The United States of Patriarchy

Thinking Outside the Binary

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With the election seemingly drawing to a close, many news outlets have been releasing exit polls, exposing the political leanings of different racial, gender and age groups.

It’s hard to say how accurate exit polls are, of course, but, admittedly, I expected men to vote overwhelmingly in favor of reelecting President Donald Trump. Trump has made it clear that he seems to believe society should be organized such that a small group of men holds power at the expense of women and other marginalized groups.

I recall one of the many times he was exposed as the misogynist he is: A recording of him was leaked in which, referring to women, he said he would “grab ’em by the pussy.” After hearing this recording, I thought to myself: This has to be it. He has to be held accountable now. This man obviously has a dirty past, and a man like that can’t be our president.

But Trump was far from repudiated, even within my own family. After this incident, an uncle of mine, while not outwardly defending Trump, claimed, “That’s just locker room talk. All men do that privately.”

As my stepdad put it, Trump just says “what others are too afraid to say.”

This claim — that Trump was simply speaking the unsaid thoughts in many people’s minds — bewildered me. How could anyone think like that? How could anyone think these racist and misogynistic things and, on top of that, be happy someone was saying these thoughts for them?

The leaked recording in particular angered me, and Trump’s repeated acts of patriarchy — such as nominating one judge to the Supreme Court who was accused of sexual assault and another who has expressed opinions against reproductive rights — have continued to anger me.

But my assumptions concerning a gender divide in votes in the 2020 elections — that men would vote Republican in even greater numbers than before — weren’t entirely correct. In fact, the gap in voting between men and women, with men typically leaning Republican and women leaning Democrat, remained relatively the same compared to previous years.

I believe that all men benefit from the fact that our president was caught claiming to sexually harass women and nothing was done about it. Men benefit from Trump’s normalization of misogynistic language. But while Trump may have empowered some men to feel as though they can proudly say and do racist and misogynistic things, in the end, these systems of thought were in place well before Trump came into office.

When I was in high school, before Trump’s presidency, boys my age would often make lewd remarks to me, such as “I want to pop your cherry” or “You like girls? That’s really hot, a lot of guys would want to be with you if they knew that.” They’d laugh, and other boys would laugh along with them.

These 15- and 16-year-olds were learning this misogyny from somewhere. Maybe they had fathers who employed this kind of language at home. Maybe the media they consumed had raunchy comedy that used women as the butt of jokes, and they then adopted this language into their own vocabulary.

Either way, anyone who isn’t a cisgender man is left to put up with this normalization. If I were to have snapped and told those teenage boys off for the disgusting things they had said to me, I would have been seen as the unreasonable one. I would have been labeled a b—.

But language isn’t the only social structure that has been plagued by patriarchy. The reach of patriarchy is far greater.

Planned Parenthood, for example, is an organization dedicated to providing everyone with affordable contraceptive and sexual health care, but because it is an organization that has largely served women, it has historically faced underfunding and defunding and has often been ignored by the government.

In 2014, Barack Obama became the first sitting president of the United States to address Planned Parenthood. When my mother heard that he merely addressed Planned Parenthood, she ranted and cursed him, claiming the organization was a cult that was sacrificing babies. If my mother wasn’t so hard to talk to, so stubborn and stuck in her ways, I’d grab her by the arms and shake her and tell her that patriarchy persists in part by controlling women’s bodies. By not allowing women and gender-nonconforming folk reproductive autonomy, men in power force us to deal with unexpected or unwanted childbirths, keeping women in their homes and out of the workplace.

So patriarchy didn’t just suddenly appear within the last four years; it was simply subtler and not as detectable. Whether Trump is president or not, many people, such as my mother, still hold views that exist within and continue to uphold patriarchy.

Voting out Trump was not voting out patriarchy. Claiming this would be to simply cover up the same patriarchal systems he helped bring to light. The gender divide existed before Trump, and it will continue after him as well. We must do more than vote to help those most marginalized by patriarchy.

Elaina Guerrero writes the Wednesday column on the confines of the gender binary. Contact them at [email protected]