Time, Glennon Doyle Melton and Amanda Doyle describe what this thinking means for women—
To men like Pence, [women] are not complex, complete, sacred vessels full of intellect and divinity and grit. We are not fully formed spiritual beings; we are not fully formed citizens. We are exclusively sexual creatures who must be cut off completely.
Such a zealous man—whether evangelical Christian, fundamentalist Muslim, or Orthodox Jew—isn’t managing his natural desires in a healthy way. He’s repressing them, denying them, hiding from them. He’s forever, psychologically, washing his hands of them.
But denying the sacredness of one’s sexuality doesn’t lead to finding one’s god. It leads to resentment, jealousy, hostility, self-loathing…or to exaggerated pride and self-supremacy. It leads a man to absolve himself of responsibility for his actions. It leads him not to control his own behaviors, but to seek control over the actions of others—especially all the Eves in the world.
It’s easy to envision Pence as a man with womb envy. Easy to imagine how superior he must have felt as he led that room of Freedom Caucus men in deciding the fate of women’s health. How saintly he must have thought he was when he cast the tie-breaking Senate vote to deny Medicaid reimbursements to family planning centers.
This is Pence taking his extreme beliefs out on women, beating them down and into submission. And all across the country, Republican lawmakers are doing the same—restricting women’s rights in ways that treat them as vessels for childbearing who are unworthy of their own autonomy.
In Donald Trump you have the flipside of Pence. Whereas Pence runs away from women, believing they will lure him away from his godliness, Trump believes, or at least claims, “Nobody respects women more than I do.” But that so-called respect includes openly demeaning women who don’t acknowledge his supreme greatness or acquiesce to it.
Sadly, most women have encountered at least one man like Trump. We may have dated, married, or worked for one or grown up under his thumb. We may have been assaulted by one or felt threatened that we would be. And even if we haven’t had such an experience personally, we know someone who has.
A man like Trump belittles and insults a woman. He discounts her thoughts, minimizes her achievements, crushes her spirit, and blames her for whatever he perceives is wrong. He gets angry quickly and verbally lashes out when he does. He thinks only of himself and denies ever making a mistake or acting inappropriately. And always he lies. Or, maybe he just ignores her, as if she doesn’t exist.
Many men who voted for Trump approve of and identify with his gutter-level treatment of women. Indeed, they are thrilled by it. No longer must they mind their manners or be shut down and cast out for not being politically correct. On the flipside are the “holy” men who ignore Trump’s gender-biased aggression—who believe Pence will rein in Trump’s misogyny and institutionalize their evangelical beliefs about “proper” women.
Both types of man have one thing in common: the belief that women impede men’s exclusive, God-given right to be in control. Those men feel they’ve lost their place atop the social hierarchy and only by returning to a patriarchal society can man’s dominance be reinstated.
No wonder so many women today are scared and worried…and mad as hell. No wonder feminism is on the rise.