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Issue #1817      April 11, 2018

Fighting misogyny and sexism liberates men too

From the moment Donald Trump assumed the presidency, women of all ages, gay, straight and transgender, immigrant and native born, black, brown and white, have been in the forefront of the surging Resistance.

Women are fed up with gross misogyny that pervaded the 2016 US elections and with the institutionalised sexism and abuse they confront daily in social relations, politics, work, school, media and culture.

Inspired by the historic Women’s March, record numbers of women are running for office, including many elected last November.

Women teachers are on the front lines defending public education and led the historic wildcat strike that shook West Virginia. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movement occupied centre stage at the Oscar ceremonies on March 4.

Women of colour, who are triply oppressed due to their race, gender and as workers, particularly African-American women, are the most conscious and mobilised bloc of voters against GOP candidates. African-American women were founders and are leaders of the #BlackLivesMatter, #SayHerName, #MeToo and anti-gun violence movements.

Women, particularly women of colour, are the most dynamic part of the new labour organising, and young women are leading students walking out over gun violence and mass shootings.

This dynamic, multi-sided grassroots social movement is forcing greater awareness of misogyny and institutionalised sexism, insisting on the intersection of gender, race and class, and transforming politics, culture and social relations.

Millions of men are now reflecting deeply on their attitudes, behaviour and social relations, and becoming allies in this fight. Acknowledging institutionalised sexism is a crucial step upon which white male hetero privileges can be discarded and women empowered to act together with men on an equal basis to change society.

Capitalism, patriarchy and white supremacy

Early human societies were organised communally and characterised by egalitarianism between sexes. They were matrilineal societies that traced kinship through maternal lines.

As the productive forces developed, the creation of a social surplus resulted in the struggle over its division. Private property and class-divided society emerged. The matrilineal system was overthrown, the family appeared, and patriarchy prevailed and was passed on to the capitalist stage of human society.

Long before the US became a nation, the development of capitalism on these shores uniquely fused patriarchy with white supremacy, the ideology and practice that undergirded chattel slavery and the subjugation of black people, the bloody genocide of Native Americans and theft of lands from Mexico.

The intertwined evolution of the ideologies and practices of male supremacy and white supremacy has been juiced by militarisation and the culture of violence derived from the suppression of slaves, Indigenous genocide and US imperialist domination.

In addition, misogyny has also been shaped by religious fundamentalism, particularly white Christian fundamentalism, with its strict hierarchical view of family, class, race, gender and homophobia.

The dominant norm of the white male nativist hetero Christian in economics, culture and social relations is the highest expression of this.

The hierarchies of class, race, gender, xenophobia, disability, anti-Semitism, etc, all intersect, “cross hatch and overlay,” notes Angela Davis. It is impossible to address one of these issues without addressing all of them.

Naturally, the #MeToo movement is intersecting, cross hatching and overlaying with other movements including the Fight for 15 (basic wage), powered by working-class women challenging extreme wealth inequality; the LGBTQ rights movement challenging male hetero norms; the Black Lives Matter movement challenging foundations of white supremacy, and transgender people fighting violence and challenging the binary gender system.

These movements and the accompanying moral outrage are being reflected in film, theatre, dance, song, literature and sport.

#MeToo and the broad democratic movement

The struggle for full equality based on race, gender, sexual identity, ableness, birth origin, etc, has been part of the resistance to right-wing extremism and the powerful corporate and social forces that comprise its support base.

White supremacy, male supremacy and misogyny are basic pillars of extreme right ideology and practice. They were instrumental in the rise of the right and its triumph, including the Trump presidency, potent dividers of the working class and people, and underminers of class consciousness.

The modern right wing made a concerted effort to undo the tremendous gains won by the women’s movement in the 1960s and 1970s, which was inspired by and intersected with the Civil Rights movement.

The attempt to outlaw abortion is a transparent attempt to subjugate women, imposing male domination over women’s lives and bodies in line with the strictest of fundamentalist religious and patriarchal outlooks.

