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The following opinion talks about these questions; looks at white privilege, gender traitors, and what that means to the author and to some of us who share many of her thoughts and feelings.
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska on Friday. She broke with her fellow Republicans and did not support the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. CreditJ. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press
By Alexis Grenell
After a confirmation process where women all but slit their wrists, letting their stories of sexual trauma run like rivers of blood through the Capitol, the Senate still voted to confirm Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. With the exception of Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, all the women in the Republican conference caved, including Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who held out until the bitter end.
These women are gender traitors, to borrow a term from the dystopian TV series “The Handmaid’s Tale.” They’ve made standing by the patriarchy a full-time job. The women who support them show up at the Capitol wearing “Women for Kavanaugh” T-shirts, but also probably tell their daughters to put on less revealing clothes when they go out.
They’re more sympathetic to Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who actually shooed away a crowd of women and told them to “grow up.” Or Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, whose response to a woman telling him she was raped was: “I’m sorry. Call the cops.”
These are the kind of women who think that being falsely accused of rape is almost as bad as being raped. The kind of women who agree with President Trump that “it’s a very scary time for young men in America,” which he said during a news conference on Tuesday.
But the people who scare me the most are the mothers, sisters and wives of those young men, because my stupid uterus still holds out some insane hope of solidarity.
We’re talking about white women. The same 53 percent who put their racial privilege ahead of their second-class gender status in 2016 by voting to uphold a system that values only their whiteness, just as they have for decades. White women have broken for Democratic presidential candidates only twice: in the 1964 and 1996 elections, according to an analysis by Jane Junn, a political scientist at the University of Southern California.
Women of color, and specifically black women, make the margin of difference for Democrats. The voting patterns of white women and white men mirror each other much more closely, and they tend to cast their ballots for Republicans. The gender gap in politics is really a color line.
That’s because white women benefit from patriarchy by trading on their whiteness to monopolize resources for mutual gain. In return they’re placed on a pedestal to be “cherished and revered,” as Speaker Paul D. Ryan has said about women, but all the while denied basic rights.
This elevated position over women of color comes at a cost, though. Consider what Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to the president, said at a dinner last year for New York’s Conservative Party. She suggestedthat higher birthrates are “how I think we fight these demographic wars moving forward.” The war, of course, is with non-white people. So it seems that white women are expected to support the patriarchy by marrying within their racial group, reproducing whiteness and even minimizing violence against their own bodies.
Recently, Ms. Conway even weaponized her own alleged sexual assault in service to her boss by discouraging women from feeling empathy with Christine Blasey Ford or anger at Judge Kavanaugh.
Ms. Conway knows that a woman who steps out of line may be ridiculed by the president himself. President Trump mocked Dr. Blaseyin front of a cheering crowd on Tuesday evening. Betray the patriarchy and your whiteness won’t save you.
The pedestal is a superior, if precarious, place. For white women, it’s apparently better than being “stronger together,” with the 94 percent of black women and 86 percent of Latinas who voted for Hillary Clinton.
During the 2016 presidential election, did white women really vote with their whiteness in mind? Lorrie Frasure-Yokley, a political scientist at U.C.L.A., recently measured the effect of racial identity on white women’s willingness to support Trump in 2016 and found a positive and statistically significant relationship. So white women who voted for him did so to prop up their whiteness.
In the study, white women who agreed that “many women interpret innocent remarks or acts as sexist” were 17 percent more likely to vote for a Republican candidate. They were also likely to agree that “blacks should work their way up without special favors.” To be sure, women of color aren’t inherently less sexist or even without their own racial biases. But unlike white women, they can’t use race privilege to their advantage.
This blood pact between white men and white women is at issue in the November midterms. President Trump knows it, and at that Tuesday news conference, he signaled to white women to hold the line: “The people that have complained to me about it the most about what’s happening are women. Women are very angry,” he said. “I have men that don’t like it, but I have women that are incensed at what’s going on.”
.I’m sure he does “have” them; game girls will defend their privilege to the death.
But apparently that doesn’t include Ms. Murkowski anymore. Maybe it’s because she comes from a state with the nation’s highest rate of sexual violence, with a sexual assault rate three times the national average, where prosecutors just let a man evade jail time after he kidnapped a native Alaskan woman and strangled her unconscious, then masturbated over her body. Maybe.
Meanwhile, Senator Collins subjected us to a slow funeral dirge about due process and some other nonsense I couldn’t even hear through my rage headache as she announced on Friday she would vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh. Her mostly male colleagues applauded her.
The question for white women in November is: Which one of these two women are you?
I fear we already know the answer.