Shocker: Study Found Most Men, Republicans Think Gender Equality Has Come Far Enough—Some Even Too Far
Following the loss of the first female presidential nominee from a major political party to an incompetent businessman recorded uttering the words, “grab ‘em by the p-ssy,” we all had questions—namely, what happened? And while Hillary Clinton’s memoir offers some answers, a new Pew Research study published last week has some, too.
Trump’s shocking victory is often attributed, at least in part, to centrist Republicans who show up to vote, and made their decision in the final days leading up to Nov. 8 last year. And you know, all the glaring differences between Clinton and Donald Trump—i.e. competence, experience, lack of sexual assault allegations, knowledge of the basics of Democratic government, decency, ability to craft coherent sentences, etc.—aside, maybe one reason they didn’t choose Clinton was because of their inability to recognize the monumental nature of what her presidency would have signified in a patriarchal society. Or, worse, because they did recognize it.
According to the aforementioned study, more than half of Republican-leaning voters think gender equality has already been achieved in society. The study found that 54 percent of Republican voters think that things are “about right,” with 68 percent saying that neither men nor women have easier lives. About 26 percent of Republicans were able to concede that gender parity-wise, things in this country “haven’t gone far enough,” but a staggering 18 percent—compared to 4 percent of Democrats—believe society’s gender-related progress has “gone too far.” The study also found Democrats were substantially more likely to support shifting gender roles.
None of this is shocking considering the lawmakers Republicans consistently choose to represent them: rich, white, Christian men who have never been the victims of reproductive coercion, or sexual harassment and predation, or exclusion and pay inequality in the workplace. When Republicans do opt to be represented by women, they’re often women who are indifferent to America’s patriarchal structure as the select few who benefit from its inequalities. The empowerment of women who actively oppose women’s rights hurts American women as much as their male counterparts. For example, Trump’s lineup of token female representatives, from his daughter Ivanka to Kellyanne Conway to Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Hope Hicks, are the ones he sends out to explain to their fellow women why they’ll soon be losing their health care, to try and rationalize the president’s endless misogynistic comments.
In either case, the consequence of privilege tends to be ignorance, and an unwillingness to poke your head out of your bubble and learn about the challenges faced by those around you—or if you’re an elected lawmaker, your constituents. While it’s often liberals who are stereotyped as unwilling to listen and leave their political bubbles, I can’t recall the last time Paul Ryan went home to Wisconsin to speak to women about the obstacles they face to access affordable birth control, breast cancer screenings, or abortion services.
The bottomline is that Republican politicians like Ryan have never experienced the shocking everyday sexism that the vast majority of American women continue to face, from things like street harassment to policies that dramatically affect their living standards—for example, access to Planned Parenthood, family leave, a living wage, and pay equity, in a society where women are far more likely to live in poverty.
These beliefs, rooted in a lack of direct experience and indifference to women’s voices, are problematic on their own, but when they shape the policies of the majority of our elected lawmakers, a serious problem emerges. In the last year, I’ve lost count of how many times Republicans have led attempts to defund Planned Parenthood or buried pay equity legislation or said or proposed problematic ideas related to rape and sexual assault.
Republican lawmakers and voters alike are making decisions guided by the idea that women and men are equal, that sexism and inequality are non-issues. A sizable portion of Republicans even think the pendulum has swung too far and men—who, FYI, make up 80 percent of Congress—have become the victims of today’s militantly feminist, “anti-male” culture.
It pains me that I have to spell this out, but the consequences for women in a country with the highest maternal mortality rate in the world, under a presidential administration that’s proudly pledged to recognize the humanity of fertilized eggs over born, living women, are dire. Women continue to face legal threats and even imprisonment for having abortions, and it seems every few months there’s some bill in circulation to allow states to legally punish women and providers for the procedure.
And really, at the end of the day, the numbers say it all—the numbers of women who have harmed themselves attempting to perform their own abortions, who have struggled to afford birth control, tampons and razors, who have been harassed by employers or sexually assaulted. I can’t believe the argument that gender parity has been reached is even being put forth seriously, let alone by the majority of a major political party whose elected representatives occupy the vast majority of offices across the country.
But that being said, there’s plenty of ignorance to go around. The same Pew study found Democrats—particularly male Democrats—have some pretty convoluted ideas about the current state of things. 58 percent of male Democrats see no difference in difficulty in men and women’s lives, and 44 percent think that gender equality-wise, things are all good in America, right now—you know, the same country that elected a man accused of sexual abuse from more than a dozen women before a female former senator and secretary of state.
These numbers are irritating, but hardly surprising for anyone who uses the internet. Something the left and right alike share is rabid disdain for “social justice warriors” and “feminazis,” who are purportedly exaggerating gender and other identity-based sociopolitical injustices. Those who have never directly experienced identity-based oppression continue to silence, attack, or just tune out those who have, and the cycle continues. Voters—namely men and Republicans, according to the Pew study—see nothing wrong with a status quo that doesn’t directly hurt them, perhaps even benefits them, and so they continue to vote in a manner that upholds said status quo. And, as I’m sure you could probably guess, women are the ones who suffer the consequences of this.
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