I feel disrespected.
And, I have good reasons to feel that way.
As this white paper notes, I am judged more harshly, paid less, and will always have less power than a man. (See also, e.g., What Works for Women at Work, noting further the double-bind that requires women to “act like men,” but that then punishes them for doing so.) Most medical studies ignore the impacts of a new drug or treatment on women, preferring to use only men as study subjects. The right wing has been calling me a feminazi for decades. America recently elected a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women. Not only did a majority of white men vote for him, including those whose very livelihoods depend upon the migrant workers he promised to exclude, but more African American men and Hispanic men voted for him than voted for Mitt Romney. While liberal white men have made free college a rallying cry, they are not at all worried about free child care, an issue that would have a giant effect on women’s lives and finances (and on the lives of their children). And, speaking of finances, I’m much more likely to be impoverished in my old age than a man. The right wing has, for years and years, referred to my party as the Democrat party, a deliberate slur, instead of referring to the Democratic party. And it’s not just some fringe nut jobs who do this; George W. Bush did it, Trump does it, they all do it. They refer to us as libtards, instead of liberals, to emphasize their belief that we are mentally slow (and to show that they don’t have to be “politically correct” towards people who are differently abled). When that’s not sufficiently insulting, they print up t-shirts that say, of the first woman nominated by a major party: “Trump that Bitch,” and “Monica Swallowed; Hillary Sucks,” and they work themselves into twitching fervors chanting “Lock Her Up,” ecstatic at the notion that an ambitious woman should be jailed. Bernie Sanders’ supporters threw dollar bills at her to call her a cheap whore for daring, as prominent men do, to get paid for giving speeches. (All the rest of us got the message; they only burned a few women as Witches, but they burned them as examples to all the rest of us. Making money is a sin for Democratic women, but not Democratic men.) And we’re not even going to talk about my religion except that I will point out that we get blamed for floods and other climate change disasters on a regular basis and no one is surprised, or worried, or offended. Sure, that, too, makes me feel disrespected, but that’s the point of that kind of talk.
So, yeah as a woman and a liberal (and a Witch), feeling disrespected is simply a part of my everyday existence. You know: get up, feed the cats, make coffee, water the plants, meditate, check the internet, feel disrespected, answer emails, throw in a load of laundry, read a law review article, feel disrespected, take a conference call and get interrupted by the men, feel disrespected, stop at the dry cleaners, drop off knitted caps for homeless newborns at the hospital, show up to register voters, go home and cook dinner, turn on tv, feel disrespected . . . .
Oddly, though, all of that disrespect never turned me into a racist, or a Nazi, even when Rush Limbaugh got rich calling me a feminazi, or a fascist. No one worried for even a moment that women would riot if the jury verdicts in trials of Bill Cosby or other sexual abusers and harassers didn’t go our way. I can’t live for an hour in this world without suffering disrespect, but it never made me want to vote against my own interests, support a fascist, rip immigrant children from their mothers’ arms, drive my car into a crowd, shoot up a school, or make up lies about child sex rings.
And, yet, there’s a genre of political commentary devoted to scolding women and liberals for failing to make Trump’s voters feels sufficiently “respected.” David Brooks does it; Bari Weiss does it, hell the NYT more and more regularly makes it their main message.
As Paul Waldman notes in this very good piece in the WaPo (which paper, itself, is often guilty, as well), there is an entire industry devoted to convincing the white “working class” (which, by the way, is NOT the entirety of the working class, but it’s standard to ignore liberal waitresses in NYC, Hispanic paralegals in SF, African American mail carriers in Indianapolis, female IT professionals in Chicago, Asian medical technicians in Atlanta, Hispanic women who clean hotels in San Antonio, African American day care workers in Washington, D.C., gay florists in Denver, . . . .) that some strange group of liberal elites (but these elites don’t include the billionaire Trump family, the Mercers and the Waltons, millionaire Paul Ryan, George W. Bush (man of the people who sold his brush-filled ranchette the day he left office and moved into a mansion with servants’ quarters)), regularly sneers at them, doesn’t give the respect that they DESERVE (as opposed to “have earned”), and causes all of their griefs. That industry has been phenomenally successful and, no matter what Democrats or feminists say, do, or espouse, they’ll never convince the rubes that the reason their lives aren’t as nice as they should be isn’t totally due to the fact that liberals look down on them. One fragment of a sentence, taken out of context and broadcast over and over and over again, can convince the rubes that Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or [insert here the name of the next Democratic candidate no matter who s/he is, or how strongly they advocate for free college, or how often they go to NASCAR races, roll up their sleeves, eat BBQ] sneers at them and that belief will send them off to the polls, angrily pulling the lever for the latest plutocrat elite white man who will take away their health care and give their tax dollars to the corporation that will pollute their water and send their job to China.
