The Devil’s Bargain: “If You Can Convince a White Woman” by Carol P. Christ

This week’s news from America. Where to begin? When will it end?

The President of the United States is a racist who incites racist violence. Republicans have been slow to condemn the President and are not likely to pass a complete ban on assault weapons and to make those currently in circulation illegal.

After reading a speech condemning hate speech and gun violence that he obviously didn’t write, the President scheduled a round-up of brown people working in chicken-packing factories in Mississippi to coincide with his unsympathetic visits to the cities of Dayton and El Paso, where two recent mass killings by assault weapons occurred. The next morning, we were greeted by images of little children coming home from school in small towns in Mississippi to find their parents missing. We were told that none of the surviving victims of the El Paso shooting wanted to meet the President.

This is not the America I want. But it is the America that many Americans seem to want. I would like to think that women as a group reject the President and his agenda. Sadly, this is not true.

In a recent opinion piece in The New York Times, Sahil Chinoy discussed the demographics—including race, education, sex, wealth, and religion that contribute to the great divisions in American politics. Studies show that race, not sex, is the greatest predictor of whether a person supports the Republicans or the Democrats: black people–especially black women–are likely to vote Democratic while whites are split down the middle, with white men being somewhat more likely to vote Republican than white women. Race and racism do not always coincide but, the President is encouraging his supporters in their white supremacist attitudes and beliefs.

Religion is the second most important factor, with those who say religion is important in their lives being likely to vote Republican. Breaking this down further, older white male religious Protestants who live in the South are the most likely to support the Republicans. Chinoy does not mention that with liberal Protestantism and liberation Catholicism in decline, those who consider themselves religious are increasingly conservative.

Women as a group are about evenly divided between the two parties, but seventy per cent of young women of all races choose the Democrats, while fifty-seven per cent of unmarried women of all ages and races favor the Democrats. There is hope.

Studies have also shown that many Republicans have attitudes described as “hostile sexism.” People holding these views believe that traditional sex roles are just fine and that attempts of create equality between men and women go too far. These statistics suggest that a very large group of married white women are willing to accept male domination in exchange for traditional promises of economic support and protection. These married white women are likely to blame the victims of male sexual abuse and rape for being in the wrong place at the right time. They proudly support a President who has shown in word and deed that he does not support them.

These white married women continue to believe that “if they play their cards right.” they will be supported and protected by men. They believe that divorce happens only to women who refuse to put men first—until it happens to them. Then they discover that even “good” wives can be discarded for a younger woman. Then they discover that women who have been out of the workforce do not find good jobs, that child support is not always adequate and not always paid, and that divorced women struggle to provide for themselves and their children. But until it happens to them, they close their eyes.

Lyndon B. Johnson once said to Bill Moyers:

If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.

Johnson was describing the cunning of rich white men who use racism to keep the poor white men they are exploiting through low wages and poor working conditions on their side. This “devil’s bargain” has also been offered to white women. Johnson’s words might be paraphrased:

If you can convince a white married woman that she is better than every single person of color and better than women who are not married, she will accept your power over her. Hell, if you can give her somebody to look down upon, she will stand up for you even when you rape and abuse her.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the mainline liberal white Protestant churches attempted to dismantle the white supremacist myth through a different interpretation of the Bible. Many white Christians heard Martin Luther King’s call to find a message of “black and white together” in the scripture. Johnson would not have been able to sign the civil rights bill without the support of mainline white Protestants who listened to their ministers preach a different way.

My father was one of those who left the church when the minister began to preach about civil rights. Though he was not an active white supremacist, my father accepted white supremacy. He could not tolerate the idea that white people or government policies and laws were responsible for black people’s inequality. He preferred to believe that black people had not worked as hard as his ancestors did to rise out of poverty.

My mother would not have stopped going to church because the minister was preaching about civil rights. But whether she accepted them or not, my mother did not challenge my father’s views. In fact, when I stayed up late one night arguing about poverty and racism with my father, she told me never to speak about those subjects again or I would not be welcome in her home.