Through its domination of the federal government, a majority of state governments and the judiciary, the right wing is now attempting to turn the clock back 100 years and obliterate every social gain.

Why the sexist backlash?

We live in rapidly changing times: globalisation and technological developments, extreme wealth concentration, dramatic demographic shifts and changes to the status of women in society, expanding concepts of gender and sexual identity, advances in LGBTQ and immigrants’ rights, the growing influence of science, and fundamental challenges to white supremacist ideology and practice – all against the background of extreme weather conditions brought on by global warming.

Change, and particularly the rapidity of change, can be deeply unsettling. This was most vividly captured in the response to the election of the first African-American president and the first woman to be nominated for president by a major party.

It was reflected in vile hatred directed at Oprah Winfrey at the mere suggestion that this African-American woman should be a candidate for president, and the despicable vilification of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

In response, many white male heterosexuals feel their dominant status, entitlement and identity are threatened. And, with the rise of science and pluralism in religious outlook, those who believe the US to be a white, Christian nation also feel deeply threatened. As sociologist Michael Kimmel explains, the rage of white men against Clinton was also rooted in rapidly changing economics, deindustrialisation, the loss of livelihoods and incomes.

“They played by all the rules. And in return, they expected to be able to support their families but they can’t,” writes Kimmel. “The jobs are gone and it’s tough to support a family on one income now. For a lot of these men, being the breadwinner is the defining feature of masculinity. They staked their entire sense of manhood on their ability to be providers and protectors. That’s what I mean when I talk about humiliation. It’s not about being laughed at, or embarrassed. It’s more profound. These men feel like they’ve failed at being men.”

“Make America great again” and the lure of a return to previous times struck a chord.

The refusal of some to defend Hillary Clinton against the misogynistic attacks, including among progressives, and even the resistance to the analysis that this was a major factor in her defeat is itself an influence of sexism.

The basic pillars of alt-right or rebranded neo-Nazi ideology are white supremacy, anti-Semitism and misogyny. Alt-right ideology maintains that whites are the greatest victims of racism and men the victims of sexism.

Right-wing Christian evangelicals aim to establish a theocratic state in which these policies are enshrined not only as law, but as the word of God. Ultimately, alt-rightists envision imposing something akin to white Sharia law.

Masculinity, militarism and culture

The culture of toxic masculinity is the social brew every young male is broadly reared in. Most men are taught what is considered manly: superiority over women, displaying power and aggression, exhibiting a lack of emotions and sensitivity and controlling women’s bodies and lives.

In a misogynistic culture, boys are taught to fear challenges to the hetero norm: any display of affection opens a boy or man up to being accused of being gay and the target of bullying.

Misogyny and homophobia negate the humanness of men. Masculinity, as it is destructively socially constructed, prevents the true identities of men and women from revealing themselves.

Modern-day US capitalist society intensifies toxic masculinity with the pervasive militarisation of society and culture and the glorification of guns and violence. The fight to transition to a peaceful, demilitarised society and foreign policy is indispensable to ending toxic masculinity and misogyny.

This is the wellspring for the epidemic of domestic violence, including the one in four women who will experience severe violence at the hands of an intimate partner in their lifetimes. Thirty-four percent of women killed in the US are murdered by an intimate partner.

There are no profiles for mass shooters who carry out acts of domestic terrorism. But most in the past 20 years have been white men, usually socially isolated and often prey for white supremacist groups.

According to Newsweek, “about 71 percent of school shooters felt ‘persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked or injured’ leading up to their rampage, according to Secret Service data. Bullied high schoolers are also more than twice as likely to bring guns or knives to school as their non-bullied peers.”

The #MeToo movement is shattering what is considered normal behaviour that must be tolerated. Men must reject these norms too. Inherent in the #MeToo movement is the liberation of men from toxic masculinity and the realisation of their fuller humanity.

If the American people are to defeat right-wing domination of government and society, and open new vistas in the fight for radical change ushering in a truly human existence, the ideology and practice of male supremacy and white supremacy must be defeated.

People’s World

Next article – “There is nothing cheaper in Israel than Palestinian blood”

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