BY SAM HOOPER
Some women fail to vote for progressive candidates because they happen to be conservatives. Accusing them of acting against their own self-interest — or at the behest of the “white supremacist patriarchy” — is offensive, condescending and presupposes that women should vote based on a more limited palette of issues than men.
The US midterms brought some results which were fairly encouraging for Democrats, but also a number of prominent disappointments – charismatic longshot Beto O’Rourke’s failure to unseat Senator Ted Cruz in Texas, the likely failure of Democrats to win senate and gubernatorial races in Florida and disappointment in Georgia.
And predictably enough, the crazy wing of the progressive left know exactly who to blame for these setbacks: traitorous white women who sucked up to their fascist overlords by voting for conservative candidates.
You see, these white women voted for the “wrong” candidate. Because in the dystopian world inhabited by the Women’s March and others, there is only one allowable political opinion, and all women must vote in a bloc for that option. This might strike you as not being quite what the American founders intended, or what should happen in any healthy democracy for that matter – but nonetheless, the 59% of white women who voted for Ted Cruz are thought criminals, gender traitors and must be publicly shamed before being reeducated.
Telling an entire class of people that “there’s a lot of work to do, white women. A lot of learning. A lot of growing” is incredibly condescending. In fact, the language brings to mind the scolding comment a parent might make to a misbehaving child, not the kind of rhetoric which has ever persuaded a grown adult to change their mind on a given issue ever in the course of human history.
But it turns out that the Women’s March are positively respectful and restrained compared to some other activists:
Charming. Katie Herzog of The Stranger analyses the impetus behind these angry expressions of incomprehension:
While I understand the impulse to blame anonymous populations for our problems and defeats, it’s not hard to see why people bristle at this kind of message. Blaming white women for not electing Democrats is based on the false presumption that white women are a homogenous population, that we are all supposed to be allies for the great feminist cause.
[..] White women are not a monolith. We don’t all know each other. We don’t all go to the same church or yoga class. Some of us, in fact, don’t go to church or yoga at all. White women, like all populations, are a large, unwieldy group made up of individuals with an array of concerns and values, and less than half (48 percent) of white women lean Democratic. The fact that conservative women voted for Republican candidates should be no more surprising than the fact that liberal women voted for Dems, regardless of their race.
[..] As the election results in Missouri, Texas, Georgia and elsewhere show, plenty of white women reject the idea they should vote Democratic just because they are women. They don’t feel like “foot soldiers of the patriarchy,” as feminist Mona Eltahawy put it, and I’m guessing plenty of them don’t even believe in the patriarchy at all. They’re not going to change their votes because progressives they’ve never met think they have some kind of obligation to vote for Democrats because of their double-x chromosome.
Exactly so. Maybe, just maybe, some women voted Republican because they are more than the sum of their reproductive organs, the sexual harassment they may or may not have experienced, their alleged brainwashing by the patriarchy or any other identity politics wedge issues. Maybe, just maybe, the white women being so sanctimoniously lectured by the woke brigade are human beings and American citizens who base their votes on a variety of factors, just the same as everyone else.
Yet the progressive identity politics brigade would have it be otherwise. Foreign policy, fiscal policy, education and trade? Not the concern of womenfolk, apparently. Civil liberties, free speech, science and innovation, religious freedom, church and state? Don’t worry your pretty little minds about any of those complicated issues, ladies, they’re above your pay grade. Just vote for the party that keeps banging on about your genitalia and reproductive organs.
We see exactly the same phenomenon in Britain, with the establishment Remainers trying to thwart Brexit increasingly resorting to panicked cries that leaving the European Union is a plot of the patriarchy designed to “hurt women”, and should thus be opposed on feminist grounds. Continuity Remainers (those who want to overturn or disregard the result of the 2016 referendum) arrive at this conclusion by creating a tenuous logical chain in which they assert without evidence that Britain’s attitudes and laws concerning women’s rights will revert to Victorian standards upon severance from Brussels, and that Brexit will inevitably lead to a recession which would decrease government tax revenues, which would automatically result in spending cuts which would automatically fall on those elements of the welfare state on which women disproportionately rely.
