A Few Words on Infantilizing Feminism and the Campaign Just Ended: The Maturity Gap

Charlotte Hays
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Posted: Nov 11, 2016 12:01 AM
A Few Words on Infantilizing Feminism and the Campaign Just Ended: The Maturity Gap

ABC's Gloria Borger's on-air elegy for the Clinton campaign included a lament for "all the little girls [Hillary Clinton] promised to show a female president."

Carl Bernstein, Clinton biographer and half of the Watergate duo, who was also serving as a commentator for ABC, likewise worried about the feelings of "little girls" who were "deprived of their aspiration" of seeing a woman president by Clinton's loss.

Not quite a big enough girl to observe custom of conceding at the appropriate moment, that is, immediately after a presidential race is called, Hillary Clinton also spoke of "little girls" when she finally mustered whatever she was mustering to deliver her late (but otherwise quite excellent) concession speech.

"And to all of the little girls who are watching this," Mrs. Clinton said, "never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams. [Cheers and applause]"

What's with Democrats and little girls?

The United States will undoubtedly elect a female president, and, when we do, sooner rather than later, her gender will be the least important thing about her. A presidential race is about more than symbolism. The presidential race is a time when adult men and women vote and decide the future course of the nation. But there has been a disturbing tendency to infantilize the campaign just ended, and especially infantilize the public, and particularly women and girls, as if we are too fragile to handle the trauma of an election. 

Good Morning America went so far as to have a psychologist, Janet Taylor, on the day after the election for a segment on how to talk to your daughters about the results of the election.

One way to avoid this crisis was not to have scared daughters to death about Donald Trump in the first place.

Mothers could have said something like: "Mr. Trump has a dirty mouth, Mopsy, and if you ever say anything like that I'll wash your mouth out with soap. But important issues are at stake and we must learn to balance competing ideas--vulgar man versus a disastrous economic agenda and further curtailment of our liberty, for example--and make a decision accordingly."

Of course many women felt they couldn't vote for Mr. Trump and preferred Clinton instead.  That's their right, but it's also their responsibility to recognize that others have a different opinion, and accept the outcome of the election. Instead, little girlhood seems to have been defined upwards. Note this from a CNN report headlined "Tears and Shock at Hillary Clinton's Election Night Party:"

One woman named Kerry wept as she headed toward the exits, saying she had to hurry home to her 16-year-old daughter.

"Because I promised her hope. I promised her hope. And this man is despicable," she said, her words broken between sobs.

 Notice that the daughter in question is sixteen years old. In my day, sixteen year olds did not need mummy to comfort them in the event that a political campaign didn't go as expected. (And do you doubt that, by the time the sobbing Kerry gets through with the hapless daughter, the sixteen-year-old will really be a mess?)

Speaking of refusing to behave in an age-appropriate manner, all too many of the supposedly intelligent and mature female Clinton supporters seemed too much like sorority girls for my taste. Hundreds of Hillary supporters, for example, flocked to the Rochester, N.Y., grave of suffragist Susan B. Anthony, wearing white--the suffragist color--and pantsuit lapel buttons. "One by one, they stepped forward to place their 'I Voted Today' stickers on Anthony's time-worn headstone," USA Today reported. Anthony was a true American heroine, but this sure sounds like a Chi Omega ritual to me . . .

Maybe the new feminist mantra should be, "I am woman, hear me sob." Or whimper, or simper, or pretend that sixteen year olds are too fragile to face what Mother regards as the adverse outcome of a presidential election. That's not exactly the spirit of the women who got us across the mountains in covered wagons, is it?   

But one almost can't blame these ladies for their arrested development because arrested development often comes with oppression and these women, among the most privileged in human history, have imbibed the notion that they are oppressed.  Vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine, in introducing Clinton at the concession speech, said that Mrs. Clinton had become the nominee in a country that has "made it difficult for women to be elected to political office."

Kaine said this with a straight face even though record numbers of women are being recruited to run for and elected to political office and even though the Democratic Party engineered, through the deployment of super-delegates and behind-the-scenes maneuvering, the nomination of a horribly flawed candidate in part because she is a woman.

The gender gap in this year's presidential race, as might be expected, given the candidate's relentless harping on the glass ceiling theme, was the largest we've seen since the gender gap was first observed in the 1980s. But it was only slightly bigger than in 2012 and obviously nowhere near what Mrs. Clinton sought. Clinton's lead among women was 12 points--up only a point from 2012, when it was the women's vote that gave Barack Obama his second term. This year fifty-four percent of women voted for Mrs. Clinton, while forty-two percent gave their votes to Mr. Trump. It was not enough to give Mrs. Clinton her first term.

The gender gap hasn't been written about as much as usual this year--perhaps because the reporters who usually seize gleefully upon it are too broken-hearted that, when the all-important moment arrived, it didn't do the trick for Mrs. Clinton. Let me propose that this is also because there is a new gap in American politics: the Maturity Gap.

The Maturity Gap is exemplified by the Rust Belt voters who contributed mightily to putting Donald Trump in the White House. Rather than dashing home to comfort a sixteen-year-old because the wrong candidate was elected, they are more likely to have learned to be stoic in the face of job loss or other vicissitudes of life.

These adults don't hunger for safe spaces at college, if they are lucky enough to go to college, and they would not expect the taxpayer to pay for "free" college so that their offspring could lounge around the nearest Whole Foods or take the Women's Studies class. They don't want expanded welfare and food stamps programs. They want work, even if it is in places progressives find deplorable (such as coal mines or Walmarts), and they fear loss of liberty and work more than they fear Mr. Trump's dirty mouth. In short, through hardship and independence of character, they are grown-ups.

As for the feminist fixation on shattering the glass ceiling, I have news for them--it was shattered, by Kellyanne Conway, the first woman to manage a successful presidential campaign, and now the most powerful woman in American politics. So, cheer up, feminists--and grow-up, too.   A woman will certainly be elected President one day, but Americans want to wait for the right women and there is nothing wrong with that.