A Reckoning on Patriarchy

This is how the president of the United States responded when it became public that two men in his administration had been charged with domestic violence:

The same man who had called for the execution of the Central Park Five before they even set foot inside a courtroom (and continued to insist on their guilt as late as 2016) has no authority to talk about due process.

What stuck out to so many of us is that all of Trump’s sympathy was reserved for the men, with none for the women who had been abused. The only reason this wasn’t even more shocking is that Trump has done this repeatedly when it comes to allegations against men like Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and Roy Moore—not to mention himself. Will Bunch suggests that the truth is now impossible to ignore.

The United States is led by a man who’s not capable of seeing the women who comprise 51 percent of his constituents as fully formed human beings. Trump, with his outrageous comments, inaugurated himself as president of the United States of Men — and the dire consequences of this depressing state of presidential mind resonate across his bifurcated land.

I couldn’t help but compare that with Joshua Green’s reporting about Steve Bannon’s reaction to the Golden Globes ceremony.

Green says Bannon, who was recently ousted from his position as executive chairman of the far-right website Breitbart, took particular notice of the Times’s Up campaign, founded by Hollywood celebrities inspired by the #MeToo movement and the post-Harvey Weinstein reckoning.

“It’s a Cromwell moment!” Bannon is quoted as nearly shouting, referring to the 17th century political leader often characterized as a fanatical dictator. “It’s even more powerful than populism. It’s deeper. It’s primal. It’s elemental. The long black dresses and all that — this is the Puritans! It’s anti-patriarchy.”…

But Bannon went further than that, declaring, “The anti-patriarchy movement is going to undo ten thousand years of recorded history.”

“You watch. The time has come. Women are gonna take charge of society,” Bannon said, according to Green. “And they couldn’t juxtapose a better villain than Trump. He is the patriarch. This” — the Golden Globe Awards — “is a definitional moment in the culture. It’ll never be the same going forward.”

As usual, Bannon is being just a bit hyperbolic. He’s not wrong in his analysis, but his assumption that an “anti-patriarchy movement” is a bad thing is where he goes off the rails. The backlash against patriarchy—as symbolized by the villain Trump—is indeed a “definitional moment in the culture.”

Bannon’s other shortcoming is that he is only now recognizing what is happening. People like Rebecca Traister called it even before the last election.

The public spectacle of this presidential election, and the two that have preceded it, are inextricably linked to the racialized and gendered anger and violence we see around us…

Whatever their flaws, their political shortcomings, their progressive dings and dents, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton mean a lot. They represent an altered power structure and changed calculations about who in this country may lead…

This is our country in an excruciating period of change. This is the story of the slow expansion of possibility for figures who have long existed on the margins, and it is also the story of the dangerous rage those figures provoke.

Trump’s inauguration was met with the largest protests we’ve seen in this country’s history. That has been followed by women organizing, as well as a record number of them deciding to run for office. What Bannon witnessed at the Golden Globes—the #MeToo movement and the Times Up campaign—are among the building blocks of this “definitional moment.” The Trump administration’s response to domestic abusers only adds fuel to the fire.

David Remnick writes that a reckoning is coming. Merriam Webster defines “reckoning” as “a settling of accounts.” People like Trump and Bannon thought they could fuel a movement of nostalgia voters to gain power. What they’re learning is that in doing so, they’ve ignited something that is deeper and more primal that their beloved “populism.” As Leonard Cohen wrote, “They’ve summoned up a thundercloud, and they’re going to hear from me.”

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .