Dear Trump Supporters

If the very text of the Declaration of Indpendence, being read out on the Fourth of July, sounds to you like a propoganda attack against your guy in the White House, then I submit the problem is with your guy in  the White House.  Not with the Declaration of Independence, and not with the people reading, tweeting, or otherwise broadcasting it.

I realise an article really ought to be longer, but frankly, what else is there to say about the fact that the document that is the very foundation and initiation of America’s existence could be denounced as liberal propoganda and trash?

Except of course, that it has happened before.  During the time of Joseph McCarthy, a journalist used the opening sentences of the Declaration as a petition, and tried to find signatures for it.  Many did.  Others denounced it as a communist screed, while still others feared they might be denounced if they put their names to such sentiments.  And McCarthy himself?  Praised these reactions.

Is there any clearer proof about how little so many on the Right understand the patriotism they like to go on about?

#ShePersisted: Mitch McConnell silences Elizabeth Warren, but not the guys

Mitch McConnell “red-carded” Elizabeth Warren for reading from Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter about Jeff Sessions’ unfitness for a judicial nomination. A short while later, two male senators read from it, too, and that was just absolutely totally fine and dandy with ol’ Mitch. Senator Mark Udall read the whole letter, and Senator Jeff Merkley read excerpts.

Note that this parliamentary maneuver was extremely rare, a very odd move, and with it Warren was stripped of the right to speak about Jeff Sessions at all.

Possible explanations:

  1. Mitch McConnell is one of those men who is so infuriated and threatened by the existence of smart women that he can’t think straight and just lashes out like a wounded squirrel. Any smart woman can tell you about these men, especially women smart enough to be Harvard professors. These women prove that the myths about white male supremacy are just bad jokes, not anything white men can rely on to get through life.
  2. McConnell wants to help Warren win the presidency in 2020, or at least win again her senate seat in 2018, by making her a martyr and civil rights hero in one act of bullying. (Seems unlikely.)
  3. McConnell thought he was preventing Warren from looking like a hero by reading the letter publicly, but is too stupid to realize Warren would immediately get on Facebook Live with her fans to read the letter and call Rachel Maddow, and the press would then report it even more widely than if she’d read it on the Senate floor, because of all the drama and sexism.
  4. The GOP is especially terrified of Warren. Maybe they’ve already done opposition research on her and couldn’t find anything. (Without opposition research on Clinton, they’d have had nothing to give sexist uneducated white males an excuse to vote against Hillary other than, “Ugh, she’s a woman.”)

Of course, more than one of these could be true. McConnell could be threatened by smart women and too stupid to realize he was making Warren a martyr. I can’t help but wonder about #4. But if they thought they were hurting her cause, they weren’t.

Men without college express territorial sexism months after voting Trump

Bustle just reported that a poll found that half of Americans feel the law should require women to take their husband’s names after getting married to them. But it gets worse.

What’s more, researcher Emily Shafer made even more startling discoveries than this during the course of her study. The most common reason participants gave for believing that a woman should change her last name is that she should prioritize her marriage and family ahead of herself. In particular, men with less education say this is a must and believe that a woman who does not take her husband’s last name is not as committed to their marriage. These same men also said that the husband would be more justified in filing for divorce if the wife works too much, by the way.

Now, “men with less education” is one of the groups that pushed Trump over to victory:

These results are every bit as striking: Clinton lost ground relative to Obama in 47 of the 50 counties — she did an average of 11 percentage points worse, in fact. These are really the places that won Donald Trump the presidency, especially given that a fair number of them are in swing states such as Ohio and North Carolina.

And this overlap between uneducated males who voted for Trump and uneducated males who think their wives need to take their names or, I dunno, go to jail isn’t the first hint we’ve had that America’s sexism is why it chose Trump over a woman:

Specifically, the researchers conclude that racism and sexism explain most of Trump’s enormous electoral advantage with non-college-educated white Americans, the group that arguably gave Trump the election… For sexism, they evaluated someone’s hostile sexism — which, through several questions, gauges hostile attitudes toward women.

And then there’s the pre-election prediction which proved true. Hostility toward women is one of the strongest predictors of Trump support:

While it might not seem surprising now that Trump has galvanized sexists, their findings suggest that sexism played a much bigger role in his rise than most people realized or wanted to imagine.

Hostile sexism correlates with ideas like women don’t have any real problems, they’re just hypersensitive, can’t take a joke, and want special favors. And, of course, that feminists seek to topple the Great White Man from his natural position of “God-given” rule over all the other inferior humans He created for unknown reasons.

Now: tell me again how sexism played little to no role in last year’s election. Tell me again how we’re in a post-sexist society and feminism isn’t necessary. Tell me again how I’m being unnecessarily negative toward men. Tell me again how I’m the problem.

A Case Study In the Extraneous Dude: Agents of SHIELD

It couldn’t come as any surprise to readers of this blog, that its contributors want more cool stories about women.  Not exactly fewer stories about men, but stories less… automatically about men, and fewer men shoved into stories that should be about women.

Which brings me to Agents of SHIELD.  Spcifically the third season episode, 4722 Hours.  Context, for anyone as embarrassingly behind on the show as me, at the end of the second season one of the characters – forensic biologist Jemma Simmons – was sucked through a portal to a distant planet.  Early in the third season, after six months, the rest of the team manage to predict another opening of the portal and retrieve her.  Following her return, Simmons is is traumatised on just about every level:  her body is readjusting to different gravity and oxygen levels, normal light levels now hurt her eyes, sudden noises panic her, she has nightmares about being hunted.  Hardly surprising; alone on an alien planet for six months and all that.  More surprising is that she starts examining the remains of the destroyed portal, insisting they have to go back to the planet.

