Misogyny Over Racism?

In the January/February issue of the Atlantic, Peter Beinart attributes the global move to authoritarianism to misogyny.

After noting the current roster of bullies in power in various countries–he calls them ‘Trumpists’– and noting the very different political and economic environments of those countries, he points to the one threat they all share: women.

But the more you examine global Trumpism, the more it challenges the story lines that dominate conversation in the United States. Ask commentators to explain the earthquake that has hit American politics since 2016, and they’ll likely say one of two things. First, that it’s a scream of rage from a working class made downwardly mobile by globalization. Second, that it’s a backlash by white Christians who fear losing power to immigrants and racial and religious minorities.

Yet these theories don’t travel well. Downward mobility? As Anne Applebaum pointed out in this magazinejust a few months ago, “Poland’s economy has been the most consistently successful in Europe over the past quarter century. Even after the global financial collapse in 2008, the country saw no recession.” In the years leading up to Duterte’s surprise 2016 victory, the Philippines experienced what the scholar Nicole Curato has called “phenomenal economic growth.” The racial-and-religious-backlash theory leaves a lot unexplained, too. Immigration played little role in Duterte’s ascent, or in Bolsonaro’s. Despite his history of anti-black comments, preelection polls showed Bolsonaro winning among black and mixed-race Brazilians. Racism has been even less central to Duterte’s appeal.

The problem with both American-born story lines is that authoritarian nationalism is rising in a diverse set of countries. Some are mired in recession; others are booming. Some are consumed by fears of immigration; others are not. But besides their hostility to liberal democracy, the right-wing autocrats taking power across the world share one big thing, which often goes unrecognized in the U.S.: They all want to subordinate women.

Beinart quotes Valerie M. Hudson, a political scientist at Texas A&M, who reminds us that  for most of human history, leaders and their male subjects agreed that men would be ruled by other men in return for all men ruling over women. Since this hierarchy mirrored that of the home, it seemed natural. As a result, Hudson says, men, and many women, have associated male dominance with political legitimacy. Women’s empowerment disrupts this order.

The article mines history to illustrate the ways revolutionaries have used “the specter of women’s power” to discredit the regime they sought to overthrow.

French revolutionaries made Marie Antoinette a symbol of the immorality of the ancien régime and that Iranian revolutionaries did the same to Princess Ashraf, the “unveiled and powerful” sister of the shah. After toppling the monarchy, the French revolutionaries banned women from holding senior teaching positions and inheriting property. Ayatollah Khamenei made it a crime for women to speak on the radio or appear unveiled in public….

When the Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi replaced the longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Morsi quickly announced that he would abolish the quota guaranteeing women’s seats in parliament, overturn a ban on female circumcision, and make it harder for women to divorce an abusive husband. After Muammar Qaddafi’s ouster, the first law that Libya’s new government repealed was the one banning polygamy.

Beinart draws a comparison to Trump, whose attitudes toward women were shared by supporters whose hatred of Hillary was blatantly–even exuberantly– sexist. The misogyny theory even explains Trump’s improbable support among Evangelicals.

Commentators sometimes describe Trump’s alliance with the Christian rightas incongruous given his libertine history. But whatever their differences when it comes to the proper behavior of men, Trump and his evangelical backers are united by a common desire to constrain the behavior of women.

The article is lengthy, and filled with concrete examples. It’s persuasive, and well worth reading in its entirety. Assuming the accuracy of the analysis, it’s hard to disagree with this observation near the end of the essay:

Over the long term, defeating the new authoritarians requires more than empowering women politically. It requires normalizing their empowerment so autocrats can’t turn women leaders and protesters into symbols of political perversity. And that requires confronting the underlying reason many men—and some women—view women’s political power as unnatural: because it subverts the hierarchy they see in the home.

It would seem that the personal really is the political; misogyny evidently begins at home.


  1. In all seriousness… I think we may have a problem in this world with an overabundance of Testosterone. I find it intriguing that Aleister Crowley, in his explanation of the Egyptian Tarot in his ‘Book of Thoth’, saw a ‘Woman girt with a Sword,’ representing the ‘time coming upon us’ – which we are now in. A time when the Female – the Women would stand up for themselves and take their own power back. Which also brings to mind Eva Keul’s book: ‘The reign of the Phallus’, a wonderful study of the overthrow of male domination by smashing of Phallic monuments… in ancient Greece. Nan, my Wife, reminded me of the 1970’s when she lived in Ethiopia with her then husband, Solomon Deressa; she told me that there was a national strike for wages that occurred and even the Prostitutes went on strike (which helped to break the wage disputes!) Men may be big and dangerous and for the most part mindless of the other half and their basic needs – but when the Women speak – and speak in their true voice: MEN WILL LISTEN. I just hope they get it together before the idiots among us END US ALL.

  2. And yet, for centuries the women at home were the ones who were so disdained, were the ones the men entrusted to maintain their homes, care for their children, clean up after them, keep them well fed, clean clothes always ready, take care of them when they are sick (real or imagined), make-do with whatever pittance they were entrusted with to pay the bills and service their physical needs to their satisfaction. What does this say about men? There has always been the double standard regarding sex; the age-old “mother/Madonna” syndrome. Did the threatened male ego begin after WWII when they realized that “Rosie the Riveter” could function well in what had always been male-only territory?

    “It would seem that the personal really is the political; misogyny evidently begins at home.”

    When women began entering the work field due to economic necessity; most men resented rather than appreciated their/our ability to succeed…and continued to be expected to fully maintain the home front as has always been traditional. There are always the few exceptions to the rule regarding the fragile male ego; those who could and did appreciate and respect women’s abilities to “multi-task”. Some even “helped women with their housework”. I remember watching my mother and my grandmother shoveling coal and stoking the furnace while the men were bringing home the bacon for them to fry.

    But will they ever fully accept and respect “A woman’s place is in the House.” as well as in the home?

  3. This recognition of the century old dominance of males being world wide is long overdue. Understanding the reasons for such dominance is less recognized, but necessary if the human race is to survive, because if you cannot see how we got to this point you will not see where we are heading. In simple terms, the social structure that got the human species to a dominance of the entire planet is changing… drastically and very quickly before our eyes.
    In my own lifetime mankind has harnessed bio-chemistry to fight disease and offer birth control to those who want it. Educated people not encumbered with the delusions of religion rightly sense that the earth is over-populated and have ceased breeding like rabbits. Women have become free to pursue lives that do not include childbearing and child rearing. And technology continues to free the masses of men from the yoke of physical labor. The social structure that dictated for men the role of defender and provider and for women mother and child raiser is disappearing.
    For better or worse, the younger generations are shedding our world and all that gave us a sense of order and security. And yes, it is unsettling.

  4. One of the reasons I find Ocasio Cortez so refreshing is that she hits back. Yes, she is impulsive and hasn’t fully plotted out her positions on many policy issues, but at this time in our history are we going to fault her for that when we have a moron in the Oval Office. Our Tweeter in Chief wouldn’t know a policy position if it came up and bit him.

    One of the most telling news items of the past week is that he didn’t realize what the government he’s responsible for does, when he shut it down. I hear echoes of, “He may be an ass, but at least he’s not Hillary.”

  5. Does it begin in the home or does it begin with religion? Where does the hierarchy of the home originate?

  6. JoAnn,

    Re your comment: “When women began entering the work field due to economic necessity; most men resented rather than appreciated their/our ability to succeed…and continued to be expected to fully maintain the home front as has always been traditional.”

    My ex openly complained in the early 80’s about women taking “men’s” good paying jobs and that they should not be allowed to have those jobs. Those terrible women were making it harder for simple men to find good paying jobs and that was intolerable in his small mind. These were factory jobs that didn’t require any special skills.

    In addition I have never forgotten something he said to me after we split up – “I was not submissive enough to him”. Never mind that I was the major wage earner, worked longer hours every day, and took care of everything at home inside and outside of the house, including raising our children. His time after he was done working each day was for whatever fun activities or hobbies he wanted to enjoy. He complained that I never needed him. He was right. He made no effort to carry his weight in the fake partnership.

