They Really Do Hate Us* by Esther Nelson



A year or so before the November 2020 U.S. presidential election, a private Facebook group now titled “Wives of the Deplorables! Go Vote!” came together because many women were distraught about the political ideological rift between them and their husbands—a rift that became more evident as Election Day 2020 drew nigh.  Women, stunned and disappointed by the Trump-like behavior (angry, petty, and argumentative) of their Trump-supporting husbands or partners, encouraged each other virtually as Biden (now President-elect) moved closer and closer to winning the White House.

From the group’s private Facebook page:  “This is a group created after a CNN report about the wives of Trump Supporters. This is not a politically affiliated group….This females only group is created to support each other and help women share their thoughts.”My sister Betty joined the group.  Her Trump-supporting husband, she said, had been brainwashed by Fox News.  One need not have a Trumpster spouse to be part of the group, but one must be supportive of the members who are upset, even devastated, by having become the target of their partner’s anger and rage when they discover “their women” voted (or planned to vote) for Biden.  Thanks to her invitation to join the group, I have been able to get a glimpse into the lives of these 2,000 or so members who feel demeaned—and yes, even hated, by their spouses.  The group remains active post-Election.

Many women expressed surprise and dismay as they learned that their husbands were not just voting Republican, but voting for Trump specifically.  Since the men had been quiet about their support for Trump, some wives never thought to check regarding their political leanings.  Some women reported that either they or their mates had moved to the guest room or living room couch.  An over-arching theme focused on feelings of betrayal as their partners scorned and bullied them, hoping to get them in line with their (the men’s) own political views.

It was sad to see how disillusioned many of the women were/are as they came to realize that their male partners had no respect (or even tolerance) for their wives’ differing political opinions.  Anecdote after anecdote reflects women’s efforts to engage in meaningful conversation with their spouses.  That doesn’t happen.  The men seem to grow angrier and angrier, deriding their partners for having a viewpoint unlike their own.

The truth of the matter is that men have been taught (and they’ve learned) to hate women.  It’s the basis of a patriarchal social system that forms the framework of our society.  To be more accurate and less sensational, let me clarify and say that people called men in our society, having absorbed a particular masculine value (power through domination), have little use for a particular feminine value (collaboration) absorbed by people called women.  There are nuances and complexities to be sure.  All of us absorb patriarchy with its inherent hierarchy that values men, putting them in the upper echelons of society.  No matter how “nice” men may behave towards us, unless they’ve had an epiphany and realized that they are not better, smarter, and more capable just by virtue of being male, they really do hate us.

Jimmy Carter (in his 90s) had such an eye-opening experience.  Here is a link to the text of Jimmy Carter’s 2015 Ted Talk: https://www.cartercenter.org/news/editorials_speeches/jc-TEDWomen-may-2015.html

Carter notes that many men say, “I’m against discrimination against girls and women…[but] it’s very difficult to get the majority of men who control the university system, the majority of men that control the military system, the majority of men that control the governments of the world, and the majority of men that control the great religions – to act for change.”  Why?  Because those men high in the patriarchal order (white and wealthy in the U.S.) wield power and privilege enough to keep the status quo—a status quo that benefits men.

Racism, like sexism, runs rampant in our society as well.  It’s part of the basis of patriarchy—structural domination of one group over another.  I do think that White men (and women), if they are inching towards enlightenment, are much more likely to see how they are complicit with racist behavior than sexist behavior.  The following NY Times article shows that many White Americans are waking up to the degree of entrenched racism in our country: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/22/us/racism-white-americans.html.

At the outset, we read a short narrative about Greg Reese.  “One recent afternoon, while washing his car, Greg Reese, a white stay-at-home dad in Campton, Ky., peeled off the Confederate flag magnet he had placed on its trunk six years earlier. He did not put it back on.”

Epiphanies need not happen suddenly, but there does need to be a “once I was blind, but now I see” experience when one “gets” that racial (and sexist) structures in our society really are in place in order to give those who are dominant the upper hand, and these structures are inherently unjust.  Greg did demonstrate a new way of seeing by taking off the Confederate flag magnet on his car.  It’s a start.

People who are not racist don’t display symbols (Confederate flag, Ku Klux Klan and Nazi paraphernalia) representing the oppression of fellow human beings.  To do so is not just disrespectful—it’s a show of hatred.

Men who are not sexist don’t attempt to re-make women in their own image and then throw temper tantrums when women don’t fit the mold.  To do so is not just disrespectful—that too is a show of hatred.

Each of us is unique, an amalgam of our experiences and our individual selves.  As a result, we perceive the world in a variety of ways.  But, when one of those varieties diminishes others, we need to call it by its name–hatred.

