Earlier this year, at the inception of this online magazine, I wrote about the probable ineffectuality of the Women’s March in Washington. I was wrong. The year 2017 may just be remembered as the year we took sexism to heel. It may just be the year feminism stops being a dirty word. It may just be that we find truth in “The Future Is Female.” But that doesn’t mean all is well on the homeward front.
I don’t have the stomach to rattle off more global statistics, nor do I have the terabytes in my data plan. Instead I have to limit my ranting to the current political situation in the U.S., aka The Russia Shitshow.
I was feeling sad and cynical at the moment of Trump’s election, wounded that Hillary Clinton hadn’t embraced feminism during her campaign and convinced that Bernie could have beaten Trump because the country just couldn’t handle a woman in charge. I wasn’t an avid Clinton supporter but I related to her wonkiness, her social anxiety, and her challenges in navigating the turbulent waters of being a woman in one of the most misogynist careers in the country. But now I’m starting to wonder. Have we possibly hit the tipping point?
My first inkling of possible sea change occurred last week. I felt vindicated and relieved when Clinton (finally) conceded in New York Magazine that yes, sexism played a role in her losing the election—not because sexist people chose not to vote for her (although most certainly that happened). No, sexism ruled the mores of the election; it dictated her behavior, her demeanor. She could.not.get.angry. She couldn’t yell. She couldn’t cry. She couldn’t let on that Trump’s leering behind her during a debate was a form of aggression, of male violence. And at the same time, she couldn’t assume a masculine persona either. Grandmother, mother, wife, woman, Clinton had to be retooled into a sort of Frankensteinian nongendered android, helmeted in hair and resplendent in pantsuit.*
And so she lost. And He Who Must Not Be Named won. And by winning, he sent the country into a tailspin spurred by hubris, incompetence, greed, narcissism, buffoonery and malice. In doing so, this week, we’ve seen some of the most explosive-yet-placid television of all time in the form of the Comey hearings. Comey, docile, incisive, thoughtful, unemotional, bagged of eye and trimmed of hair… at first I couldn’t figure out why I kept thinking of Anita Hill.
And then my eureka-duh moment hit: Comey’s playing the female lead in this comedy of errors. If anyone in politics can show America that sexism is real, that rich, white men wield a power that goes beyond directives—that one’s threats may be purred (“I hope…”) instead of shouted, it’s another middle-aged white man.
Comey may be the best thing that’s ever happened to the feminist movement. Can you imagine if Comey were female, how vitriolic the hearing would have been?
Imagine, if Comey were a woman, how obvious would have been the inappropriateness of the President insisting on a closed-door meeting without aides or counsel?
If Comey were female, what to make of the Valentine’s Day dinner, the veiled threats and the insinuated quid pro quo?
If Comey were a woman, his character would have been eviscerated, his memory called into question, his intellect doubted. His reluctance to challenge the President over matters of impropriety would have been taken as complicity. He wouldn’t have become a hero of the press, of democracy and transparency in government. He would be a pariah, at best reviled and at worst prosecuted.
Of course, this is all an aerial view. From up where the airplanes fly, above the chessboard of American crops and fields and cities, you can just make out the hateful pates of Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby, President Trump, the 20 employees at Uber who’ve been fired for sexual harassment, Breitbart News: all the the knights, rooks and pawns of male privilege, advancing, as they have for centuries, across the board. On our side, we’re fighting steadily and we’re finally gaining ground. Thank you Hillary, Comey, Susan Fowler. On our side, there are no pawns, only queens.
*There will be future article on this topic. So much to say about Pantsuit Nation.