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.