 

*The title of this essay is a spin-off from Mona Eltahaway’s 2012 article in Foreign Policy titled, “Why Do They Hate Us?”  Eltahawy (b. 1967) is an Egyptian-American journalist who wrote extensively about Egypt’s participation in the uprising known as the Arab Spring.  Her article’s title refers to the various ways Middle Eastern men express their disdain and hatred towards women.  https://foreignpolicy.com/2012/04/23/why-do-they-hate-us/

 

Esther Nelson is a registered nurse who worked for several years in Obstetrics and Psychiatry, but not simultaneously. She returned to school (Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia) when her children were in college and liked it well enough to stay on as an adjunct professor. For twenty-two years, she taught courses on Human Spirituality, Global Ethics, Christian-Muslim Relations, Women in the Abrahamic Faiths, and Women in Islam. She is the co-author (with Nasr Abu Zaid) of Voice of An Exile: Reflections on Islam and the co-author (with Kristen Swenson) of What is Religious Studies? : A Journey of Inquiry. She recently stepped away from teaching and now splits her time between New Mexico and Virginia.



Categories: Politics, Racism, Sexism, Women's Agency, Women's Power

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27 replies

  1. My mother would never have voted differently than her husband. When my father’s mother voted for Kennedy because he was Catholic, it became a topic of conversation centered around how she voted differently than she had always voted and differently from her husband and son.

    Liked by 4 people

    • all I remember were the endless fights… ugh.

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    • Some of the women in the “Deplorables” group voted for Biden without telling their spouses, letting the husbands believe that they (the couple) were still a united front. It avoids a lot of grief, they said.

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    • Sometimes I fear that society improves and declines in equal portions. My grandparents ( I’m talking 1920s-mid 1950s) never voted the same. She was a Democrat and he was Republican, and they always laughed that they cancelled each other out. But since then, the Republicans and what they represent have obviously changed. I’d comment on the decline of ordinary respect and common decency, but obviously my grandparents’ time had its own outrages, both on the surface and beneath it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Powerful! A good read, thanks Esther!

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  3. Excellent article. I do not know the original source, but yesterday in an anti-racist book club a colleague shared this quote, “Equality is scary if all you have ever known is privilege.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Sarah. Great quote. Way back in my church-going days, part of every Sunday’s liturgy said something to the effect that we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and not done those things we ought to have done. In other words, sins of commission AND omission. Remaining inured with one’s privilege (IMO) falls under the omission variety of “sins.”

      Do you have specific books about race being read in the anti-racist book club?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Powerful article Esther. Mens hatred of women often erupts sideways through humiliation,an unwillingness to listen or help, outright dismissal (In New Mexico I had a neighbor like this – one reason I returned to Maine but not the major one – to be exposed at such close quarters (once again) to male privilege/abuse was a sobering experience for me – it helped me understand how easily one gets sucked in) I am heartened to hear that some women gathered to support each other as their lives fell apart. I feel enormous compassion for these women having been one of them earlier in my life. It takes enormous courage to stand up to the truth around most men. Trump’s brand of craziness fed the men what they wanted – POWER OVER. I am so sick of this story.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Holy cow–what you’re describing is a horror movie! Except it’s Real Life. Which is scarier than any movie could be. When I was in graduate school, it was unusual for the female graduate students to be assertive. Or smart. I remember upsetting a lot of the guys because I earned my Ph.D. with straight A’s. None of the guys did, and though I was never attacked physically, I got called a lot of names. Not friendly ones.

    Sara’s right: the boys (I don’t want to call them men) want POWER OVER. Well, let’s hope that TRUMP’S OVER. Except he’s still doing everything he can to kill democracy in the U.S. I know some Trumpers, and a couple of them are women, and one’s a black woman. It’s handy that we’re staying home again–I don’t have to encounter those people.

    Many thanks for writing this powerful post. Will any of the MAGA jerks who need to learn the lessons it teaches read it??

    Bright blessings to every woman (and man) who is speaking out and acting to reduce the sexism and racism.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Barbara, for your response. Social progress is ever so slow. Even if the “Maga jerks” read posts such as this, their response is most often one of dismissal. But, once one “sees the light” (so to speak), there’s no going back. We keep pushing and moving forward.

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  6. Esther, thank you for giving women in this circumstance a voice and a presence here. I have met and counseled a number of women in this situation. Here is to their bravery and determination.

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    • Thanks, Elizabeth. One of the many things that stood out to me as I read post after post from these women (wives of the “deplorables”) is how desperately they wanted to connect with their partners, but found it impossible as the men either wouldn’t speak to them or if they did they screamed, hollered, and then pouted. So many women were happy to have found one another.

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  7. Scary, insightful thoughts. Thank you, Esther.
    Last night I watched the MSNBC interview with President Obama as talked about his “I am my brother’s keeper” program, a program to help young black men. One of the young men interviewed noted that “my brother” includes “my brother’s sister, my brother’s mother”, of whom he is also “the keeper”. By all appearances, this is an excellent program.

