We Got 99 Problems and Patriarchy Is the Big One


Just a few months into the Trump Interregnum, I wrote a post about how Patriarchy (you’re soaking in it!)   encourages us to accept as normal the kind of gross misbehavior in which Trump regularly engages.  After discussing examples ranging from Ralph Kramden, to Archie Bunker, to Fred Flintstone, to King Lear, to your uncle or boss, I noted that:

In fact, from cartoons, to tv shows, to Shakespeare, the idea of an ignorant buffoon to whom everyone must kowtow and whose messes others are regularly required to clean up — generally without letting said buffoon know that they’re doing so — is a staple of our culture.   And we’re taught to love that buffoon and accept that, despite the buffoon’s behavior, the buffoon really has a soft heart and is, deep down, a good person.  Well, as long as the buffoon is a man.  No woman who behaved the way Ralph et al. behave would ever be seen as soft hearted, lovable, good.

So it’s not completely accurate for us to say that Trump — a blustering buffoon; a venal man, full of prejudices; a shyster in love with get-rich quick schemes that leave those foolish enough to trust him bankrupt and broken; a man who mistreats women; a boss who regularly messes up and needs his underlings to clean-up behind him — is not normal.  He may be an extreme example of the trope, but we’ve been taught from childhood to accept men like him, to work around them, to look for the good in them, to keep believing that they’ll be better next time.  And you can see this socialization in Trump’s supporters:  the guys who say, “Aw, I know he talks a lot of shit, but I think he’ll help out coal miners,” or the women who say, “I didn’t think he’d deport my husband or take away my health care.”  We can’t imagine how they can accept him, but their culture has taught them to accept men like him and to believe that, deep down, [those men are] really well-meaning.

I wrote that post well before the Kavanaugh hearings reinforced for us the idea that privileged white boys never have to face the consequences of their bad behavior and before the smirking little shit at the March to Take Away Women’s Rights got his own PR firm.  But both of those examples simply follow the pattern.  No matter what they DO, Patriarchy encourages us to believe that white men must, at their core, be really good, full of potential, worthy of forgiveness.  (The obverse is that Patriarchy encores us to believe that, no matter what they DO, women and black people must, at their core, be evil.)

We don’t cut the same break for black children (boys or girls).  Even when they are   quite young , we see them as threats, as adults who  should pay the ultimate responsibility for any misstep they make, as likely culpable.  Patriarchy does not teach us to look into their hearts, to view their actions through rose-colored glasses, or to focus on their future potential.  And we won’t even discuss the way our culture judges  black adults.

Similarly, we don’t cut women the same breaks.  Today, everyone may be celebrating the way that Nancy Pelosi outmanouvered Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and the truly evil Steven Miller.  But JUST A FEW DAYS AGO, many Democrats were all too happy to adopt the Republicans’ attacks on Nancy Pelosi.  She was literally engaged in a life or death battle to hold onto her speakership.  And that was AFTER she’d whipped the votes to pass Obama’s ACA.  And that was AFTER she’d whipped the votes to defend the ACA.  And that was AFTER she’d defeated W’s plan to turn your social security contributions over to Wall Street.  In other words, that was AFTER she’d shown who she was and what she could do.  Those things mean nothing in Patriarchy.  Meanwhile, Chuck Schumer, not nearly as effective a leader, was under no such pressure.  Chuck may regularly fail to stand tall against Republicans, but, well, we all know that his (male) heart is in the right place.

We all know that Hillary Clinton certainly didn’t get the kind of pass that Trump, Kavanaugh, and Mr. Smirk get.  Rather than judging her by her actions, we judged Clinton by what Patriarchy taught us to believe was in her heart.

Thus, Trump, a man, refused to release a real physical and no one much mentioned it.  Meanwhile Clinton, a woman who released a real physical, was criticized for “not being transparent enough” about her health.  Trump’s campaign adopted the dirty trick  of lying and saying that Clinton was not well.  (We all know that this was a dog-whistle.  What they were saying was that women are too frail to lead the nation.)  When she caught pneumonia on the campaign trail (Clinton, accused of being stand-offish, shook thousands of hands while Trump, characterized as “genuine,” despite being a self-proclaimed germaphobe, did not) Clinton faced the kind of double-bind that women regularly face in Patriarchy.  Conscious of the criticism that her health was a problem (and that, if she had released a statement saying that she had pneumonia, was treating it, and expected to recover, the Trump dirty tricksters would have used THAT as proof of the fact that she was unsuited to be president), she went to the doctor, got medication, and attempted to soldier on.  Attending a ceremony in extreme heat for the 9/11 first responders (she was one of NY’s senators on 9/11, toured the ruins almost immediately, and introduced legislation to protect those first responders), she felt faint and moved to her daughter’s air conditioned apartment.  Primed by Patriarchy and Trump’s dirty tricks, the media went insane.  Clinton was untrustworthy because she didn’t immediately release a statement saying that she had pneumonia.!!!!! If she was “lying” about her health, what ELSE was she lying about???  Who could ever trust her??  Why was she so secretive???  Trump sniffed so regularly through the debates as to inspire ridicule, but no one asked what he was hiding, how much adderall he was sniffing, or why he wouldn’t release a real physical.

We’re not trained to demand that men be as transparent as women — there’s no need; we know that men are “good,” by nature, and that women are “evil,” by that same nature.  No matter what an old white man does, his heart must be seen to be pure — Ralph Kramden was really a nice guy madly in love with Alice, even if he did regularly threaten to hit her.  Threatening to hit her was just bluster (what he did), as oppose to what Patriarchy said he must feel.  Look into his heart.  And no matter what a woman does, her heart must be seen to be evil — Hillary was really an evil bitch, lying about her health, even if she did release a full physical.  Look into her heart.

I’m tired of this.

Do better.

Picture found here.


5 responses to “We Got 99 Problems and Patriarchy Is the Big One

  1. Thank you for your strong, all too timely post. If we have the courage to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves about the state of feminist politics in the US, Hillary Clinton wasn’t just defeated by the patriarchal males, she was also defeated by internalized misogyny. And it is vicious and insidious. Hillary Clinton paid a terrible price for being the first mainstream woman candidate to have the courage to run for POTUS. We must be very sure that we ourselves are the change we wish to see in our country.

  2. You realize if we are reading your post, you are probably preaching to the choir? We hear you.

  3. You regularly encourage American women to participate in politics — even to run for office. What’s equally necessary, I would suggest, is for women to become journalists. The latest statistic I saw reported that women make up less than 30% of journalists. And that number has been in effect for a couple of decades. Males can’t “hear” women when they speak. They don’t actually listen to women. Democracy needs strong women’s voices interviewing other women and reporting on them.

  4. “Do Better” – words to remember. thank you.

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