Male supremacy continues to play an outsized role in aggravating the divide that afflicts us. It’s time for a reckoning.
Now that the presidential race has been decided, it is imperative that the U.S. begin holding a series of national town hall conversations—and high on the list must be one about rejecting patriarchy. Male supremacy continues to play an outsized role in aggravating the divide that afflicts us.
Which representation of manhood we choose going forward will in part contribute to determining what kind of a nation we will be: Proud Boys’ country or a land-promoting compassionate men; a Handmaid’s Tale world of subjugation or a nation empowering women and girls.
Even with President Joe Biden in office come January, Trumpism will still be with us, as will the aforementioned Proud Boys, the faux militia Wolverine Watchmen, the civil war-promoting Boogaloo Boys, and the ex-military/police Oath Keepers—not to mention the misfits shooting up schools, nightclubs, houses of worship and movie theaters, and even threatening sitting governors. White male supremacists, one and all.
As 2020 draws to a close, it’s hard to ignore a flashing caution light: Unless we acknowledge the connection between those groups’ brutish expression of patriarchy and its white collar counterpart, represented by the likes of, say, Mitch McConnell and Brett Kavanaugh, rather than hearing patriarchy’s last gasp, we’ll be supplying it with fresh oxygen.
“The culture is changing and becoming in some ways more like [President-Elect Joe] Biden,” Jackson Katz, creator of a new documentary, “The Man Card: Presidential Masculinity from Nixon to Trump,” told the Washington Post. But is it changing quickly enough?
“Trump still clearly has a large appeal to men who understand the more traditional appeal of aggression, physical strength, the willingness to authorize violence,” Katz said.
While Trumpists at best reflect Archie Bunker 20th-century masculinity, Biden offers “a more complex 21st-century version,” said Katz: “It’s compassion and empathy and care and a personal narrative of loss.”
As a white man in his seventies, Biden may seem like an odd choice to be the poster boy for a kinder, gentler expression of manhood; nevertheless he is. He now has a national platform to promote it. And feminist men must seize every opportunity to urge him to use it. Donald Trump secreted poisonous masculinity; Joe Biden must actively advance healthy masculinity.
Hopefully, with the coronavirus pandemic being responsibly managed next year, there will be time for a different kind of healing—beginning with young people, especially boys and young men.
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Often, males of all ages do not readily acknowledge how much courage it takes to embody compassion and empathy, and conversely how cowardly it is to rely on callousness and indifference. It’s on us to teach them, bringing into focus a new boyhood, a transformed manhood. We’ll have to demand that parents, educators, coaches and other mentors develop programs that nurture young men’s emotional growth and wellbeing.
I’ve long advocated that the CDC pilot a program at Head Start for preschool teachers to cultivate boys’ emotional intelligence. Perhaps now, with the contrast between the presidential candidates’ brands of masculinity still fresh in our minds, the incoming Congress will draft such legislation.
None of this will be easy. Nevertheless, there are bright spots. Even within the narrow world of electoral politics, the number of women winning elective office is a powerful antidote to patriarchy’s poison. Strong women—from Stacey Abrams of Fair Fight Action to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer—are a corrective to the misogynous rants we’ve endured for four years. They represent a model of womanhood more men may be willing to embrace now that we’ve finished “rounding the corner” on the orangeman-demic.
Unfortunately, the notion of empowered womanhood is still suspect in some circles. While feminism simply denotes believing in the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes, over the last four years Trump and his allies have sought to destroy it at every turn. With Kamala Harris as vice president, and Joe Biden’s compassionate masculinity an antidote to Donald Trump’s white male supremacy, conditions are ripe for men to begin to reconsider feminism. Men must now be willing to reach out and talk honestly with other men about how feminism benefits everyone.
Finally, to bridge the political and cultural chasm that has split open the U.S., we’ll need to acknowledge that patriarchy’s grip—if not its final gasp—and the assault on feminism are two sides of the same coin. We may have begun to acknowledge that racism has its knee on the necks of Black people, but to fully heal America, we’ll have to admit patriarchy has its other knee on the necks of women. Come January, it’s imperative we do so. Are you in? I hope so.
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