October 8th, 2018

The Vote of White Women in America and the Intersection of “-isms”

I wrote this post about a month ago. I didn’t post it then, as it seemed somewhat unrelated to immediate goings-on and to come a bit out of nowhere. That of course has now demonstrated itself to be a staggering irony.

There are many people (largely women of color) who have recognized the manifestation of what I write about here for some time. Though a lifelong liberal who has always voted Democratic, I am late in realizing it, largely due to oblivious privilege and not having to recognize it. I had planned to publish this post closer to the November midterm elections in the United States. Given that recent events in the US have brought this phenomenon into stark relief, now certainly seems close enough….

In contemporary human society, within every race, ethnicity, group, there have been female and male members. Obviously…that is how they reproduce. So within every group, however pitted these groups may be against each other, there has been (in modern society) the internal juxtaposition of a hierarchy between women and men. One of the most profound and pervasive distortions that has developed in the human species has purported to see the feminine, which we’ve generally (and superficially) perceived as represented by women, as inferior, subordinate, and weaker. The inaccuracy of this is stunning, but I’ll likely save the elucidation of that for another blog post.

In contemporary civilization, the white race has arbitrarily been considered superior. The degree to which this has been the case is not to be underestimated in exploring related and connected sociological phenomena such as the one I’m about to highlight. What it has meant in contemporary society is that whiteness has historically been the solid seat of authority in social, political, and economic realms, personally and collectively.

The combination of the above circumstances has put white women in an interesting position. They are women, so they have unquestionably been undervalued and discriminated against as women as a collective have. One of the ways the systematic oppression and undervaluing of female human beings has emerged is in the view of women as the property or domain of men. The perception that it is incumbent upon men to “protect” women is an extension of this.

Thus, white women have been in the societal position of being women, but they are also white—which means there is an underlying, often subconscious perception that they “belong” to white men, and in order to defend their own honor and perceived power, white men are willing to and/or insistent upon protecting them. Ultimately, the desecration of one group of people’s women by another group has historically been considered an affront to the first group’s men.

The way this may affect women is complex. The feminist perspective (such as that in me) rejects the idea as abhorrent and arbitrary nonsense. However, in a species that has regularly waged war and committed atrocities against its own members, the patriarchy I’ve described could (and has been known to) mean life or death for the women in question. Self-preservation versus idealism is a compelling and arguably relevant conflict indeed.

Hence, we return to the unique position of white women. I contend that unconsciously, white women recognize a “choice” between 1) the idealism of feminism and recognition of the subversion of their autonomy and the understandable desire for it to be socially recognized, and 2) the literal urge to be “protected” as women have been taught they need to be for millennia—which could indeed be the difference between their very survival and the lack thereof.

Women in no other group or race have been in quite the position white women have because the white race has been at the top of the arbitrary racial hierarchy. Thus, only white women have been under the purvey and protection of the most powerful group of people in the world—white men—and this has often been a fairly reliable means of survival, even if it meant subverting their autonomy and being oppressed within that survival, in addition to abandoning non-white women in terms of feminist idealism (stay tuned). It has taken, and does take, I would argue, a profound degree of awakening and awareness to reach a place where the unconscious reliance on this base method of physical survival (the dependence upon the protection of white men as part of their purvey or property) is superseded by both a perception of the potential of humanity beyond the oppressive distortions of sexism and racism and also a desire to align with and adhere to the emergence of that potential.

It seemed surprising to a lot of people, myself included, that many white women voted to allow Donald Trump to be officially installed as the President of the United States. Those of us who recognize his epitomization of many of the uglier aspects of historical patriarchy and sexism could hardly fathom how or why women could support in any way his acquiring a position of such authority over humanity.

Upon reflection, the above explains to me how they could have. There is still so much relative unconsciousness in us as a species that the desperate, clawing (and indeed understandable) urge toward self-preservation with no eye toward its cost exercises a gravitational pull on the parts of our psyches we have not brought to awareness or understanding yet. The women who voted this way were reflecting that. Unconsciously (most likely, anyway—some of them may have consciously recognized it, but not likely many), they perceived that their chances of survival were better if they were under the authority and protection of the most powerful social group, with whom they have historically been aligned, than if they struck out on their own and potentially alienated that alliance, even if that meant joining and collaborating with other groups whose autonomy and intrinsic value have not been equally recognized. They unconsciously chose the protection of the symbolic powerful white man, however sexist, unconscious, ignorant, unbecoming that specimen of white man was, because it seemed to represent their best—and/or most comfortable—chance of survival.

As is probably obvious to anyone who has read this blog lately (or ever), I hope they vote differently in the United States this November. But make no mistake, this phenomenon is far greater and goes far deeper than voting or American politics. It is only one of the ways we have so much work to do as a species—which ultimately must be done by and within each one of us—to wake up from the unconsciousness that has controlled us for so long and continues to. The unconscious holds powerful and profound distortions that thwart our individual and collective potential as a species. They manifest in ways such as this, that, much like many of our individual characteristics, perspectives, and actions, may be attributed to more superficial or immediate causes but that likely originate from unconscious places and for unconscious reasons we are not aware of. Becoming aware of them is part of the process of waking up; in my view, whether or not we do so will be the literal determination of the relatively imminent survival or demise of the human species.


  • “Give me one moment in time, when I’m more than I thought I could be…and the answers are all up to me….”
    -Whitney Houston “One Moment in Time”

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