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You Gotta Read this New Dystopian YA Novel by Michelle Goldberg

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Michelle Goldberg, apparently deciding to enter into a contest with Erik (unbeknownst to him, I’m assuming) for Debbie Downer of the Decade, writes this article about what life might be like for women/feminists under Trump rule. It’s, uh, dark.

In America, men have always ruled, and right now I wonder if they always will.

For 25 years, after all, Clinton was reviled as a synecdoche for unseemly female ambition. That’s part of what made her candidacy so fraught. If she’d become president, it would have been in the teeth of widespread male opposition; even the models that showed her winning had her losing the majority of men. She proposed policies that would have increased women’s power and autonomy at every level of society: equal pay, paid family leave, subsidized child care, abortion rights. For all her manifold faults, her election would have both signified progress toward gender equality and made more such progress possible. Before Nov. 8, it looked as if the arc of history was bending toward women.

We’re going be blown backward so far that this irredeemably shitty year may someday look like a lost feminist golden age. The very idea that women are equal citizens, that barriers to their full human flourishing should be identified and removed, is now up for grabs. A pastor warming up the crowd at a post-election Trump rally in Louisiana promised that with Trump in office, the White House would be a place “where men know who men are, women know who women are.” The massive power of the American state is about to be marshaled to put women in their place.

Honestly, I don’t know if it’s going to be this bad. It could be, but I’m not sure my pretty little brain is ready to go there yet. I feel like this written in a pique of –admittedly 100% righteous–sadness and anger. It’s a little goth in tone. But, hey, I’m the person who thought it would be hilarious if Trump won the primary because there’d be no way he’d win the general. Sooooo…

We might well lose Roe v. Wade in the next four years. Trump has said the issue would then go back to the states, but there’s no reason to think that Republicans would settle for anything less than a national ban. There is a particular insult at the thought of a sybarite like Trump, who still won’t say whether he’s ever paid for an abortion himself, imposing a regime of forced birth on American women. When and if Trump strips us of bodily autonomy, there won’t be any illusions that he’s doing it to protect life or the family or sexual morality. It will be because he has power, and women’s hopes and plans for their own lives don’t matter to him at all.

Well, she’s got me there.

If a new backlash comes, some women will embrace it. The uphill struggle for freedom and equality can be enervating. Many women find comfort and consolation in being provided for by a man—or in the dream of being provided for by a man—and are sick of feminists making them feel guilty. Others know how to negotiate the male power structure without challenging it, like Ivanka Trump. In a time of backlash, women will redouble their efforts to accommodate men, and the culture will celebrate their choice in making that accommodation. The backlash, wrote Faludi, “manipulates a system of rewards and punishments, elevating women who follow its rules, isolating those who don’t.”

I think this is a good cathartic scream. I’m hoping it’s not actually prescient. I’m hoping this invigorates the feminist movement. But I’ve hoped a lot of things this past years and the hoping hasn’t paid off much. Maybe Ms. Goldberg is on to something.

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