    Both of my children are in their mid-thirties and have marriages that work entirely differently. I made a point of training my son how to cook, clean, iron and sew. I vowed that I would never hand over a useless man to a future daughter-in-law. My daughter’s husband was apparently raised the same way. They both work full time and he shares in the household duties equally with her. I find that many in their age category were raised to share the work at home and it makes life so much easier for the women who work outside the home.

  7. Nancy; my ex didn’t ALLOW me to work outside the home but did allow me to babysit for years, adding to our 1 to 5 children through the years, and take in sewing. When, on doctor’s recommendation for my mental health, I looked for work, he laughed. When I told him I had found a job he said, “The marriage is over.” A blessing in disguise…but scary. Two years earlier he had to sign permission for me to have a tubal ligation, 18 months later, during the legal separation, I needed his permission for a hysterectomy. Many situations today regarding women’s abilities, rights and equal treatment; we have to look back to those years past to find some level of improvement.

  8. The resentment of strong, capable women in the United States is complex, in my view. There is the church thing about women being the God-directed subordinate. There is the ancient alpha male of the tribe thing, where ONLY the male can lead. Then, there was, and still is, the antebellum, pedestal placing of women where the male has to be the protector of the precious flower – which is just another expression of testosterone poisoning.

    Most of the other industrialized countries have made the intellectual leap, politically, to allow strong women to lead. We still struggle. Only the most progressive among us see the light. Almost all “conservatives” remain in the ancient halls of mindless misogyny, because they are so locked into their dogmas, politically and socially.

  9. JoAnn,

    I cannot imagine that I could have possibly been submissive to the rules that you had to follow for your own body. Being submissive to ignorant rules has never been a part of me because I was raised in a man’s working world. I think you are about twenty years older than me. I would have been causing upheavals everywhere if I had been born when you were. I started by forcing many changes in my junior high and high schools that other girls were content to just go along with. Two of the biggest ones were allowing girls to wear pants to school and demanding that I was allowed to have second portions of food at lunchtime just like the boys could have. I worked harder on my home farm than any of those boys ever did and that kept me hungry during school hours. Of course, my Dad got involved when I complained to him and he called the school superintendant and informed him that as of the very next day he had better make sure the cafeteria staff gives me second helpings if I request them. I did and they did. From then on boys were not given special treatment in the cafeteria. I could go on and on with the changes that I made at the local school level to demand fair treatment for girls.

  10. In 2016 the question really wasn’t Trump or Hillary, it was should we prepare for the future or try to hang on to the past. The truth was many Americans didn’t care. Either was OK so why make a fuss about it. Just stay home.

    Then we saw why make fuss about it in every tweet. We needed to make a fuss about it in order to survive as a nation. It was never really a choice. Those who were selling hang on to the past were unable to do anything useful.

    Glad that’s settled. Now we can move on with the rest of civilization. It turns out empowering for almost everyone to travel without that baggage. We can all now be who we are instead of who we are supposed to be.

    We don’t know how she who has a complex name now shortened to AOC will turn out over time but now she is a symbol of what’s possible. She’s bright and shiny and full of hope and energy and ideas and possibility. Joan D’Arc didn’t win the fight either but she symbolized the possibility of winning. Now we see that possibility and we are shed the weight of the past.

    Can anything stop us now?

    Actually yes. Devisiveness can. Are own brand of extremism can. Continuation of the States not United can.

    But now there’s so much to unite us again.

  11. Women (or men) “hitting back” does not increase civility nor solve problems. Is violence of speech or behavior the answer? What would MLK say?

  12. Misogyny Over Racism, a mistake is looking at misogyny and racism as separate issues they are the pieces of the whole. Authoritarianism plays it part in this toxic brew. Organized Religion has long played a role in this brew. My Boomer lifetime has witnessed the raging controversies in Protestant Churches of if a woman could be minister. To this day a woman cannot be a Roman Catholic Priest, which means a woman cannot be a Bishop, Archbishop, Cardinal or a Pope. We now know how the authorities in the Roman Catholic Church protected serial pedophiles.

    I suspect there are other religions where woman are excluded from positions of authority. It amounts to a pecking order and differences of race and gender are used to sort.

