There has been an election this week. I won’t dwell on it – heaven knows there has been wall-to-wall coverage and little else. Even a survey of New Zealanders – surely the most chilled people on the planet – found that one in 10 said that they would, theoretically, vote for Donald Trump. That’s quite a lot of people – but we must note the 61% male bias.
Blokes. Friends. Citizens. What is going on?
In an essay in the New York Review of Books, playwright Wallace Shawn argues that at some point Americans – or a good number of them – stopped believing in goodness, decency and kindness at the underpinning characteristics of what it means to be American.
Trump is not ashamed of his own selfishness, indifference to the suffering of others and his “own cheerful enjoyment of cruelty”
Shawn makes the rather chilling point that because Trump is not ashamed of his own selfishness, indifference to the suffering of others and his “own cheerful enjoyment of cruelty”, that has in turn allowed others to let go of the values that have long been held to represent the American ideal.
“In a world in which the rich want permission to take as much as they can get without feeling any shame, and many of the not-rich are so worried about their own sinking fortunes that they find it hard to worry about the misery of anyone else, Trump is the priest who grants absolution. In a way, he seems to be telling his followers that perhaps compassion is just one more value of the elite culture that he and they hate, like speaking in long sentences and listening to classical music.”
Shawn’s point is picked up in another, equally brilliant, essay in Slat ‘How Conservatism Failed It’s Women’. Writer Lili Loofbourow grew up in an ultra-Conservative, god-fearing, deeply patriarchal community in California – a community that has strongly held views and values, including that the men “did sincerely want to protect the women in their lives, however frequently they failed, from threats including those posed by bad and predatory men.” Men like Donald Trump.
The supposed benefits to women of ‘gun-toting chivalry’ – were a chimera – a bargain that could be broken at any time, at whim, by the men.
What Loofbourow saw as she grew older and wiser was that the supposed benefits to women of ‘gun-toting chivalry’ – were a chimera – a bargain that could be broken at any time, at whim, by the men.
“The politics of sex are the politics of power,” she writes. “The majority of white men who still support Trump and the women who remain loyal are supporting a vision of power expressed as wealth and impunity – wherein his lies and corruption are a feature, not a bug”. That, she says, could be what is attracting Black and Hispanic men as Trump supporters. “It conceives of power as a limited and arbitrary resource that need to be not just hoarded but abused.”
The hoarding and abuse of power is also being played out in Poland where an almost total nationwide ban on abortion has now been enacted.
“Since 1993, Poland has only allowed abortions in case of rape or incest, a threat to the mother’s life or a deformed foetus,” according to Al Jazeera.
“Now the court ruling could pave the way for legislators from the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party to approve draft legislation that would ban pregnancy terminations in the case of fetuses with congenital birth defects.”
Many have blamed Polish leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski for sucking up to the Catholic Church – a strategy designed to shore up his slipping grip on power. As the Guardian reported: “ one of the standard tricks of the COVID-19 illiberal populist … is to reach for religion when you are being accused of incompetence”.
Meanwhile, in Egypt, young women have taken to TikTok to challenge the strictures of conservative male-dominated conservative society – including the blaming of women when they are raped.
The young women of TikTok have become such a threat to the old guard that at least nine have been convicted of “violating family values”
Indeed, the young women of TikTok have become such a threat to the old guard that at least nine have been convicted of “violating family values” by posting indecent photos and videos disturbing to public morals. Last week two were sentenced to two years in jail. More cases are to come.
In the UK, actor Johnny Depp lost his libel case against a British paper which had labelled him a “wife-beater”. The case, which was heard in July, outlined in minute and lurid detail the disintegration of a truly dysfunctional relationship.
And for all outpouring of grief over the death of actor Sean Connery, at least there were a number of outlets that took the time to note that dark side of a man who was a sex symbol to many. Writing in Women’s Agenda, Georgie Dent noted the years of psychological and physical abuse his former wife Diane Cilento had been subjected to. In a 1965 interview with Playboy, Connery had this to say:
“I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong in hitting a woman, though I don’t recommend you do it the same way that you hit a man. An open-handed slap is justified, if all other alternatives fail and there has been plenty of warning. If a woman is a bitch, or hysterical, or bloody-minded continually, then I’d do it.”
While dysfunction and chaos appear to be reigning supreme, Kim Rubenstein, our own co-director of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation will remind us that active participation in our democracy is a saving grace during her online seminar on Women and the Australian Constitution on November 11 at 12pm. You can sign up to participate here.
Kim also penned a fascinating piece for the Canberra Times and BroadAgenda which brought Australian values into sharp focus asking the question: Would the government pass its own citizenship test? Perhaps not.
Have a great weekend.