This past week my daughter, Sarah and I had a conversation about God:
Sarah: Dad says God is a myth. He doesn’t exist.
Me: Well none of us really know who God is because we’re humans. And besides, God is definitely not a man.
Sarah: I really think that God is a monkey.
Me (trying to keep a straight face): Why do you think God is a monkey?
Sarah: Because all people came from monkeys and God created us so that makes a lot of sense. It also explains why God is doing such a bad job.
Me: Why do you think God is doing a bad job?
Sarah: Well, Donald Trump is president…
At nine years old, my daughter is quite the critical thinker and very invested in knowing what is happening in our country. She has strong feelings about Trump — especially his treatment of women and policy to separate families at the border. She asks why someone gets to be president if s/he does not care about everyone in the nation. It is a good question. I’d like to take credit here, but Sarah is simply paying attention to our world and making her own conclusions — logical ones at that.
While Trump supporters chant the political slogan “Make America Great Again,” women are wondering when there was ever a time where our human rights were acknowledged, and especially those of women of color. Women have been consistently disenfranchised throughout history and have had to fight for the most basic rights granted to white men.
In 21st century America, women’s voices continue to be silenced, gender based violence is still shrugged off, and consequences of social policy based on supposed Christian ideals keep women from living equitable lives. With its most recent confirmation, anti-woman stances infecting the Supreme Court reinforce the imposed secondary status of women in the U.S. Reproductive justice, the pay gap, lack of paid parental leave and early childhood education are politicized maintaining governmental control over female lives in the name of God.
Infected with an immoral Trump administration in the White House, the GOP’s claims to Christianity are suddenly missing as the party of old white rich men are far more interested in ruling than governing. No longer are elected officials representing the voice of their constituents; instead, they have become an extension of Trump and are committed to achieving partisan goals at any cost.
The impact of intersectional identities could not be more visible at this juncture. While all women are subjected to the phallocracy’s continued efforts to maintain control, women of color are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of a male dominated society. Recognizing the ways that race, class, gender, immigration status, sexuality, disability and other factors intersect are critical to understanding how lives are experienced in the U.S. and who has access to the “American Dream.”
Identity politics — an intellectual and political movement — critiques privilege, who has it, and why. While some have argued that identity politics only achieves divisiveness based on difference,we must ask how we conceive of ourselves as a nation. Samhita Mukhopadhyay explains,
Do we recognize that different groups of people experience unique challenges based their identity and organize around and embrace those differences, or do we ignore them in service of a more universal, uniform understanding of Americanness (p. 2)?
What is generally ignored in the conversation about “liberal” identity politics is the way that Trump used fear of diversity and white nationalist ideas to craft his campaign — and now dominate the U.S. Instilling terror (I use this word very purposefully) with claims that Muslims are invading our nation and “illegals” who are murders and rapists are coming to poach American jobs, Trump has bolstered the alt-right.
Privilege is what leads to blatant disregard for identity politics in this nation. Preying on fears of losing privilege continues a history of hate and oppression. Thus, conversations are necessary to disrupt trumpery and terror; to discourage a false narrative about what it means to be American. Coalition politics and identity based organizing are the most effective tools to combat inequity and violent social structures.
At the midterm elections, I wanted to chant “the matriots are coming!” Watching an unprecedented number of women — especially women of color — be elected to Congress is a demonstration that 1. women are challenging the phallocracy and reclaiming our voices; and 2. that many of our citizens are standing up against partisan political efforts that attack and divide.
Progress has been made. The ongoing efforts of those who believe in the value of an equatable society are not lost. However, the path to change is long and demands tireless efforts, often with little reward. Nonetheless, the election of matriots is a strong indicator that — in the words of Sam Cook — change is gonna come.
Gina Messina, Ph.D. is an American feminist scholar, Catholic theologian, activist, and mom. She serves as Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Ursuline College and is co-founder of FeminismAndReligion.com. She has written for the Huffington Post and is author or editor of five books including Jesus in the White House: Make Humanity Great Again and Women Religion Revolution. Messina is a widely sought after speaker and has presented across the US at universities, organizations, conferences and on national platforms including appearances on MSNBC, Tavis Smiley, NPR and the TEDx stage. She has also spoken at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations to discuss matters impacting the lives of women around the globe. Messina is active in movements to end violence against women and explores opportunities for peace building and spiritual healing. Connect with her on Twitter @GMessinaPhD, Instagram: @GinaMessinaPhD, Facebook, and her website ginamessina.com.