  13. Lester, you obviously have never been beaten and raped. And what makes you think you can dictate the speech and behavior of women?

  14. I agree that misogyny begins at home. I decided not to marry when I was 12 because my mother worked outside the home and my father did nothing to help her with cooking, washing dishes, cleaning house etc. He said that was “woman’s work”.

    Once upon a time the creator was a creatrix(female). The Great Mother was worshiped in most cultures. Somehow over time men took the reins of power from women and God became male. When I look at human history, it seems to me (even now) that usually it is the god of war who is honored the most. We are still sacrificing people to the god of war. Even in India, men dominate despite their faith traditions that embrace gods and goddesses. In many religious traditions, women have been linked to chaos and men to order. Many Christians are opposed to the idea that God does NOT have a gender. This Christian does not believe God has a gender. Making God male automatically implies women are inferior.

    We all know that any group that has power wants to keep it. So men want to retain power and want to be in control. Why? Because they are afraid to share power with women.

    I hold to the belief that we are socially evolving creatures. Our evolution is a messy process in which we often take 2 steps forward and then one back. It is my hope that over time both men and women will learn that opening ourselves up to diversity, to different perspectives will help us to create new solutions to the challenges and problems we face. And of course, that social evolution has to start at home where parents teach their children that sharing power(and wealth) is more productive than hoarding it.

  15. Lester,

    Your comment certainly sounds like it came from a white male who has never felt repressed by society in any way.

    Women fighting back most definitely solves problems both for women and for society. Admittedly, it doesn’t help older white men who have been accustomed to having all of the power in society.

  16. I agree with ML. Misogyny and racism are the same effect from the same cause, authoritarianism. We need to start moving our culture away from entitlement towards our Constitution. We the people. All of us.

  17. I agree with ML. Misogyny and racism are the same effect from the same cause, authoritarianism. We need to start moving our culture away from entitlement towards our Constitution. We the people. All of us.

  18. Thank you, Robin, for an excellent post!

    This is a very astute observation, “Even in India, men dominate despite their faith traditions that embrace gods and goddesses.”

    As my spiritual path unfolded, I noticed many of the religions with male deities also struggle with the male ego of whose god is right, and whose god is wrong. This conflict leads to most of our wars before and after Enlightenment.

    It’s why I eventually landed on Taoism…without a deity. After a short period studying it and energy in general, there was no male/female dominance. In fact, they are both a part of ONE.

    The debate over religions ended soon thereafter.

  19. Pete, the problem with the concept of, “We the people.” is, of course, it’s fabricated.

    “We the people” was nothing more than a marketing ploy to get buy-in from those people living at the time. Our institutional framers said, we the people, except for:


    and definitely not ______, ________, and __________!

    Women weren’t allowed to own land so they couldn’t vote. They weren’t allowed to get credit in their own name until modern history.

    We started off as just another bigoted country but had better propaganda writers who created “American Exceptionalism” along with the greatest fraud of all time, “The American Dream.”

  20. The section I quoted and posted on Facebook is:
    “Over the long term, defeating the new authoritarians requires more than empowering women politically. It requires normalizing their empowerment so autocrats can’t turn women leaders and protesters into symbols of political perversity. And that requires confronting the underlying reason many men—and some women—view women’s political power as unnatural: because it subverts the hierarchy they see in the home.”
    From my perspective we need to Embrace equality of power. One person one vote and everyone gets to vote. Easy, simple, and honorable. Frankly, I would make voting mandatory.
    Professor Anderson from Michigan is given a great read in the January 9 issue of The New Yorker: The Philosopher Redefining Equality
    Elizabeth Anderson thinks we’ve misunderstood the basis of a free and fair society.
    Great Read.

