Many people were appalled with the recent photo of exclusively white male legislators discussing passing a law that would no longer require health insurance companies to cover pregnancy, maternity, or newborn care. The media largely covered the photo as a revealing accident—a gaffe. But journalist Jill Filipovic of the NY Times sees it differently.
She suggests that it is part of a purposeful nod to the white men who feel their power has been unfairly stripped away.
President Trump ran a campaign of aggrieved masculinity, appealing to men who felt their rightful place in society has been taken from them by a stream of immigrants stealing their jobs, women who don’t need husbands to support them, and members of minority groups who don’t work as hard but still get special treatment. That he was running against Hillary Clinton, the quintessential Hermione outsmarting the boys in class, brought this white masculinity message into sharper relief: Trump supporters didn’t just oppose Mrs. Clinton, they hated her with unchecked phallic rage, wearing “Trump That Bitch” T-shirts.
Filipovic concludes that Trump’s promise to make America great again “included the implicit pledge to return white men to their place of historic supremacy.” That my friends, is what you call patriarchy. It is a systematic effort to enable men to dominate women. It is not only a description of a society where this takes place, it represents the idea that it is the way things should be. Men should rule over women. It harkens back to God’s punishment of Eve (and all women) for eating the forbidden fruit: “your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).
Well women have been fighting this presumption for centuries, in one form or another. Today that resistance revolves around the feminist movement, in all its passionate, disparate incarnations. Some focus on reproductive rights, some on domestic violence, some on equal pay, and some on women and leadership. It is a messy coalition of sometimes competing interests, and undoubtedly, mainstream feminists could be more inclusive of the needs of women of color and the LGBTQ community. But at the core, there is a fundamental belief that women are equal to men in all things, and are deserving of the same rights, opportunities, and power. Feminists work from the assumption that women deserve a seat at the table—whether it’s a table in the kitchen or a table in the White House. Feminists passionately believe that women and men sharing power privately and publicly results in a more just society.
Just yesterday it became clearer than ever that the push for male supremacy not a conspiracy theory. The Center for Reproductive Rights reports that Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson just signed a bill requiring doctors who provide abortions to investigate patients before the procedure, to establish the woman’s motives for ending the pregnancy. The purpose of this is to ostensibly prevent women from having an abortion due to sex selection, but in actuality it creates another hurdle that delays access to a safe abortion, and reinforces the idea that women cannot be trusted to make decisions about their reproduction.
Feminists have improved women’s position in society tremendously in the last few decades, but with the current overt movement to return to male supremacy, feminists are more relevant than ever. Support feminists. Be a feminist.