Patriarchy. We’re ALL Soaking In It.

It happened again the other day.  It keeps happening.  It really needs to stop happening.

A very intelligent man I know said, “Gee, I’ll never understand why white women voted for Trump over Clinton.”  He was referring the fact that :

[N]early twice as many white women without college degrees voted for Trump than for Hillary, and of college-educated white women Hillary won by only a narrow margin — 51 percent supported Hillary, compared to 45 percent who supported Trump.  Overall, 53 percent of white women voted for Trump, alongside 58 percent of white men who did so as well.

Every time someone questions this I just want to stop and say, “REALLY?  You really don’t understand that?  Gee, Patriarchy, how DOES that shit work?”  But smart people keep asking the question so I’m going to answer it.


OK.  Apparently, this will come as a shock to some of you, but girls, every bit as much as, if not more than, boys, grow up soaking in Patriarchy.  They breathe it in, from the moment that the doctor says, “It’s a girl,” and they are swaddled in pink blankets , have constricting headbands with bows put on their heads to make sure we all know that they’re girls, and are taken home to pink bedrooms , decorated in lavender and lace.  They absorb Patriarchy through the Disney princess  movies, toys, underwear, and pajamas that they must obtain, through the “toys” that are actually training for housework that they receive, on through books about meeting other people’s needs and all the time they spend watching movies and reading books that show men, and not women, chewing up most of the dialogue, making most of the decisions, and doing most of the things that need doing.  They breathe it in when almost every single superhero they watch is a man and every single woman is just a sidekick.  (Wonderwoman is such an anomaly that I know grown women who have seen it half a dozen times and cry  every time it is mentioned.)  Little girls soak in it with every history lesson that not only focuses on men but that also ignores women.  They consume it on tv, where men’s sports are the “real” thing and women’s sports are the substitute, the one where people are paid less and where ads don’t cost as much.  They learn it in school and the workplace, where they are interrupted by men on a regular basis and still chided for talking all the time.  They grok that, even with more education, they will get paid less   than men and that they will, in fact, retire with less net worth than men.

So, gee, how ever do those girls grow up and vote as if men’s lives matter more, as if only men should be in charge, as if there’s something wrong with a woman who imagines she could be in charge?  What’s wrong with them?

Let me, in my never-ending devotion to Muriel Rukeyser, tell you a story.

Back in America in the 1950s and 1960s, racial segregation was widespread.  African Americans had to use separate rest rooms, drink from separate fountains, get their hamburgers at separate drug store fountains, and had to attend separate schools.  Not surprisingly, African American children grew up absorbing society’s notion that they were inferior,  just as America’s girls grow up absorbing Patriarchy’s notion that they are inferior.  In a blindingly simple set of experiments, Dr. Mamie Clark and her husband (you see what I did there) used a set of white and black baby dolls to test how African American children perceived color in America.  Based upon Dr. M. Clark’s earlier studies, they

designed and conducted a series of experiments known colloquially as “the doll tests” to study the psychological effects of segregation on African-American children.

Drs. Clark used four dolls, identical except for color, to test children’s racial perceptions. Their subjects, children between the ages of three to seven, were asked to identify both the race of the dolls and which color doll they prefer[ed]. A majority of the children preferred the white doll and assigned positive characteristics to it. The Clarks concluded that “prejudice, discrimination, and segregation” created a feeling of inferiority among African-American children and damaged their self-esteem.


In the experiment, the Clarks handed black children four dolls. The dolls were identical except that two had a dark-colored skin and two had light-colored skin. The Clarks asked the children questions such as which dolls were “nice” and which were “bad” and “which doll is most like you?”

The results of the test showed that the majority of black children preferred the white dolls to the black dolls, the children saying the black dolls were “bad” and that the white dolls looked most like them. To the Clarks, these tests provided solid proof that enforced segregation stamped African American children with a badge of inferiority that would last the rest of their lives. The argument swayed the US Supreme Court[.] Chief Justice Earl Warren, in writing the Court’s opinion, noted that the legal separation of black children gave them “a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely to ever be undone.”

Dr. Clark asked the following questions

“Show me the doll that you like the best or that you’d like to play with.”

“Show me the doll that is the ‘nice’ doll?.”

“Show me the doll that looks ‘bad’.”

“Give me the doll that looks like a white child.”

“Give me the doll that looks like a colored child.”

“Give me the doll that looks like a Negro child.”

“Give me the doll that looks like you.”

African American children who had been subject to segregation were even more likely to associate black dolls with “bad” characteristics and white dolls with “good” characteristics than were African American children not subject to segregation, although all were somewhat more likely, having grown up in a racist society, to prefer the white dolls to the black dolls.  In other words, and to the surprise of no one, African American children who grew up in a racist society were likely to have absorbed racist attitudes.

These studies were, in fact, one of the key reasons why the Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, struck down laws that segregated school children along color lines.  Justice Warren, writing for the Court, looked to the studies and explained that segregation, and the racist ideas that it perpetuated, engendered within African American children “a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely to ever be undone.”

Now, let’s revisit those white women without college degrees who were far more likely to have voted for Trump than for Hillary.  Women in states more steeped in Patriarchy — for example, in the South — were, comparably to the children in states with more segregation, more likely to vote for Trump.  Those women grew up in steeped in Patriarchy and, no surprise, were, just like the African Americans who thought that white dolls were “nicer,” more likely to believe that a man should be president.  They voted accordingly.

I can’t imagine why that’s surprising to anyone.

In What Works for Women at Work, Joan Williams discusses well-constructed studies that show that both men AND women, steeped in American Patriarchy, judge women by much more stringent and demanding standards then they judge men.  For example, both men and women require female candidates for a job to “prove it again.”  In other words women, far more than men, must provide more evidence of competence in order to be seen as equally competent.  Ms. Williams provides studies that show that:  (1)  Men are judged on their potential, while women are judged on their performance; (2)  Women’s mistakes are noticed more and remembered longer than men’s mistakes; (3)  Women’s successes are considered to be luck, while men’s successes are attributed to skill; (4) Objective requirements tend to be applied strictly to women, while they are applied more leniently to men; (5) Women experience polarized evaluations, and, finally, (6) Women are, far more than men, subject to the “stolen idea,” (if you’re a woman in America, you’ve experienced this) where a woman proposes an idea and it’s ignored, but, a few minutes later, a man says the same thing and everyone says it’s a great idea.

I’ll let you walk through each of these issues vis-a-vis how Hillary Clinton was judged.  It’s not difficult.  And, yes, women raised in Patriarchy made the same biased judgements against Hillary — requiring her, but not Trump, to prove it again; requiring her to be judged on her performance while Trump was judged on his potential; requiring her to deal with her mistakes being remembered longer, while his were forgotten almost within hours; forcing her to cope with her successes being attributed more than his to luck; insisting upon her having the objective requirements for president being applied more strictly to her than to him; forcing her to deal with more polarized evaluations, and subjecting her to her having her ideas stolen — as did the majority of men and it hurt her in the end.


Patriarchy.  We’re ALL FUCKING soaking in it.

And it’s toxic as shit.  Let’s quit blaming the victims of Patriarchy for being the victims of Patriarchy.  Let’s start asking why white men, who benefit from Patriarchy, voted overwhelmingly for, well, duh, Patriarchy.



7 responses to “Patriarchy. We’re ALL Soaking In It.

  1. Yes, Amen!

  2. Thank you, Hecate. This is excellent.

  3. Absolutely brilliant.

  4. Great article! Spot on.

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