We find out why that is in 4722 Hours, the episode detailing Simmons’s time on the planet.  Namely, that she was only alone for the first few weeks, before running into Will, a man who’d been sent through the portal many years before.  Unlike Simmons, Will’s mission was deliberate, and supplied with some decent equipment.  Will helps her survive.  They make a parallel prediction of when and where the portal will open again, which is why she’s close enough to it for the rest of the cast to find her.  The two of them fall for each other.  And in the end Will goes after the monster haunting the planet, to give Simmons time to reach the portal.  Back on Earth, Simmons wants to return and save him; her on-the-cusp-of-boyfriend Fitz, when he learns about Will, gets gung ho about saving him too, despite warnings from one of the other guys that this could lead to a bizarre love triangle.

And my reaction was, what a damn waste.

Don’t get me wrong.  Will wasn’t a bad character, just a bit bland.  And there are other plot reasons why there had to be previous travellers to the planet, and why Simmons had to remain intent on researching the portal.  But we’d been primed for a few episodes for a story about how the ostensibly least badass member of the team had survived alone on an alien planet for months – and it turns out that for most of that time she’d had company, been eating from a table and sleeping in a bed – it was the guy she met who’d spent years alone there.  Meanwhile, the quest to save Will became about how great Fitz was for trying to save a possible romantic rival.  Ultimately, it was like Simmons’s biggest story had been handed off to two guys.

Consider this instead:  Will’s mission happened, but he is long dead.  Simmons finds the remains of his camp and gear – and perhaps a diary (hell, as alone as she’d be, a diary might represent enough connection to another person that she’d still credit that person for saving her).  She survives alone, using what she’s found – dodges the monster alone – finds the portal alone.  When she’s back on Earth, she’s traumatised enough to be obsessed with the remains of the portal, to reassure herself that it definitely is destroyed.  Or – having discovered that there were previous travellers – with assuring herself that there aren’t any other portals out there, and this can’t happen to anyone else.  Everything that has to be there still would be, but Simmons would be back at the centre of that arc where she should be – and 4722 Hours itself would be all about showing Simmons pushed further than she could ever have imagined she could survive, plus actress Elizabeth Henstridge getting a huge solo workout.

I guess I’m not making a deep point here.  It’s not exactly big news that stories about women frequently have men jammed into them in such a way as to take them over.  Just that this episode and surrounding arc serves as a really clear example of it – and an equally clear example of how the changes needed to make it better are so often frustratingly small.

Denial Couldn’t Have Been This Topical When They Came Up With It

Denial, starring Rachel Weisz, is – narrowly – about the 1996 libel trial brought by David Irving against Deborah Lipstadt.  More broadly, it’s about Holocaust denial, and its role in perpetuating the scars of the very crimes it seeks to obscure or excuse.  It’s only a recent release, so it must have been pitched a couple of years ago at the very least.  Which makes it one of those rare pieces of art that’s all the more topical and current when released than when it was conceived.

David Irving was a historian of, and fan of, Hitler – back in the day, he wrote extensively in defence of Hitler, and denial of the Holocaust.  Deborah Lipstadt was a historian of the Holocaust – she wrote extensively about denial, and in one of her books called Irving out for lying in grandiosely extensive terms – in response to which Irving brought a libel suit against her for defamation.  The film follows the course of the trial, and while my memory doesn’t let me swear that it gets the events exactly right, it’s pretty close.  (In particular, if anyone looks at Timothy Spall’s portayal of Irving and thinks he couldn’t have come across as so cartoonishly evil in real life, no, he could and did).

But for me, more than anything, two factors stood out.  First, the sheer blatancy of the lies.  Irving mistranslated documents, and lied about what was displayed on photographs right in front of everyone.

Second, the subject of free speech, and in particular, the number of times Lipstadt had to remind someone that this was a case Irving brought against her, not her against him.  Irving and his defenders covering the trial claimed his free speech was under attack – yet another blatant lie, as in truth he was the one trying to silence Lipstadt.  Free speech to him meant the white man getting to speak without the Jewish woman getting to answer – the white man getting to lie without the Jewish woman getting to say “you lied” – and too many found it perfectly easy to follow that script.

Ok, you knew right from the title I was going to bring up Trump in this post, didn’t you?

Denial shows us an example of the kind of script we’re faced with right now.  A script where the president-elect straight facedly claims to have won the largest electoral college vote ever, when the numbers are plain for anyone to see.  A script where a press spokesman claims the inauguaration crowds were the largest ever, when the photographs are right there.  A script where the media are liars and traitors to be silenced, when they’re reporting things we can easily confirm from the footage.  A script where truth is the province of authority rather than the province of facts.

A script where the White House gets through Holocaust Memorial Day without mentioning the Jews, and responds to this being pointed out with a screed straight from #AllLivesMatter.  (And garners praise from far-right commentators for “de-Jewing” the Holocaust).

When the makers of Denial must have pitched the film, none of this had happened.  Little of it could have seemed to be on the cards.  But it all did, and all of it right around the time the film hit the screens.  A warning about the dangers of Holocaust denial is timely, certainly at a time when the last eyewitnesses to it are nearing the ends of their lives.  But in light of current events, its warning rings all the louder.