By David Michael Newstead.
Political strategist Suzanne Turner of turner4D joins me to offer perspective from across election cycles and to share her expertise on structural issues influencing American democracy. Music by http://www.bensound.com.
By David Michael Newstead.
In January, I spoke with the Twitter users that popularized #MasculinitySoFragile regarding their perspectives on gender in America. Skip ahead eleven months to the present and there’s still plenty to talk about after one of the most negative presidential campaigns in recent memory. For more insight, I checked back in with @anthoknees to discuss misogyny, gender, and where to go from here. Our conversation is below.
@DavidMNewstead: In your opinion, was 2016 a watershed year for misogyny?
@anthoknees: Within my 27 years of living? Definitely. Misogyny is not new, but just like Donald Trump’s election woke a lot of people up to the white supremacy that founded this country, Hillary Clinton’s loss woke up those paying attention to the sexism and misogyny that men benefit from. There has also been an increased call to U.S. college campus administrators to take responsibility for their Title IX failures, particularly around sexual assault. And locally, the Oakland and Richmond police departments are facing massive public scrutiny for sexual misconduct and rape with minors. Yet despite all of this, cisheteropatriarchy rules supreme and men still have the final say.
@DavidMNewstead: What’s behind that patriarchal dominance? And has your view of it changed over the course of the last year?
@anthoknees: While I think about masculinities, gender relations, and kyriarchy daily, I do not necessarily think pinpointing what’s behind the patriarchal dominance is something I can easily do. Based on what I’ve lived, read, observed, it seems to me that it is a learned behavior and a societal norm that has existed throughout time and go through various, often violent, cycles. Men are not born thinking that we are naturally better, stronger, or “destined” to dominate. In fact, men aren’t born, men are created. The same applies to every gender. While our genitals are a fact, our gender identity, gender expression, and even biological sexual identity are social constructions that really do hold us and everyone around us hostage. From gender reveal parties that begin before we’re even born to the sexual scripts we are taught throughout our lives what a man is expected to be, and how a man is supposed to dominate. It then becomes a legacy that we are more than willing to uphold.
So, to answer the second question, the last year has been the year I have really gotten serious about deconstructing my colonial notions of what gender is and what it can be. What I’m seeing now is that this patriarchal dominance, as you call it, is taught to us and we gladly uphold it because it benefits men more than it harms men–in almost all scenarios. Where it falls short is clearly the violence inflicted on our entire world in the name of patriarchy. It is not just women, trans folks, femmes, or even men. This notion that men must conquer people, land, and animals is at the root of capitalism and white supremacy. The overwhelming majority of white women who voted for Trump weren’t just voting for whiteness or supposed economic security. When a candidate can talk about grabbing women “by the pussy,” imitate a disabled reporter, insinuate that he’d like to sleep with his daughter, and still win so many popular votes and electoral votes? It’s a problem that is much bigger than individual acts of sexism or misogyny, and instead indicative of a much larger societal and structural problem. So again, this year was really about realizing that all of these systems are connected and while I cannot tell you why it started, it makes sense that it has continued.
@DavidMNewstead: Where does the struggle for gender equality go from here?
@anthoknees: It’s easy for me to be cynical, but where I do see hope is the next generation. For example, I see kids who know that they’re trans at a very young age and are finding protection and love from trans folks and queers my age and older. I see a lot more freedom sexually for young women. I see a lot more talk about folks who are intersex and feel like they don’t have to hide it anymore. And I see a whole generation that is realizing that a straight identity and a binary understanding of gender may not be the best way to go. I see us listening to the youth, particularly young women, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming folks of color. I see the current generation of folks who fit or don’t fit into these boxes listening to our elders. And then I see that our elders had folks to look up to, but a lot less and many who were a lot less visible than they are today. My fear is that with increased visibility comes violence and hate crimes. Anyone who is not cis, straight, male, and able-bodied is susceptible to be harmed in some way as we continue to fight. But in looking for some sort of gender equality, I see more attempts to work toward gender equity as the next step. That is at all levels, but particularly the decision-making positions in every aspect of our lives. Additionally, that equity must be guided and led with a truly intersectional framework. If we work toward gender equality or equity without a proper understanding of race, ethnicity, class, gender, nationalism, ability, and more? We’re doomed to repeat the past history of a white-woman only feminist politic, a western-only feminist politic, and overall exclusionary politics that have truly damaging consequences.
By David Michael Newstead.
Before his presidency, John F. Kennedy wrote A Nation of Immigrants. The book discusses the different origins, motivations, and numerous social contributions of immigrants arriving at different points in U.S. history. It’s a short book, but a meaningful one since Kennedy himself was a descendant of Irish immigrants. What’s especially noteworthy though is that later in the book JFK advocated for more open immigration policies and an end to the discriminatory national quota system which had been put into place in 1924 to limit immigration in general and non-white immigration specifically. And while Kennedy would not live to see his proposals enacted, America today is much more diverse because of them.
I bring this up for several reasons. First, to underline that contributions to American society by recent immigrants have only continued since Kennedy’s time. Second, this increase in diversity going forward is an asset, not a curse. And third, the racial makeup of the United States was kept homogeneous for so long through means which were blatantly racist at the time and would be completely unacceptable today. This includes things like the Chinese Exclusion Act and as soon as such policies were abandoned, America became more multicultural.
The other reason I mention A Nation of Immigrants is that I have my father’s copy of it sitting on my bookshelf. He was an immigrant to the United States. And while there’s nothing harrowing about his story compared to Syrians and others, it makes it pretty hard not to sympathize with a group that practically everyone’s relatives belonged to once upon a time.
By David Michael Newstead.
American Psycho shouldn’t be relevant in 2016. This amalgamation of 1980s references and social commentary should be completely out-of-date. But it’s not. Instead, it’s as if the main character has taken over politics and the internet, unleashing misogyny, anger, lack of empathy, and general derangement on the world. I re-watched the movie adaptation recently and it felt like American Psycho will have some kind of bizarre historical significance years from now, because the story unintentionally foreshadows something larger than just Election 2016. People without a filter.