I do not know what my mother thought about my father’s views. What she did know was that there would be no peace in the home if anyone challenged him. What she did know was that she did not want divorce.

If you can convince a white woman that to challenge her husband’s views will end her marriage, you have sold her the devil’s bargain, whether she realizes it or not.

Today instead of challenging the bargains white people have made with the devil, the churches white people choose to attend reinforce them. The good news is that time is not on their side. White Republicans tend to be older than the population as a whole. White women who are not married favor the Democrats, while white married women with college education are also moving left. The bad news is that there are still a lot of white male supremacists–male and female–and they are doing a great deal of harm.


Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist and ecofeminist writer, activist, and educator currently living in Pachia Ammos, Crete. Carol’s recent book written with Judith Plaskow, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, is on Amazon. A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess is on sale for $9.99 on Amazon. Carol has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger.

Listen to Carol’s a-mazing interview with Mary Hynes on CBC’s Tapestry recorded in conjunction with her keynote address to the Parliament of World’s Religions.

One space is available due to an unexpected cancellation on the fall 2019 Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. Act quickly!

Author: Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ is a leading feminist historian of religion and theologian who leads the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete, a life transforming tour for women.

32 thoughts on “The Devil’s Bargain: “If You Can Convince a White Woman” by Carol P. Christ”

  1. Sad but very very true. We need another strong liberation movement in the U.S., one that can connect with those women who have accepted the devil’s bargain. But how does that happen?


    1. I wish I knew. Education can be a factor, but not always. White educated people still vote Republican, especially if they are older, male, and well-off. White suburban women with college education seem to be jumping the Republican ship. Maybe it is because they have been encouraged at least a little (in a patriarchal educational system) to think for themselves and because their education can provide a source of self-esteem other than marriage and whiteness. But education is not a panacea. Look at Kavanaugh and Barr with all the “best” (and worst) education has to offer!

      I would also say that fundamentalist religion is a big problem because it teaches people to accept things that science and common sense show are not true on the authority of God (who is portrayed as a white male). This teaches people to distrust their own common sense and reasonably reliable facts. I remember growing up with liberal Protestantism and Vatican II Catholicism. In both contexts I was encouraged to think for myself and not to accept everything on the authority of scripture or tradition. Of course when the churches and synagogues encouraged us to think for ourselves, they also opened the door that enabled us to leave. Because we did, liberal and progressive denominations are in decline relative to their more fundamental and authoritarian counterparts.

      Many of us have found other spiritualities but we are not organized in the same way and it is unclear if pollsters ask the right questions to tease out our views in relation to our beliefs or practices.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Joyce and Carol,
      Good points (and thank you for your essay, Carol). Carol, you mentioned “This teaches people to distrust their own common sense and reasonably reliable facts.” I think this unfortunate aspect of some sects of Christianity is critical to understanding this issue; I see it not so much as needing external education but internal spiritual self-reflection. Since returning to a Bible Belt area steeped in conservatism and fundamentalism (on a spectrum), I’ve had family members and others actually say that they are not interested in self-reflection or inner work. I don’t know how we move past that kind of dogmatic mindset.


      1. Darla, some of my relatives are Mormons and Mormon converts. I was shocked to learn that there is no room for doubt or questioning in Mormonism. And of course Mormonism also sanctifies the authority of the Father and Husband. But even for males there is no room for anything but believing what you are told. To be fair there are some Mormons who question this including Sunstone and Ordain Women.


  2. The bad news is that there are a lot of supremacists still, and some of those supremacists are looking to suppress the vote in ways that make it harder for everyone else to vote. The future of both parties depends on how successful those people are at voter suppression.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Marianne Williamson? Neoliberal, ableist “pray-the-disability-away,” fat phobic “bad-thoughts-make-you-fat” Marianne Williamson?

          She is, and attracts, exactly the white woman demographic with its head in capitalist sand.


          1. I think if you listen to the interview in the link, you will see that Marianne Williamson is progressive and not at all pro-capitalist. I may not agree with her metaphysics but in her run for the presidency, she is speaking truth to power in a very practical logical way. In the part I suggested, she explains that the idea of reparations to descendants of enslaved people makes perfect sense. As far as I know this is not a neo-liberal idea.

