Some of you will recall that back in the Dubya era, a good chunk of the pundit class decided after the 9/11 attacks that America needed a hero, so they set about converting Bush into Churchill. Well, sometimes Churchill, other times Gary Cooper. The Churchill line was met with more derision, but I actually found the latter comparison much more offensive than the former. Gary Cooper never shot first. That was the entire basis of his moral authority.
Anyway. Turning this scraggly, Vietnam-ducking rich kid into a macho figurine required the concomitant feminization of the Democratic Party. Some among you will remember the book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, an early 1990s self-help book. Neocon Robert Kagan appropriated the title for an Iraq-era polemical book of his own, Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus. By Americans, of course, Kagan really meant war-loving Americans, who were Martian in their ardor for combat, while Europeans and other Americans—mostly Democrats and women—were from Venus (the Roman goddess of love, you see).
I couldn’t help think of all this Wednesday morning as I read the news of all the smashing electoral victories by Democratic women in Pennsylvania and Nebraska and elsewhere. Six women won Democratic primaries, and two more came within a hair’s breadth. This in a state that currently has 18 congressmen, emphasis on the “men” part.
The Venusification of the Democratic Party is on, and this man says it’s high time.
I’m not trying to get some PC ticket punched. I’m not exactly Alan Alda (that’s a reference that dates me, but some of you will know what I mean). I like football, and bourbon, and the riff of “Under My Thumb,” although the lyrics do make me wince a little.
I may not be Alan Alda, but actually, now that I think about it, I have considered myself a feminist of some stripe or another since I was about 11 years old, when my sister, Susan, then in college, came home bending my ear about Simone de Beauvoir and Germaine Greer and all the rest. My sister was cool (you still are, if you’re reading!), so if she liked it, I liked it. She brought home a Shirley Chisholm for President button. I tacked it on my bedroom wall. She came with armfuls of issues of Ms., which I kinda-sorta looked through—while, I freely admit, I also eagerly tore through her National Lampoons searching for those gratuitous breast shots that were always and unfailingly in there.
You see, it’s possible to be both things at once. There’s no room for portraits of people who contain such seeming contradictions (though they are not contradictions at all!) in the media, where you have to be either this or that. But millions of men are not this or that. We love sports and raunchy rock ’n’ roll and Sean Connery (except when he slaps them—that has really aged badly). But we’ve grown up a little since we were 18, we don’t make pu**y jokes, and we detest and are embarrassed by men like Donald Trump.
And we want to be part—we demand that we be part—of a political movement and party and country where women are equal. Not necessarily for the sake of fairness or diversity, although those things are important. But because women being equal in politics will make the country and world a better and more interesting place.
How do I know this? For one thing, because women are smarter about Donald Trump overall than men are, and women have driven the anti-Trump resistance. Read the piece from February in the journal I edit by Theda Skocpol and Lara Putnam. Many people described it as the best account they’ve read of how the resistance actually works (in this case, in Pennsylvania). It’s almost all powered by women.
In the first year of his presidency, Trump’s approval rating gender gap averaged 12 points—45 percent of men backed him, and just 33 percent of women. That’s twice the gap of the previous three presidents. Women are much smarter about the guy. And more recently, Trump’s ratings have fallen even more with women and risen among men (that is, the type of men who think it’s cool the president shagged a hot porn star and then paid her to be quiet).
Another reason more women in politics will make things better is that women are more likely to define “economics” in a way I think we need to define it these days in terms of social policy. That’s a little dry, but what I mean is this: “Economics,” historically, as discussed by men, has meant supply, demand, and growth. But when women think of economics, they are more likely to think of it in terms that are directly relevant to how middle-class families can get by today, as the economist Heather Boushey has written, also in the pages of my (apparently aggressively Venutian) journal. Those are just the policies this country so desperately needs today, and women are far more likely than men to execute them.
So we need change. And we are way, way behind. In terms of the percentage of women serving in our national legislature(s), we rank 102nd in the world (out of 193). Saudi Arabia is 100th. Number one, oddly, is Rwanda, which I guess is proof that women don’t automatically fix everything, although who knows what else is going on there. But to take some countries we feel closest to, the U.K. is 41, France is 16, Canada is 60, Germany is 46. All well ahead of us. The country Trump is trying to turn us into, Russia, is 129.
If this country is to be saved from Trump, it is women who will lead the way. And someday, a woman will truly take the reins. To return to our ersatz Churchill, his birthday is July 6. That’s when my daughter was born, which I was bummed out about at first, until I told myself that’s OK, someday they’ll note that George W. Bush was born on Margot Tomasky’s birthday.