Tuesday, August 2, 2016
© Charles D. Hayes
In the presidential election underway, do not make the mistake of assuming anything other than different standards apply when it comes to gender. The eons of our existence have resulted in hierarchal assumptions so deeply imbedded and ingrained in all human cultures that many prevailing prejudices are harder to distinguish and comprehend than what fish might have to experience in order to perceive the nature of water. I’m referring to the social malignancy we know as misogyny—the fear, disdain, or outright hatred of women and all things feminine.
In A Brief History of Misogyny: The World’s Oldest Prejudice, a book finished in 2004 just before its author passed away, Jack Holland wrote,
“What history teaches us about misogyny can be summed up in four words: pervasive, persistent, pernicious and protean. Long before men invented the wheel, they invented misogyny, and today, as our wheels roll over the plains of Mars, that earlier invention still blights lives. No other prejudice has proven so durable or shares those other characteristics to anything like the same extent. No race has suffered such prejudicial treatment over so long a period of time; no group of individuals, however they might be characterized, has been discriminated against on such a global scale. Nor has any prejudice manifested itself under so many different guises, appearing sometimes with the sanction of society at the level of social and political discrimination, and at other times emerging in the tormented mind of a psychopath with no sanction other than that of his own hate-filled fantasies.”
Indeed, until you examine the subject of misogyny at the bedrock level, it’s simply not possible to understand how modern society is still so viscerally dysfunctional with regard to gender. The tentacles and roots of misogyny live in the bone marrow of our species. They are so deeply buried beneath written history that we take many of their assumptions as straight-up reality. It’s as if the world was created in a cultural temperament so entrenched with a smoldering strain of scorn that it need not be discussed, ever, because it simply represents the way things are, the way they were meant to be, the way things must be. That the gender that is physically weaker would bear an unrelenting burden of submissiveness seems like a no-brainer, based on what we know about primate behavior.
For thousands of years, men had the right to kill their wives and daughters, and in some cultures this practice continues. In ancient Greece and Rome, from the days of Plato and Aristotle, through the origins of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, through the Dark Ages and the Enlightenment, right up to today, misogyny lives and breathes as if its ubiquity is a self-evident necessity for the survival of our kind. The Christian Bible is a manual for misogynous tradition, and even the teachings of Buddhism, thought to be the pinnacle of egalitarianism, assume a hierarchy of gender with a measure of male superiority.
Millions of the females of our species have been raped, bludgeoned, executed, and murdered at the level of emotional whim, all under a banner of righteousness. In the Middle Ages, clergy put women on a pedestal and then condemned them to Hell, burning alive at the stake untold thousands suspected of being witches.
The inanity of Original Sin, via the temptation of Eve and her alleged fall in the Garden of Eden, served then and now as a virtuous demerit for women in the same manner that Jews are stigmatized for having been the accused persecutors of Christ. If you think the pernicious fallout of such medieval thinking is not still present in modernity, you can’t be paying attention.
The notion in Christianity that only a virgin was worthy of giving birth to the son of God has ramifications about the behavior of women that are incalculable when it comes to the negative judgments that follow for simply being a female. In keeping with this ethos, women have been and are held to standards that do not apply to men. A man who is aggressive and ambitious is seen as a leader; a woman with the same attributes, a bitch or a shrew. A man who is promiscuous is a ladies’ man or a stud; a woman, a slut or a whore.
In some Middle Eastern cultures, women are so subordinate to men that even if they are raped by strangers, they assume the guilt for the offense. If their behavior is deemed dishonorable to their male relatives, they may be put to death. And we needn’t even broach the subject of the way women are still treated in Saudi Arabia.
In America, women have had the right to vote for less than a century. A woman was elected to Congress for the first time exactly one hundred years ago, and to the Senate in 1932. For most of our species’ existence on the planet, women have been regarded as little more than property. Today the residue of this tradition still applies. Women maintain the right to reject consent to sexual relations, but many people have been taught to assume women lose the right over their own bodies in matters concerning abortion.
Readily available contraceptives have resulted in some patriarchal convulsions because the autonomy they allow women is a threat to men’s powers of forced submission. The very idea that women might engage in sexual relations for sheer pleasure, as men have from the beginning, fractures the social hierarchy. Genuine gender equality is truly frightening to misogynists.
Gloria Steinem nailed it when she said, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” The right to control one’s own body has always been an ongoing battle for women. For centuries, in myriad cultures, the actions of women were taken as a reflection of the honor of the men in the family, which led to the assumption that women’s behavior is men’s business; for men to be associated with anything feminine would emasculating. Suggesting that the gender pay gap is anything but deep-seated misogyny is purposeful disingenuousness.
Senator Marco Rubio says he disagrees with Hillary Clinton about “everything,” which has a high-pitched misogynous ring to it. The often-heard declaration that anyone would be better as president than Hillary Clinton is so steeped in the ethos of misogyny that to deny this reality is blatantly hypocritical. It’s equivalent to saying anyone would better than a neurosurgeon to operate on your brain.
When you ask people precisely why electing Hillary would be a disaster, most will simply spit and sputter about her being dishonest. After all, regardless of the issue or its importance, her opponents always declare she is lying. In contrast, the other candidate’s truth telling is off the charts in the number of pants-on-fire acknowledgments by organizations devoted to accuracy in media. His ignorance about every subject that really matters is mindboggling.
A candidate who uses bigotry and racism to rally support, and who is supported by people who choose to ignore his record of business failures, outright fraud, and serial bankruptcies that left scores of small businesses in dire straits, has only one thing going for him in the eyes of many. Namely, he is not a woman. He’s an aspirant for the presidency that I’m confident time will reveal as being to politics what Bernie Madoff is to finance.
Millions of dollars have been spent to discredit Hillary Clinton. For those easy to influence it appears to have been money well spent, because when they speak up, they do so with talking-point clichés drawn straight from the media. Call anyone a liar for twenty-five years, spend vast sums of money on investigations, and that person’s reputation will take a hit, even if ultimately cleared of wrongdoing.
Hillary Clinton is a flawed individual, as all of us are. She has made mistakes, as all of us have. She will make mistakes in the future, as all of us will. But, gender aside, she is by orders of magnitude a better candidate for president of the United States than Donald J. Trump.
My Books and Essays on Amazon
New Fiction: A Mile North of Good and Evil
My Other Blog