Again, there is zero expectation that women might support Brexit for the same reason that motivates male Leave voters, be it arguments about democracy, governance, self-determination or immigration. No, Remainers reduce women to the role of passive consumers of government services who should be expected to vote according to whatever they are told is in their material short-term interest rather than entertaining any highfalutin notions about what is best for the future of the country as a whole. This is an incredibly paternalistic argument – one, in fact, which would not have been out of place in Victorian society. But today we hear these sentiments openly and proudly expressed by leading politicians, celebrities and activists agitating to keep Britain a member of the European Union.
Given the degree to which the Republican Party has not only made its peace with Trumpism but (with very few exceptions) cravenly failed to stand up to or condemn the president’s worst excesses, I would have had trouble voting for any candidate with (R) next to their name this election cycle. But unlike the Women’s March and other prominent voices of progressive wokeness, I believe that the white women who did vote Republican in the midterms did so after engaging in the same kind of civic thought process as any other American citizen. I would not be so arrogant to assume that they are brainwashed by the patriarchy or seeking to lord their first-among-second-class-citizen status over women of other ethnicities.
Moreover, haranguing and abusing women for failing to vote the “correct” way its about as strategically sensible as a car salesman reacting to a wavering customer by running out of the showroom after them, yelling abuse and insults, and telling them to bone up on their automobile knowledge before daring to set foot in his dealership ever again.
Herzog goes on to explain the blatantly counterproductive nature of responding to the fact that conservative women vote for conservative candidates by shouting at them:
There are reasons not to blindly shout about “white women” when you’re pissed about the outcome of the election. For one, why the hell aren’t you shouting at white men? They vote for Republicans at even higher rates than white women. This women-blaming rhetoric reeks of misogyny, which may be ironic considering it comes primarily from progressive women. Regardless, it won’t fix anything. The way to win races is to actually appeal to voters (or to suppress them), and the only way to appeal to voters is to either try and change their opinion (and good luck with that) or to meet them where they already stand.[..] Blaming and shaming conservative white women will not win elections. If Democrats want to win this population over, they need to find a message that actually appeals to them, and faraway progressives screaming “white women do better” is not it.
Yet this seems to be the primary strategy right now:
It’s hard to see how New York Magazine writer Hillary Kelly’s plan to “drive [her] ass down there next election and personally talk to as many of these fools as possible” can fail, given that she clearly intends to meet with them on a basis of mutual respect.
The mind struggles to comprehend how anybody – let alone people who consider themselves part of the cognitive and moral elite – could possibly still think, after all the evidence of 2016-2018, that haranguing people, criticizing and shaming them will somehow make them see the error of their ways and turn them into fellow woke progressives.
But self-flagellation has become such a big part of the required performative routine for the progressive left – witness the endless seminars and university courses popping up, focusing on how to deal with one’s “internalized white supremacy” – that the true believers have apparently forgotten that the rest of us are not whipped into waves of ecstasy by being told how evil, oppressive and stupid we are.
Intersectional identity politics ruins everything. It forces us to focus on what distinguishes and divides us from one another rather than that which unites us – which is slow-motion suicide in a multiethnic democracy like America. As an academic concept, intersectionality undoubtedly has its uses as an analytical framework, but for an increasing number of activists it has become the only lens through which they view the world. For these people, everything is now seen in terms of personal identity, and everyone is judged according to where they fall on the oppressor/oppressed matrix.
Strong electoral mandates, however, are won by building a positive and forward-looking vision which everyone can get behind regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. And if you want to build that coalition, the very worst thing you can do is expend the bulk of your energy making well over half the country feel bad and/or guilty about inherent personal characteristics which they did not choose, cannot change and have no reason to apologize or be ashamed.
If progressives do not learn this lesson rapidly and disown the intersectional extremists who are willing to tear apart society’s fabric in the name of their ideology, they risk defeat after electoral defeat. And given their reckless behaviour and toxic agenda this might be quite satisfying to behold, but for the fact that they will drag the entire country down with them.
UPDATE: 9 November
There is undoubtedly some validity to the claim that historically speaking, the feminist movement was largely led by heterosexual white women to the exclusion of gay women and ethnic minorities, and though this is hardly surprising given that white people were the majority, a degree of resentment is perhaps understandable. The solution is to be more inclusive in the future without fixating on past wrongs which cannot be changed. But recasting white women as Vichy-style collaborators in female oppression will only drive more and more women away from the movement; and meanwhile, the rest of the country looks on with revulsion while this most self-obsessed of revolutions busily eats its own.