            Liked by 1 person

        2. Thank you for posting that video link, Carol. I do like a lot of what she has to say and that she is courageous enough to bring a spirit-led vision to the conversation even if it is only on the debate stage. I don’t agree, however, with direct financial reparations as being any kind of step forward in this particular situation; I don’t see it as the same as the other reparations she mentioned.


          1. Why not Darla? Even in our lifetimes, “African American veterans benefited less than others from the G.I. Bill.

            The G.I. Bill aimed to help American World War II veterans adjust to civilian life by providing them with benefits including low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans and financial support. African Americans did not benefit nearly as much as White Americans. Historian Ira Katznelson argues that “the law was deliberately designed to accommodate Jim Crow”.[1] In the New York and northern New Jersey suburbs 67,000 mortgages were insured by the G.I. Bill, but fewer than 100 were taken out by non-whites.[2][3]

            Additionally, banks and mortgage agencies refused loans to blacks, making the G.I. Bill even less effective for blacks.[4] Once they returned from the war, blacks faced discrimination and poverty, which represented a barrier to harnessing the benefits of the G.I. Bill, because labor and income were immediately needed at home.

            Most southern university principals refused to admit blacks until the Civil Rights revolution. Segregation was legally mandated in that region. Colleges accepting blacks in the South initially numbered 100. Those institutions were of lower quality, with 28 of them classified as sub-baccalaureate. Only seven states offered postbaccalaureate training, while no accredited engineering or doctoral programs were available for blacks. These institutions were all smaller than white or nonsegregated universities, often facing a lack of resources.[5]”


          2. You are trying to bring back the past to justify your alternate universe. All of the discrimination you mention was instituted by progressive democrats in the South.

            President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, not as an act of genuine democrat concern, but as a political move to secure the black vote. MacMillan, an Air Force One steward, in his interview with Ronald Kessler for “Kessler’s book, Inside the White House: The Hidden Lives of the Modern Presidents and the Secrets of the World’s Most Powerful Institution, published in 1995:” stated “I’ll have those niggers voting Democratic for 200 years”

            The democrat party has been the party of slavery, anti-black vote, anti-women suffrage, and abortion. They now call for open borders, gun control, free healthcare for illegal immigrants and giving them the vote. As for voter suppression, the Black, Asian and Hispanic vote was significantly higher in the 2016 election, so how does that fit in with your voter suppression claim. Much of that vote went to Trump.

            Your claim that Trump did not have the majority of votes and the Electoral College is an unjust institution. The framers of the Constitution understood that a presidency based on a majority vote could negate all states’ participation and influence in the election process. Why should a few states with a plethora of large cities dictate to the majority of states? Trump decimated Hitlery in the state focused electoral college. It wasn’t even close.

            Are there groups of people who have racist behavior? Yes, but those people are not exclusively one skin color, The same applies to gender, sexual preference, race, economic status, culture or political ideology. We are far from the society 50 years ago, so stop using the past to justify your false ideological narative of today.


          3. Dear Devil Dog,

            Despite having passed the Civil Rights Act, Lyndon Baines Johnson was a crude and in many ways disgusting human being. That is not news to me. He also was reported to have said that when he signed the Civil Rights Act, the Democrats lost the South for at least 50 years. It also is not news to me that the Democratic Party until then was the party of Southern racists and sexists still longing for the good old days of Tara (Gone with the Wind). I however was talking about the Democratic Party of today. And by the way I do not “identify” as Democrat. I usually vote for them, but I am far more “progressive” than the Democratic Party has been.

            Voter suppression by Republicans in areas where black people are likely to vote has been well-documented, and includes requiring Voter IDs and making them hard to get if you don’t drive, and closing or limiting hours on polling places in cities, leading to waits of 5 hours and more to vote, etc. Gerrymandering has been practiced by both parties and in the past Democratic machines have been charged with voting the dead. But again I was referring to what is happening now.

