Misogyny Played Pivotal Role in Election

Chloe Vassot, Contributing Writer

I did not expect this election to make me cry. I expected my cynicism to protect me in a jaded, painless bubble that denied the horrifying reality of a non-Clinton outcome. This election has made clear a variety of truths about the previously unspoken, but nevertheless present, assumptions and prejudices that exist in the U.S.: the racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia and any and all phobias of those who are not white, straight or middle-class.

I want to focus on misogyny, and particularly how it applies to white women — not because it is the most vital aspect of this election, but because this is my group, my demographic. My county in Pennsylvania went red. I live with and have grown up with white women who became Trump voters. They are like me, and this proximity means that I have some sort of responsibility to try to change what I can in my community.

According to The Washington Post exit polls, 62 percent of white women without a college degree voted for Donald Trump; 45 percent of white women with a college degree also voted for Trump. In comparison, 95 percent of Black women with no college degree voted for Hillary Clinton, and of those with a college degree, 91 percent voted for Clinton. As a white woman, I am ashamed of my demographic and furious that I have a just cause to feel this shame. The above numbers show that it wasn’t “women” as a monolithic whole who largely supported Trump, but white women. In that respect, the interest of white people in maintaining white supremacy largely decided this election.

But another important aspect is the internalization of misogyny among white women that enabled them to completely ignore or even validate the rhetoric and threats to women that Trump consistently demonstrated. BuzzFeed reporter Anne Helen Petersen interviewed women Trump supporters who attended his rallies, and their reasons for supporting Trump came from many places: anger at the elite class, at the Washington establishment, at the state of the economy. These women also denied the validity of the women accusing Trump of sexual assault through the usual routes of victim-blaming and calling them liars, but also through their belief in how normal Trump’s words were. One woman said that if her husband did not engage in the Trump-style “locker room talk,” she would “think there was something wrong with him.”

While watching the election coverage Tuesday night, I saw a journalist ask a woman Trump supporter why she voted for him in light of all the sexual abuse allegations. She said it was because “he tells it like it is” — meaning that, to her, “locker room talk” is normal, that it is just how men are, that this is just how the world is. Trump’s blunt rhetoric of rape culture and sexism and judgement is not understood to be a problem because that really is how it is; it feels like truth to hear someone say out loud that which is implicitly insinuated in our general discourse regarding both sexual assault and the measure of women’s value. These white women don’t see his words as morally wrong because, for many women, Trump’s view of the world is their world; it’s the natural way of things.

We talk about misogyny as if it only comes from entitled men like Trump who can verbally and physically assault women with impunity because they are not women, as if abuse toward a specific group can only come from outside that group. But this acceptance of the way men in power talk about women is an extremely powerful form of internalized misogyny that heavily contributed to the outcome of this election. If women did not accept this reality, could Trump have won? If this same system of misogynistic politics — the one that works to punish women for being ambitious and seeking power, which is not deemed ‘correct’ behavior for a woman — was not so salient, would we have reached this nightmarish situation of a Trump presidency?

I’m focusing on white women here because white women had the power to change the outcome of this election, and while much of their support for Trump can logically be traced to racism and other deep prejudices, it can also be traced to a type of internalized misogyny that contributed to Trump’s victory.

As a Pennsylvania voter, I was furious at my state’s place in deciding the final call of this election, and I was just filled with rage. I only cried when I watched Clinton’s concession speech, and she said, “and to all the little girls watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful, and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

In our misogynistic culture, somewhere along the line in a girl’s upbringing she will be told that her value can be decided by a man who does or does not approve of how she looks; she will be told it is wrong to seek power. For all the imperfections with Hillary Clinton’s campaign and platform, the fact that she is a woman fighting for power, fighting against the misogyny that operates despite her race and privilege, was vitally important. And continuing this fight has just gained new urgency.