Why Are White American Women Mocking Lady Liberty
What’s Going On?
I’m probably late to the table bringing this up, but frankly, I’ve been having an extremely difficult time processing my emotions around the events of the last couple months. Even though I knew it to be irrational and futile, my mind persisted in circling back on itself to ask the pointless question, “How could this happen?” To make matters worse, when I drop my guard or I’m sleepy my mind often returns to this loop and hisses at me like the forgotten arm of the phonograph stuck scratching its way around the last groove of Marvin Gaye’s 1971 hit album “What’s Going On”.
It was on a charter bus headed from Little Rock, Arkansas to Washington, DC to join the historic Women’s March that I first learned of the dubious statistic which stated: 53% of white married women voted for Trump. Fuck no! There’s no possible way this could be true! Immediately, my mind spat this piece of information out like I’d just licked the back of a poisonous toad. Then, I had an overwhelming urge to punch the person who’d delivered the message square in the face. I know I must have looked positively idiotic as my lower jaw came completely unhinged and hung wide open beneath my bug eyes. Fortunately, the latter part of my virulent rejection and my complete inability to accept this news as authentic did not overpower my presence of mind completely, thus, my wife’s nose is still beautifully in tact. I grabbed my phone and googled it, huffing in haste, frustration and a desperate need to prove she was mistaken about this statistic.
Finally, I had to give in and admit I could not debunk the information and this was followed by a deep and mortifying shame at being white and a woman, despite the fact that I had no choice in being either. Still, I’m not asking for any sort of pass from women of color, believe me, I now understand women like me have some hard work to do in educating other white women and I won’t soon forget how I felt on the bus that day.
Perhaps, I will always have a difficult time comprehending the fact that 53% of white women voted for Trump because I’m little bit myopic in my view of the world and generalize far too much about the common and universal challenges in all woman’s lives. I don’t think I was alone in doing this, however. Maybe it was far too tempting for a certain candidate’s campaign team to take for granted that half the population of the country would vote for her based on little more than a gender bias. Women are much harder to manipulate along gender biases when it comes to favoring a women over a man than men are to manipulate along the same gender biases when it comes to favoring a man over a women in almost any capacity. In other words, women themselves are some of the worst misogynists, and apparently 53% of white women have taken this strange and self-defeating idiosyncrasy to new heights.
If we’ve learned anything from this past year I hope we’ve learned that women now live more complex lives than in any other time in history. I tried not to make the idealistic assumption that “all” women would naturally want to vote for the first female candidate for president, and, in fact, I was a diehard Sanders supporter, and I’m a white, middle-aged lesbian also identifying as a feminist. See what I mean? Never take a stereotype for granted. Thus, I fought to resist my feminist temptation towards an unvetted gender bias (my own) in order to weigh each candidate’s message and platform. Reluctantly switching camps after the democratic nomination was not as difficult as I first feared since Bernie Sanders did a great job of pulling Hillary Clinton further away from her natural moderate republican set point.
…and I’m a white, middle-age lesbian also identifying as a feminist. See what I mean? Never take a stereotype for granted.
What’s Freud got to do with this, and do I really hate them?
I had a dream the other night in which I became some sort of vigilante, like a pen and ink drawing of a comic book hero I’ll call the Feminist Avenger complete with pink pussy hat. In my dream, I made it my mission to find and boldly smack each and every one of the 53% of women upside the head and ask “What the hell were you thinking?” Really, I mean it, and it was a little disturbing because I’m not normally what one might consider a violent person though I can be given to fits of misanthropy here and there. Freud would have a hey day with me, no doubt. I woke up panting, sweaty and my fists were clinched so tight I left faint little half-moon nail marks in my right palm. I’m right-handed, see, just in case you see me blindly hustling towards you and you are one of the 53% of women I’m referring to.
The thing is, I personally know at least two of these women and honestly, I wish I didn’t because it has changed completely how I see them. I know I sound judgmental, but I’m more disappointed and disillusioned than anything else and the anger, well, apparently, it’s real too, even if I try to deny it. In the end, I don’t hate these women, I just want to understand them and possibly open their hearts and minds to a world beyond their front porches.
When I think of Lady Liberty standing in the New York harbor, lamp lifted high, I’ve never once doubted why the Frenchman Edouard de Laboulaye proposed a woman to represent America’s universal invitation of compassion, hope and solace. It wasn’t simply because country’s are generally referred to in the feminine pronoun, it was because the benevolent and bounteous spirit of America captured the hearts and fueled the hopes and dreams of immigrants everywhere who sought unparalleled freedom and a chance for a better life for themselves and their families. Lady Liberty was the beacon of compassion and hope and she was called “Liberty Enlightening the World”. Before now, no one could accuse her of standing in the harbor offering empty promises and hypocrisy. To many, she was the destination for those longing to be free. She represented the inclusive spirit of democracy and she has welcomed hundreds of thousands of immigrants to this nation from every corner of the world for nearly a century and a half.
Nearly 150 years later, 53% of white American women have mocked Lady Liberty and I find it shameful.
Normally, I would agree that politics should be set aside when it comes to family and friends and I’d respect your privacy in such matters, but these are not normal times and the cultural and democratic values of America are decidedly under siege. This cannot be overstated. We can’t afford to keep a polite silence among ourselves any longer. Women must find the courage and common ground upon which to meet and discuss the issues that affect our own freedoms directly along with the well-being and future of our children and grandchildren. Women cannot take a pass or the easy ride by mindlessly colluding with our husbands, the bridge club, or our church groups any longer. Women must take responsibility for their right to vote and take seriously the importance of the votes we cast.
S Lynn Knight, 2017