In 1980 I was a gun-toting, chain-smoking, bourbon swilling, diehard Ronald Reagan supporter. I got my whole family to vote for him. But when I got into the polling booth, I pulled the trigger for Jimmy Carter. I was surprised, shocked, and not a little embarrassed, but in my heart of hearts I understood he was the better man. Whether or not he was the better candidate is for political historians to decide, but he was decidedly the better human being. It took a long time before I could admit to anyone I voted for him and even longer to understand my sea change.
There’s a quote attributed to Margaret Atwood that I’ve heard a number of times but never truly felt until Gillian Anderson quoted it in an episode of The Fall: “Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.”
It is so chillingly simple. Women exist in a world dominated by men. No matter the country or continent, men make and enforce the rules and religions all women must live by. We are like pets in their homes – sometimes welcomed, sometimes not. Daily we are assaulted, raped, and murdered. By men.
Historically, women have been men’s chattel. When we displease or confront them, we are expendable. Look at Salem. Look at the Inquisition. Look next door – in 2017 the CDC released a report citing that 55% of all female homicides in the US were committed by boyfriends or husbands. Is it any wonder we don’t tell, we don’t report, we don’t make a fuss, for who would we tell but other men? If we can’t trust the ones that supposedly love us how can we possibly trust a strange man to help us?
Men are usually bigger and stronger then women. They can kill us very easily. Often they control the purse strings. For most of us, especially if children are involved, it’s easier to go along to get along. We stay silent. Our silence leads to denial. Most of the women reading this post will have had at least one unwelcomed and uninvited physical encounter with a man. Many have had more more. It’s a lot easier in the short term to brush these encounters off. We tell ourselves it wasn’t a big deal, to not be such a baby. When questioned we explain, “He didn’t mean it.” “He was just drunk.” “He’s usually not like that.”
We explain away our fear so that we can keep living with it, so we can keep placating those who control our lives. If we explain the fear away long enough it becomes denial. We start believing our own stories. We become unwitting victims of the Stockholm Syndrome – so afraid of our kidnappers we start sympathizing with them in order not to upset them, and resenting anyone who tries to rescue us from their good intentions. It’s a common and completely subconscious survival instinct.
Trump is our collective kidnapper, the alpha male in control who can kill or reward on a whim. Alpha males recognize him as one of their own. Lesser males want to be him. Therefore the women affiliated with these men better love Trump too. Or else.
Again, this isn’t any kind of conscious decision, and while admittedly simplistic, women support the Trumps and Kavanaughs out of a purely primal need for survival. We are conditioned to molding themselves to meet men’s expectations. Our mothers did it, our grandmothers, and their grandmothers. There were few options and role models for women not under the care and protection of a dominant male.
For most of my life I have been a blustering, bullshitting, get along with the good old boys kinda gal. It wasn’t until a few years ago, in a sudden rush of rage and shame, that I realized I wanted to be like the men around me so I could fit in. So they wouldn’t eat me. My livelihood, maybe even my life has depended on fitting in and playing by their rules. I’ve always gone along to get along. It’s been easier than raising a fuss, easier than risking rejection/ridicule/violence.
Ronald Reagan was my Trump. You were either with him or against him and I certainly did not want to be outside the pale. I wanted to fit in, to have a comfortable place in the middle of the herd. But in the privacy of that voting booth, my heart understood who was the better man even if my head hadn’t yet caught up.
I’m lucky. It only took me 57 years to understand my fear. Some women never will. They are not emotionally or psychologically capable of acknowledging it. For some, even if they do, the resulting rage may be so potentially destructive it’s not worth chancing. They tamp the fear back down, cover it up. They have to keep going along to get along. The alpha male is both captor and savior. To admit otherwise, to challenge that established order, might well result in death.
Instead, we die in little increments, never fully owning our lives. We go along to get along and Trump is just another in a long line of males directing how women should be and what we should do. For many, there is comfort in being told how to behave, a sense of security in blindly following our alpha male. Even as he leads us over the edge of a cliff.