Waldman explains what Democrats need to do instead of chasing that elusive Jabberwock, the white working class male who, finally given just the right amount of (non-racist, non-sexist) respect will vote for a Democrat :
So . . . what exactly are we asking Democrats to do? It can only be one of two things. Either Democrats are supposed to abandon their values and change their policies, despite the fact that many of those policies provide enormous help to the very people who say Democrats look down on them, or they’re supposed to take symbolic steps to demonstrate their respect, which always fail anyway. How many times have we seen Democrats try to show respect by going to a NASCAR event or on a hunting trip, only to be mocked for their insincerity?
In the world Republicans have constructed, a Democrat who wants to give you health care and a higher wage is disrespectful, while a Republican who opposes those things but engages in a vigorous round of campaign race-baiting is respectful. The person who’s holding you back isn’t the politician who just voted to give a trillion-dollar tax break to the wealthy and corporations, it’s an East Coast college professor who said something condescending on Twitter.
So what are Democrats to do? The answer is simple: This is a game they cannot win, so they have to stop playing. Know at the outset that no matter what you say or do, Republicans will cry that you’re disrespecting good heartland voters. There is no bit of PR razzle-dazzle that will stop them. Remember that white Republicans are not going to vote for you anyway, and their votes are no more valuable or virtuous than the votes of any other American. Don’t try to come up with photo ops showing you genuflecting before the totems of the white working class, because that won’t work. Advocate for what you believe in, and explain why it actually helps people.
Finally — and this is critical — never stop telling voters how Republicans are screwing them over. The two successful Democratic presidents of recent years were both called liberal elitists, and they countered by relentlessly hammering the GOP over its advocacy for the wealthy. And it worked.
In other words, quit worrying about this small (and increasingly smaller) group of voters. Yes, living in Patriarchy has made all of us more likely to center white men (even, especially, unconsciously) and their desires, than other voters. But those men are never going to vote for you. Black women are. White women with college degrees are. So do what the Republicans have successfully done for decades: get your actual base enthusiastic, riled up, and out to the polls. (Remember how Rove would get questions related to gay marriage on the ballot to get the Evangelical nut jobs out to vote, knowing that while they were in the booth, they’d also pul the lever for the Republican candidates? Like that.) Make sure that they can vote when they get there. Ensure a paper trail to stop Russia/Diebold from changing just enough votes in just the right places to steal another election. When you finally get in power, do what it takes to stay there.
For example, make DC and Puerto Rico States and gain 4 secure seats in the Senate. Ensure paper trails and provide other voting security measures nationwide. Require all candidates for national office to release their tax returns for the last 10 years. Pass Don Beyer’s Fair Representation Act to “move US House elections into multi-member districts drawn by independent redistricting commissions, and elected through ranked choice voting.” Make election days State and National holidays and require states to allow motorvoter registration, excuse-free early voting, and mail-in ballots. I’m sure you can think of others; please add them in comments.
You know, I expect to die being disrespected by this culture. I’m still not going to turn into a Nazi or a Republican. I’m not going to go on a racist rant in a coffee shop or in my neighborhood. I’m not going to buy a gun and go shoot up a sports bar, or a football game, or a barber shop, or any of the other spaces in which white men congregate. But I am going to call bullshit on people pretending that racists shouldn’t be called out for being racist.