Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Man's Woman

During the recent presidential race, when it seemed to be apparent that women were going to be voting Trump out of the equation, some female Trump supporters were petitioning to have women's  voting rights rescinded. Susan B. Anthony and Mrs. Pankhurst must have been rolling in their graves.

Stockholm Syndrome describes a phenomenon where captives begin to identify with their captors, what must be an inbuilt survival technique. Something close to this syndrome kept the lower classes of Britain for centuries voting in the very right-wing feudal governments that kept the masses low and lowly. Something close to this is how the Old Boys' hierarchy operates, designed as it is to keep those below it thinking of themselves as inept and dependent.  Any defectors are regarded as  treasonous rabble rousers. The Pankhursts and the Steinems and the Traisters were and are seen as aberrations, treasonous to the system and patently unfeminine.
It is no wonder so many female authors have over the years felt obliged to take on men's names: Charlotte Bronte (Currer Bell), Emily Bronte (Ellis Bell), Anne Bronte (Acton Bell), Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot), Louisa May Alcott (A.M. Bernard), Amantine Dupin (George Sand), Violet Paget (Vernon Lee). Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen.) More recently, think JK Rowling (she doesn't actually have a "K" initial in her name,  AL Kennedy.

The Old Boy's Club house rules say that if by some rough chance a woman does end up in a position of power, she had better look and act like a man. Pant suits, asexual clothing, thank you very much. Either get back in your box, or if you can't do that, then be as much like a box-keeper as you can.  Imagine if during the campaign Hillary Clinton had taken to wearing clothing that expressed her femininity, her sense of who she is.  But then, she learned early on how to play the man game: many historians attribute her husband's loss of the governorship of Arkansas in 1980 to the fact that she hadn't change her name from Rodham to Clinton.

I think what felt to so many women like a kick in the gut when Trump won the election, the reason that within days a million-woman march on Washington had been arranged, is that we thought that the wave of history should have taken us past all that. Donald Trump personifies in his very orange body the disenfranchisement of women, the blatant reduction of their humanity to a paltry sex-appeal scale of 1-10. The women he surrounds himself with are almost uniformly blond, trying in their Stockholm derangement to conform to his captor view of how a woman should be.
In 2016, I thought we could do better than that. Many, many women thought so, too. I suppose that is what hurts the most.

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