  21. As an old time radical feminist, the personal has always been political & I have always known misogyny was the heart of patriarchy. I always knew we would have a black president before we ever had a female, black or white. Until we are all free, none of us are free. Racism is the other side of the coin and all isms flow from white male needs for power & control. We thought that educating males to understand how they are also harmed by patriarchal values would allow us to move beyond this oppression. In her book, The Crone, by Barbara Walker, she clearly states the fact that males do not respond to anything other than fear. True, some men are our allies & some women are not. It remains however, in this culture,that all males have privilege over females & that includes Black men too. Walker asserts that until feminists understand this and develop strategies to refocus our energies, nothing will change. I for one would like to see our male allies really become a visible & articulate movement to support women in our struggle to dismantle patriarchy for the good of all, all of the whole planet.
    Just as whites need to educate whites on racism & really listen to minorities & accept the truth they tell, men need to deal with men on refuting man ‘splane & educate them on how they are both perpetrators & victims in this misogynistic culture.
    I wonder if spreading the fake news that dentata vagina is a true biological fact would serve as a fear inducer for patriarchal men. It might perhaps reduce rapes as well as collecting evidence when assault occurs. Something to think about. In 3000 years under patriarchy love has failed to conquer hate or rather the fear that fuels it & the war on wenen has never ceased. Love does not wax & wane the way fear & hate does. I think Barbara Walker makes a valid point. We can hold love and still act to reduce fear & promote reason please Goddess.

  22. I begin to feel uneasy when I see equal rights for all morph into a worship of the feminine, which leads to the idea that women are inherently more noble than men. I personally know a family where the women are the abusers (and have been for three generations), and they use feminism as a cover for the brutality they inflict on their men, husbands and sons (I am not exaggerating about this). Let’s not allow our disgust over the behavior of many men in this culture in this period of time blind us to the fact that all humans are equally flawed and equally capable of greatness. The unfortunate results (in general and in our personal lives) of physical differences between men and women, made necessary by reproduction, should not lead us from our transcendent ideals of uplifting all.

  23. Todd, when the country was founded “we the people” was seen in the cultural context of those times and what’s changed since are the times. Today’s times have corrected many of the legal sources of entitlement/discrimination but there are still pockets of older times reflected in our overall culture.

    That’s progress but not success.

  24. I have felt for a long time that we make a mistake when we elevate women in power and then hold them to a standard of behavior that is unlikely to be perfect. Women are as human as men and subject to many of the same mental, emotional and physical vagaries of our species.

    Women have been violently suppressed when they became too powerful for men to tolerate. Throughout history and even in some cultures today, women are repeatedly impregnated and go through pregnancy and childbirth, subject to all of the mental and physical stresses of pregnancy, often caring for the numerous children that result, working outside the home, catering to the needs of the male patriarch at all costs (and those needs supersede the woman’s when the male is the highly valued and better paid breadwinner), while under the constant social pressures, often from other women, that reward conformity.

    Glen Close’s remarks at the Golden Globes Awards about her mother sublimating herself to the needs of her father throughout her whole adult life, with regrets for the lost opportunities for creative and productive outcomes of her own, were right to the point for many women today.

    Religions like the Catholic Church, Mormons, Islamic, Hindu where the sublimation is demanded, even under pain of death, are being rejected. There will and is strong and violent backlash. Men have the power and the tools to use them. It will be a long fight into future generations to become equal partners. It may never happen but that does not mean we stop pushing.

  25. Jimmy Carter’s book “A Call to Action” reminds that major religions of the world -including Christianity – have much to answer for when it comes to discrimination and outright abuse of women. He notes that the Christians who use the Bible to discriminate are selective in their scriptural references and that at least as many scriptures exhalt women.

    Carter also notes that how a nation treats its women affects its policies on housing, education, public health, nutrition, public safety and children, to name a few. When women are valued, the issues that are important to women are also valued.

    I highly recommend the book.

  26. I am powerless (yes, figure out that contradiction) to resist joining the dialogue here, because it necessarily involves an answer to the fundamental issue of whether or not I intended the penis to trump (sorry for that) the vagina when I graced the Garden of Eden way back before the concept of a Big Bang was just a tiny firecracker.

    Clearly those in the Vatican over the years have at least implied that there is something about the male organ that automatically implies leadership and dominance in matters of faith as well as in governance. A pope in the 1800’s almost issued a bull declaring it infallible doctrine that since everybody calls me “Father” I must have one.

    The (Eternal) truth is that I have both……which I know causes lots of difficulty in (at least white) evangelical church bathrooms.

    Happy 2019!

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