President Donald Trump in no time characterized Senator Kamala Harris as “nasty” and “the meanest, the most horrible, most disrespectful of anybody in the U.S. Senate.” He also claimed the presumptive Democratic nominee “… said things that were untrue. She’s a person that has told many, many stories that aren’t true.” Millions of “Phony Kamala,” “Worst Pick Imaginable,” and “Pathetic Running Mate” fund-raising emails sent by his campaign went out to his followers.
As of date, the Washington Post reported that President Trump has made more than 20,000 false and misleading claims. (This does not include the hundreds of conspiracy theories.) Other sources have documented 500 policy failures in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to the deaths of 165,000 people. Critics wonder why the president did not respond just as fast to the deadly coronavirus as he did with his radical masculinity and misogynist attacks against Sen. Harris.
What to Make of Misogynist Attacks?
In almost every modern country, the twenty-first century has proved a bewildering time for men. America is no different. Job opportunities and pay have greatly diminished for less-educated men. Management and the professions have been opened for more qualified women, who have enforced new norms of behavior in the workplace upon their male peers. They also have challenged a false sense of male entitlement which has been institutionalized.
The ancient domestic division of labor moreover has been upended, and in an age of mass media and reality shows many find themselves in sequences of mutually disappointing relationships where they often antagonize each other before separating or divorcing. Considering the decline of America’s standing in the world economic hardships, some politicians gain support by dividing the nation through racism and radically masculinist and misogynist behavior.
Male Entitlement Challenged
Male entitlement cannot be emphasized the most, since it shapes the lives of many men. In her book, “Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny,” Kate Menne makes a compelling argument of how men socially police a woman’s behavior to enforce compliance with patriarchal expectations. These misogynist norms pervade various aspects of our lives, including sex, medicine, home life, criminal justice, the workplace, and yes politics.
In fact, and just as racism and brutality has been institutionalized, so has radical masculinist behavior and misogyny. As a result, men who seethe with gender issues and sexual anger view women as either a prize of to be appropriated and controlled, or a threat. For President Trump, Sen. Harris is a threat: something he never was or can be, a self-made individual rising from poverty and becoming a confident professional who is intelligent, articulate, and above all rational.
2016 Redux and “The Cunt”
Misogynist resentments still prove an indispensable political resource for President Trump. In 2016, he tweeted the insult: “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” The brutal message was clear: Hillary Clinton was not sexy enough to lead the nation. Yet at the same time, she was too womanly, too outspoken, and courageous to think she could become president-something that would have crushed Donald Trump’s fragile ego.
Donald Trump also attacked her health and integrity, tweeting, “SickHillary,” “HillarysHealth,” and “LockHerUp!” Not only did these misogynist phrases become common among the Republican Party, Fox News, and Trump’s supporters, but they reinforced what was already internalized by America’s collective imagination and institutions. As David Frum reminds us in, “Trumpocalypse,” “To many Trump supporters, Hillary Clinton had no name. She was simply “The Cunt.”
The Other Less Qualified Candidate
Is Joe Biden, the Democrat’s presumptive presidential candidate who picked Sen. Harris, any better? He too has a history of belittling women and told Black Americans they “ain’t black” if they do not for him-basically determining someone’s race for them. Like President Trump, the former vice president shows signs of cognitive decline and racism-shaking hands with Klan members. Indeed, anyone of the women on the Democrat’s list would have been more qualified than either President Trump or Joe Biden, two underperforming men for the presidency.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer took on the president and far-right in Michigan, preventing thousands from dying of COVID-19. Karen Bass is a progressive and head of the Congressional Black Caucus. Another Congresswoman was Val Demings. She ran the Orlando Police Department. Senator Tammy Duckworth, a veteran of the Iraq War, literally lost limbs fighting for America overseas. She has earned the ire of President Trump who not only received five draft referrals but escaped military service through bribery and deceit.
President Trump’s attack against Sen. Harris, combined with his characterization of women voters as suburban housewives-a label used by the president to play into white racist fears about neighborhood integration efforts, speaks volumes. It reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of modern gender norms and inability to accept how public attitudes on racism have shifted, which threatens to turn his Make America Great Again Confederacy into a more diverse society. This is the other “imagined” threat Sen. Harris poses: only the third woman to run as vice president on a major ticket, and the first Asian American and the first Black woman to run in a general election.
Neither is Sen. Harris afraid to confront America’s misogynist power structures and leaders. She wasted no time in arguing how President Trump ignored the coronavirus-at the expense of 165,000 dead Americans, and “inherited the longest economic expansion in history from Barack Obama…, And then, like everything else he inherited, he ran it straight into the ground. “Because of Trump’s failures in leadership, our economy has taken one of the biggest hits out of all the major industrialized nations, with an unemployment rate that has tripled as of today,” she said.
A Silver Lining?
There is no question Donald Trump is in big trouble, especially among women. But so is America and Joe Biden. All three refuse to face the other original sin: radical masculinity and misogynist behavior. To be sure, prior to the passing of the 19th Amendment in 1920, many states within the U.S. did not allow women to vote. Neither could they speak in public or demonstrate and inherit property. During divorce proceedings, it moreover was common for states to declare women the property of males with no legal rights to child custody laws.
Change has been slow, which explains why America cannot accept a woman president. Women candidates are still policed and punished for not conforming to patriarchal norms and expectations. If there is a silver lining in this election cycle, it is that Joe Biden has positioned himself as a transitional candidate, describing his campaign as a “bridge” to the next generation of Democratic leaders. Critics say it is a bridge that is overdue. It is entirely possible then that Sen. Harris, who is 55, will be thought as the future of the party-and America-no matter what. Considering Joe Biden’s advanced age, it may even come sooner (2020) rather than later (2024.)
The State of the Union
The State of the Union is collapsing. Some historians attribute this collapse to misguided masculinity and misogynist behaviors, never allowing women to participate in leadership positions. They do, consequently, make a good argument. Indeed, it can be argued that the building blocks of the current political, economic, and pandemic crisis was due to a misogynist and patriarchal society that never allowed women into leadership positions. And when it did happen, they were policed and controlled by radical masculinity expectations. Only time will tell if Sen. Harris can help heal a divided country and make the ideals of America a reality.