Why the Majority of White Women Voted for Trump

Misogyny often involves distinguishing between “good” and “bad” women, by the lights of their conformity to patriarchal norms and values. So, at the highest level of generality, it’s not surprising that women who aspire to be “good” have social incentives to distance themselves from a woman deemed “bad,” as Clinton often was, and to publicly participate when she was ostracized and punished for supposed moral crimes and misdemeanors.

…Researchers had male and female participants rate a newly appointed female vice president, described in a personnel file, on measures of hostility, antisocial traits, and overall likability. Both male and female participants were prone to punish her, socially, by inferring norm violations—for example, manipulativeness, coldness, aggression—unless given specific information about her feminine virtues and good behavior.

…Women are supposed to give everyone around them personal care and attention, or else they risk seeming nasty, mean, unfair, and callous. But, of course, that’s an impossible mandate when you’re running for president. And, in general, the larger and more diverse a woman’s audience or constituency, the more she will tend to be perceived as cold, distant, “out of touch,” negligent, careless, and selfish, in view of these norms of feminine attentiveness. No such listening skills need be demonstrated by her male counterparts, however. Indeed, when it came to Trump, they could hardly have been less so.

…Now consider prejudice against women in certain social positions—those aspiring to masculine-coded power positions, as in politics. Part of what this may involve is moral prejudgment in line with widely disavowed, but not yet defunct, gendered social mores. Someone like Hillary Clinton is frequently cast in the moral role of usurper. And unsurprisingly so (which is of course not to say justifiably); she threatens to take men’s historical place or steal their thunder. If she wins, the game is rigged. She could not have won it fairly. And her behavior and she herself seems to be careless, shady, and crooked (so the thought continues).

Women in positions of unprecedented political power, or right on its cusp, are also prone to be perceived as rule-breakers generally. They are not to be trusted to stay in line, or respect law and order. These perceptions are understandable, because they’re not baseless so much as defunct: these women are breaking the rules of an unjust patriarchal system that is still in the process of being dismantled. Someone like Clinton was breaking rank; she was out of order relative to nominally passé, but entrenched, social hierarchies wherein only men could aspire to highest political office. And women were expected to defer to and support, not compete with, them. Her defection from this role may hence seem like treason or betrayal—and reacted to in ways both bewildered and bewildering, both threatened and threatening.

In view of this, a woman who has done nothing wrong in moral and social reality (i.e., relative to fair and egalitarian standards) may be subject to moral suspicion and consternation for violating edicts of the patriarchal rulebook. And her behavior may then be cast as dangerous, suspicious, risky, or deceptive, in line with moral verdicts already rendered. The latter judgments drive the former, rather than the reverse. It just seems like she’s up to something; what being a matter for discovery—or invention.

…Consider then FBI director James Comey’s remark that Clinton was “extremely careless” in her handling of her emails, and that she exposed the American people to serious risks from “hostile actors” while traveling overseas. Both the description itself and its subsequent uptake were clearly inflated. The idea that Clinton was so careless as compared to other politicians seems driven by a tacit moral judgment, a prior conviction that she was guilty, rather than an unbiased assessment of the evidence.

…Donald Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, also voted for the war in Iraq. But according to Trump, Pence was entitled to make such mistakes “every once in a while.” “She’s not?” CBS’s Lesley Stahl asked Trump, of Clinton. “No. She’s not,” was Trump’s full answer. “Got it,” Stahl blinked, and proceeded with the interview.

… more inclined to see women in positions of authority as posers and imposters compared with their male counterparts.

Suppose that this is true: that so-called imposter syndrome is sometimes in the eye of the beholder of female as compared with male professors, in their positions as moral and intellectual authority figures. This hypothesis could help to explain why Bernie Sanders was preferred by many millennials to Hillary Clinton by such a large margin, in no small part due to differential perceptions of their integrity, sincerity, and authenticity, and seemingly in excess of the political and moral differences between the two of them—especially after it was clear that the insinuations about Clinton’s dishonesty and untrustworthiness came to essentially nothing (Abramson 2016).

Why the Majority of White Women Voted for Trump | Alternet



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