October 17, 2016
I don’t think “exposing” is the right word. The misogyny has been laid bare for a long time, a monolithic principle to be rejoiced in and depended on. Most have embraced it, and not just in the GOP and not only men. Blaming the GOP, or any one group, for the bedrock misogyny in our country is disingenuous.
American society, women included, has always lauded the patriarchy and women’s place in it. We’ve always been little more than children, indulged with the occasional treat or pat on the head, but ultimately an ornament to be seen but not heard. Or perhaps there’s a better analogy: we’ve been prisoners, incarcerated for the gender we were born with, taken at birth to a tiny cell, given the illusion of freedom through work-release, yet never gaining parole, never considered rehabilitated, never a capable member of society with the same rights or privileges as men. That status isn’t some new revelation. It was never hidden. The walls and ceilings were sometimes diaphanous, but let’s not kid ourselves that no one knew they were there.
As the economy changed and more women were pulled into the workforce, out of that tiny cell from 9 to 5, we began to glimpse a different world, a different self-image. We found interests outside motherhood, the PTA, and serving our men. It seemed possible there might be something more for us—more TO us—than the narrow view we’d been allowed. We considered the possibility we’d been locked up for a crime we didn’t commit…or that never happened at all.
Still, a deeply ingrained self-hatred taught from birth immersed us in Stockholm Syndrome. We’ve defended the prison, the wardens, and the guards, and fought amongst ourselves in desperation, shanking each other to gain pseudo-power in our tiny little prison world.
Red: These walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized.
Heywood: Shit. I could never get like that.
Ernie: Oh yeah? Say that when you been here as long as Brooks has.
Red: Goddamn right. They send you here for life, and that’s exactly what they take. The part that counts, anyway.
[from Shawshank Redemption]
We’ve long believed the indoctrination that we had no hope of life on the outside–we’re institutionalized, too dumb, emotional, and weak to function as full human beings. The misogyny inherent in the patriarchy has been the foundation of our lives; it permeates every aspect and controls all of our interactions.
We’ve started to see through the excuses and rationalizations. Some of us have fought to tunnel out of our prison, with pitiful rock hammers like Andy’s, though it’s taken much longer than the twenty years he managed. Some “corrupt” guards even help us, though they often face repercussions.
Yet, the prison is still there, most of the guards are still trying to keep us in line. Even those few of us with keys rarely spring fellow prisoners. Sure, the wardens’ and guards’ counterfeit shock and outrage at Trump’s “revelation” of misogyny are grossly transparent and hypocritical. That’s hardly surprising.
But to pretend the prison was hidden from the rest of us, some sort of secret dungeon under the castle, or that it’s only a small fraction of society, is to continue the charade. It’s not that we—all of us—didn’t see the prison, the walls, the clandestine assaults by the guards. Many of us have actively maintained our own shackles.
Nothing has been exposed. Our confinement has never been covert. It’s been a glaring, palpable, undeniable part of American society for centuries. We’re just forcing everyone to acknowledge and discuss it. Finally.