    The thought did occur to me last night that we desperately need an “I am my sister’s keeper” feeling in this country as well. We don’t want to always be the one who is cared for; we want to be the one who does the caring. I am so glad the women who were being bullied and abused found each other. While a feeling of “I am my neighbor’s keeper” would be quite wonderful, it is likely a step too far right now. We ARE making progress as women in this world, in spite of the past four years, which speaks so highly of our resilience, intelligence and spirit. May the progress continue, may many thousands more groups evolve that help my sisters.

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    • Thanks for commenting. I too hope that the progress women have made will continue. Progress never seems to happen in a straight line, though, as you noted with the phrase, “in spite of the past four years….” I also hope that women will avail themselves of the helpful groups to further justice and equality.

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  8. I’ve lately become really impressed with Biden’s role modeling of what it means to be masculine in a positive way – caring for the vulnerable, willing to speak up on behalf of those who are abused, not ashamed to show affection for family and friends, expressing emotions of sadness without shame. I think this will be a benefit of his and Kamala’s administration that we will all come to appreciate more as the years go by.

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    • I think you are right, Carolyn. As the new administration settles in, with their humane ways of being in the world, we’ll see many things done differently from the current administration. Now, if tRump will just get out of the way!

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  9. What a terrific post. It reminds me of a speech Z.Budapest gave years ago. She had just toured a red light district in a town in India and seen girl prostitutes displayed in cages. She ended the talk by saying that nothing will change male culture except men themselves. She told us it was not enough to educate our own partners to treat us respectfully, we had to turn them into advocates for women when we weren’t there in the locker room or the board room. My husband and I have had lots of conversation over the years about this in regards to both sexism and racism. Even at 74 he’s a big impressive man, he’s still flying as a pilot with incredible skills, so he’s got a lots of creds in the male world. He no longer remains silent and let’s other men assume his complicity. He speaks out and up. It’s a tiny drop in the bucket, He says the most effective thing he does is speak lovingly of me and to me on the phone when I call. This is when men get wistful and come to him with their worries and problems because they want what he has, without any idea about how to respect or value their partners as other human beings.

    It’s so important we keep educating ourselves. Over the years, as I’ve read and delved and widened my understanding, I’ve passed the knowledge on to my husband. He learns what I learn. Even if the history of the African American church doesn’t interest him – I do, and so he listens and remembers and uses the information two years later sitting next to some stranger in the airport with whom he shares a meaningful conversation they wouldn’t otherwise have had and another tiny bridge gets built.

    Drop-by-drop is such a hard philosophy to embrace and its only one road to change, but we’ve got to employ them all.

    Thank you Esther, for writing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Christine, for your thoughtful response, including the beautiful tribute to your husband. I agree that it’s so important to have men become advocates for women, not JUST women, but for all people who are diminished in the patriarchal structures and confines of our society. As much as racism and sexism are structural, the dismantling of that structure is something you reflect in the phrase “drop-by-drop.” Doing what we can where we are.

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  10. Interesting post Esther, I had read about this Facebook group in the newspaper but as a small-bit news item. You fleshed out the issues. Thank you for that. I felt such deep sadness as I read your blog. In all the efforts to heal this nation, how do we even move forward when these families are so torn about by the very same issue. It is tragic!

    You write this line: “The truth of the matter is that men have been taught (and they’ve learned) to hate women.” True but for me, the even deeper chasm is “that men have been taught (and they’ve learned) to hate.” – Period! It’s not just women, its anyone from other cultures, other religions, other racial groups, fill in the blank . . . Hate is hate and how do you counter that?

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    • Thanks for your response, Janet. One could spend several class sessions on your statement, “Hate is hate and how do you counter that?” One of my colleagues (now retired) would often talk about the “mystery” involved in change. How did Greg Reese “see” that taking the Confederate flag magnet off his car was the appropriate (and just) thing to do? I think for that reason–at least partially–my former colleague focused on nature as a teacher. He spent hours and hours (still does) “in” nature and focusing on its mysteriousness. He liked the quote attributed to Lao Tzu: “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”

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  11. wow, Esther, thank you for shining a light on this terrible pattern of misogyny. So important. This is why I continue to fight for the liberation of the oppressed female class (radical feminism) rather than focusing on individual choice as the most important idea. There are deep levels of hatred of females in our society, and they operate in cultural, structural, and direct/personal ways on females everywhere, reminding us constantly that we are considered subhuman. I’m fighting beside you, and glad to know more about what we are facing.

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  12. Thank you, Trelawney, for commenting. And your statement, “There are deep levels of hatred of females in our society, and they operate in cultural, structural, and direct/personal ways on females everywhere, reminding us constantly that we are considered subhuman,” is right on target, I do believe.

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