            The framers of the Constitution were elitist white males who were afraid to let the common white man (forget woman or slaves) rule. There is also evidence that the Electoral College was created to ensure that Northerners could not vote out slavery. In any case, they did not forsee the great inequities the Electoral College creates today.

            Finally, yes, there is such a thing as internalized racism and internalized sexism and yes, some people who have been abused distrust the oppressor sometimes creating reverse stereotypes that are unfair to some. However, when laws are constructed to benefit one group over another group, this is structural racism, structural sexism, etc. created by the government, and this is when reparations can be viewed as a reasonable solution to past injustices that continue to affect present realities.

            For example, my father bought a home using the GI Bill and this enabled him to prosper and create family wealth, some of which I inherited. If someone else’s father could not get a GI Bill and in addition was prevented from moving into a “good” neighborhood because of racist red-lining, and because of that lack of opportunity was not able to prosper as my father was, I am happy to pay taxes to pay for reparations to try to help to make up the difference.


  3. Thank you for this succinct essay – I wonder –
    “Women as a group are about evenly divided between the two parties, but seventy per cent of young women of all races choose the Democrats, while fifty-seven per cent of unmarried women of all ages and races favor the Democrats. There is hope.” This is hopeful but what happens if the candidate is FEMALE?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “If you can convince a white married woman that she is better than every single person of color and better than women who are not married, she will accept your power over her. Hell, if you can give her somebody to look down upon, she will stand up for you even when you rape and abuse her.” Horrifying and true…

    Liked by 3 people

  5. As usual, brava for your incisive insights. Maybe distance from the continental U.S. helps you remain cogent and alert? Strangely enough, I have a good friend whose ancestors are all from Nigeria. She’s a priestess and pretty well known locally, and she and I share a birthday and a birthplace (St. Louis). We have a lot in common, but she keeps her TV turned to the Faux News Channel all day…..except when I visit because I always ask her to turn it off, so she turns to the Jewelry Channel. She told me the last time I visited her that the Democrats are making it all up about Trump. She really said that! But she doesn’t watch any real news.

    So it’s not just white men and women who support the Abuser-in-Chief. I am enormously sad, but I refuse to argue with her. I cannot at all understand what the Trumpian appeal to people is, but it’s heart-breaking. It may also be democracy-breaking. Thanks for writing this post, even though I wish I hadn’t read it first thing after I fed and cat and turned my computer on.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi, Barbara. I was living with Trump — Paul LePage, governor of Maine from 2011 to 2019 — before we had Trump, White-Supremacist-in-Chief. I thought a lot about why people voted for this obvious vulgar, drunken thug, the same 35 to 40 percent of the population who voted for Trump in 2018. Let alone the fact that a sizeable percentage of Americans really like bullies and thugs, there is also the personal aspect of growing up in a household headed by a bully, being told you love the bully, and finding bullies comforting and reassuring. Who among us has not grown up in a patriarchal household? My best friend when I was little had a father all the children were terrified of, and my sister’s best friend told her how lucky she was to have a father who played with and paid attention to us. My view of my father was that he was rigid and authoritarian, but compared to the bullies other children had to live with, he seemed kind and affectionate.


  6. Thank you so much for writing this essay, I found your statistics on the demographics of people who vote democrats and republicans very interesting. Thank you for creating awareness about the recent events of last week, very heartbreaking. I’ve been very disappointed with many people in my social circles who refuse to talk about racism, politics and what’s going on in the country right now because it is not polite or it’s in bad taste or they’re just afraid to speak up. I appreciate you standing up and speaking up for what you believe is right.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Carol, I applaud your article. Beneath any kind of honest debate lies a host of lies perpetrated by the so-called Christian Right, the likes of Jerry Fallwell, Robert Simonds, Pat Robertson, Mel and Norma Gabler, Texe Marrs, Constance Cumbey and Douglas R. Groothuis. My naivete in the face of this underground threat is deeply troubling. I thought, given they were in vogue in the early 1990s, they may have disappeared. No, they have appeared in the guise of an orange-haired man of hate. In their world, the USA is a Christian nation and that accounts for the gun violence, hatred of race, gender, and indeed any slight difference from their view of the Reich. The cover of Educational Leadership, (Volume 51, Number 4, December 1993 ASCD) featured the headline, Can Public Schools Accommodate Christian Fundamentalists?

    In Alberta, Canada, sadly, we tried. The results? The recent election of a younger, better spoken, trumpian like creature. Based on ever lie possible, people bought into their own demise. Lyndon Johnson said it well. No, we don’t have quite the same virulent race hatred. Immigrants? Women? Abortion? All the signs. Ontario? There too.

    Many of us are simply stunned. Scratch beneath the surface. There in a Christian Bookstore near you will be the above authors and their younger friends. And, a quick glance at the bookshelves of parents for choice? Same books.

    Education is undoubtedly the key. And the fight is on for the minds and hearts of small children.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for the succinct discussion of my daily life here in North Texas. It’s a daily trial, navigating my way through the people in my life, when, after knowing them for decades, the truth of their soul has begun to peek through the cracks of their smiles. It’s hard, very hard. Where we used to be good friends, some of us are now just civil acquaintances. What I find here, though, in Texas, is that white married women, with college educations are not liberal; they are comfortable with their husbands’ income and will not challenge their views. And no discussion or debate will sway either of us. We know where we stand, and it’s on opposite sides. The divides are everywhere. I’m thankful for my family; we often feel very alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ouch. Thankfully, your family gets it! I have familial tensions… not a lot. Just enough to make the pew even more uncomfortable!!


  9. Let us not forget that Trump did not win the popular vote. He won the Electoral College by trickery and blatant theft, if not treason. Our goal is not to get millions more supporting Democrats, although that would be nice. Our goal is to rid our voting process of outside maneuvering and return true representation to the election of President. The election of the new young Democratic women is hopeful, very hopeful — their dedication and intelligence astounds me daily. Let’s build on that hope and elect a President we can be proud of, male or female.

    I am saddened that so many people seem to follow Trump. Some people simply follow the loudest voice, the most ridiculous jester, the most destructive tornado. For so many reasons, we must put up a better face of America for the world to see, for us to see.


    1. Yes the real fear is that the election will be stolen again by legal and illegal means. We have to get out the vote and stop voter suppression. We also need to repeal the electoral college which was anti-democratic from the beginning.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I remind people of that fact everyday. The Electoral College is obsolete and needs to be dismantled. Our country has long outgrown the Electoral colleges original purpose.


  10. I m thankful everyday that my parents were ‘unconventional’. While my father was more conservative, he taught all his daughters to change their own oil, change tires, write checks, balance checkbooks, how to drive and be a good driver. Things that were not often to taught to girls in the 50’s, 60’s and even the 70’s. We taught to be independent women and not ‘need’ a man. He was an atheist himself, but let us explore religions if we wanted to. Even with my mother he taught her to drive. He kept her in the loop with financial decisions (which they made together). taught her how to pays bills and loads of other things women who married in the 40’s were not taught or ‘allowed’ to do. And most importantly, we were taught people are people. No one is ‘better’ than anyone else. Period. He got disgusted with the Republicans long before they were this awful and left the party to vote independent. I am also thankful that neither of my parents are here to witness this horrible mess the US has become.


  11. For some unfathomable reason people who have positively been harmed by the latest vision of America as fostered by the Republican Party still vote Republican. Tax increases for the middle class, tariffs which raise domestic prices, anti union tactics, anti education regulations, roll back of environmental provisions, and catering to big oil and big pharma which raise prices.
    Let’s give the devil (Republicans) his due, they have been more sophisticated and effective in propaganda that sells these anti middle class ideas to the public. Where is the progressive version of “Rush”, Hannity, and Carlson. Folks, we are simply out sold.
    We need to get smart. Bread and butter issues will motivate voters far better that the most well meaning and well planned policy statements. Progressives can do both. Wake up folks or we shall face another four years of assault on our freedoms and ideals.


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