The Outcome of the 2016 American presidential election is testimony to the complex problems the West faces in relation to politics, identity and belonging in the 21st century. It highlights divisions and conflicts around nationality, class, race and gender.
The anger, fear and disillusionment felt by large numbers of Americans has found expression in the decision to support the inexperienced, unqualified man and to reject the experienced, qualified woman. The issues which contributed to this outcome are relevant to some of the questions raised in the “Gendering the British” course and for this reason I feel compelled to share some thoughts.
There is a crisis of masculinity which is most acute among white working class men. In America, Trump was able to tap into their sense of marginalisation and validated the appeal of a return to the status (respect, power, deference ?) they believe they once ‘enjoyed’ over other men (such as the African-American Barrack Obama), over women (like Hillary Clinton) and over the rest of the world (notably Mexicans and Muslims). These men voted FOR Trump and in doing so set aside the overwhelming evidence of his elitism, misogyny and racism.
There is also a crisis in femininity, but this is more subtle. Among the significant minority of women who voted for Trump there was a rejection of what Hillary Clinton represents and what she stands for. The evidence of Hillary seeking to lead, to exercise power and demonstrating independence threatened their femininity. These women are scared of what this means and fear that they will be rejected as Hillary was rejected over the course of the Presidential campaign. They fear the unknown – they fear the loss of men’s protection (financial and physical) and/or of the male gaze (desire) and the ‘power’ they believe this gives them. These women voted AGAINST Clinton and in doing so sent out a message that misogyny, sexual abuse and the persistence of inequality are ‘prices’ worth paying.
By all means disagree with me but please don’t deny that gender has always influenced how political identity is both formed and performed.