Everything Must Change: On Privilege, Patriarchy, and Donald Trump

Everything Must Change: On Privilege, Patriarchy, and Donald Trump September 1, 2016

We are in a period of American history in which everything about Attendees_at_Trump_rally_Nashua_2015the way our country has functioned since it’s inception is being dismantled and deconstructed. Since the very founding of our nation, our leaders have been driven, largely unconsciously, by the power of patriarchy. Patriarchy is, at it’s most rudimentary level, the belief that men are best suited to lead and are the ideal example of what a human should look like. Built in to a patriarchal mindset is a singular image of the supreme man that all of society strives to uplift and honor. For those of us in the Western World, this image has been the straight, white, cisgender, hyper-masculinized, wealthy, Christian, man. This is the ideal image of humanity, the kind of person that we need to lead our homes, our churches, and our nation, the only kind of person truly capable of leading us down the path of American idealism. Naturally, of course, this class of men is given power and privilege at the expense of those who do not fit this idealized image- women, people of color, sexual minorities, and those who are seen as “effeminate” men. These kinds of people, who make up the majority of the population, are seen at some level as tools meant to help the idealized humans live the life that they desire, regardless of what position that places these “less-than” humans.

As a direct result of the unconscious systems of patriarchy, we have seen the systemic oppression of each of these groups throughout our history. And though it is true that much progress has been made, the oppression continues. Women do not get paid fair and equal wages, people of color are imprisoned and killed for minor offenses, and LGBT+ people can be fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in more than half of the states in our nation. We are not a nation of equality at all, despite what we are indoctrinated to believe from our politicians and school curriculums. We are a nation that idealizes one type of human, provides privilege, benefits, and protections to one class of person before anyone else. If you’re a straight, white, cisgender, man, America is your nation. For you, the sky is the limit. But for the rest of us, in varying degrees, the decks are stacked against us.

Think about it. Until the election of President Barack Obama, our nation has been led only by the kind of person that I’ve described above. But with the election of President Obama, we reached of fundamental tipping point that leveled a devastating blow to the patriarchal systems that have fueled America since our inception. For the first time, a non-white person was given the most powerful position in our nation. Immediately, you’ll remember, much of the patriarchal establishment lashed out against Obama, questioning everything from his religion to his place of birth- they couldn’t handle losing this most important position which enabled their system of privilege to continue. Over the last eight years, we have continued to see a constant chipping away at the power and influence of the patriarchy. Systemic racism has been brought to national consciousness and been dealt many devastating blows through the work of #BlackLivesMatter, the LGBT+ rights movement has gained political power and influence, securing marriage equality for all sexual and gender minorities and fighting to end discrimination once and for all, and now, a woman is the Democratic nominee for President. The patriarchy is crumbling. Power is slipping through the fingers of the privileged, and the way our nation has functioned since it’s founding is forever being reconfigured.

Naturally, these are scary times for the beneficiaries of the patriarchy. For them, still blinded to the systemic oppression that they have benefited from and perpetuated, this just seems like a moral decline, a threat to the most foundational dreams of our founding fathers. And to some extent, they’re right. Those who are chipping away at the patriarchal systems that have fueled our nation are threatening many of the values of founding fathers, who, beyond the idealism of their words enshrined in our constitution, desired to perpetuate patriarchy and create a nation where they could survive and thrive on the backs of those whom they believed were less-than-ideal humans. Our nation is going through a major revolution of values and ideals, and we will never be the same again. Change is scary and losing privilege and power often feels like a threat to your “equality” or “rights”. It is no wonder that in the midst of these tumultuous times, a candidate like Donald Trump has risen to power with a simple message- restore the patriarchy to America. Keep the rich, white, straight, cisgender, Christian, men comfortable and in power. Deport or imprison those who are threatening the patriarchal way of life. And of course, motivated by their fear, many have flocked to support Trump as a last ditch effort to regain their privilege. This is real meaning behind Trumps campaign slogan, “Make American Great Again.” Once we were great and our nation needs to return to those values and morals, built on the oppression of women and minorities.

When we view the current events of our nation through this lens, everything becomes crystal clear. Nothing is as mysterious or perplexing as it once seemed. How could a candidate as unqualified, bombastic, and bigoted as Donald Trump ever rise to such a position of power and influence? It’s simple. Threaten the privilege of societies “elite” and watch what happens. Watch the many creative ways privileged people try to regain their power- talk of “religious freedom”, terrorism, and walls. And if that doesn’t work, they ultimately will turn to anger and violence as a means of asserting their power and regaining control.

Donald Trump is the embodiment of American patriarchy, and his primary constituency are the fearful beneficiaries of the patriarchy who are ready to do anything they can to keep true and lasting equality for all people to become a reality in our nation. For equality and justice for all means privilege for none, and that’s not what this nation was truly founded on. In principle, America is a nation of progress and radical equality, to be sure. But in practice, we are culture of segregation, discrimination, and fear. But that day, I believe, is coming to an end. Before we taste true equality, though, we will first experience the backlash of those form whom privilege is slipping through their fingers. They will fight, they will cry “persecution”, and they will ultimately lose. Little do they know that their loss is actually a win for all of us, including for them. For in that day, when white, straight, cisgender, wealthy, Christian, men no longer secure power through the oppression of those who are different, we might truly discover the ability to be one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.


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