James Millar: Donald Trump's victory could usher in a new liberal era
Misogyny was Donald Trump's greatest friend but his victory could be a blip on the road to equality
My son woke up in the night last night. He’s six now so that’s unusual, he’d had a bad dream.
Eventually he, and I, settled back to sleep. And when we woke again it was to a nightmare: President Trump.
In the night, when I’d got back into bed I heard the rain start, hammering off the windows and roof. Unaware of what was going on in America I joked to my partner: “I wonder if it’s the world crying at a Trump victory.”. She grunted.
But there was a delightful symmetry to this night time episode.
For I remember very clearly eight years ago, my daughter then not even a year old had woken in the night – which was not unusual unfortunately – and having quieted her my partner and I lay in the dark with one earphone each listening to the radio as Barack Obama made his victory speech. It was, of course, an electrifying speech but more it was a moment of such excitement and hope that America’s first black president ushered in a new era of liberalism in the best possible sense.
So how did we get from there to here?
I don’t regard the US election result as a failure of politics. Yes it’s a failure of political elites, to share both the proceeds and benefits of progress.
It’s more fundamental than that.
I’ve said all along, and luckily I said it on my podcast so I can prove it, that misogyny was Trump’s friend. That you never lose in politics or predictions by overestimating the level of misogyny in society. And so it depressingly proved.
It’s not just the angry white men of the rust belt who will not be ruled by a woman. The Labour party’s sad history of male leaders shows the left is just as susceptible. And scratch the surface of many baby boomer women’s attitudes and underneath is a latent distaste for powerful women, for the confusing mores of modern society.
These women in particular have been raised to internalise their misogyny. Anyone under 50 may take the victories of the second wave of feminism for granted. Anyone over 50 – and therefore more likely to vote – was brought up in a different atmosphere when women did not have many basic freedoms either because the law forbid it or because society frowned on it. For many that was frustrating, for some it was reassuringly simple.
But it’s not just the older demographic who suffer. All women are faced with a wave of propaganda promoting the patriarchy from the very beginning. I know because I co-authored a book about it – the adverts, the TV programmes, the toy promotions, even the very language we use and the way we interact with our own children differs depending on their gender.
But sexism is the elephant in the room. Partly because it is hard to admit that despite the efforts of at least three waves of feminism it is still so pervasive. Partly because as long as the commentariat remains dominated by men it won’t be confronted due to ignorance, wilful or otherwise.
However, there is hope.
The direction of travel remains towards equality and liberalism. Trump may prove a bump in the road – and he may not, he’s been all mouth so far, we await to see the cut or indeed existence of his trousers – but history shows one man cannot be a roadblock.
His election may be the last blast of a certain sort of man, the kind that embraces so called meninism and points to the fact that girls outperform boys at school as evidence that the patriarchy has been undone while ignoring the fact that all those bright females somehow lose their advantage along the way and end up earning less than men and unable to access the highest echelons of industry and indeed the uppermost office of state.
The Trump presidency could be such a disaster that the next generation of Americans, and citizens of democratic nations around the world, realise the men’s era must end and an era of equality is the answer.