Opinion: We should all stand on the side of ‘she-devils’


In Missouri, an acolyte of President Donald Trump is running for the U.S. Senate and denouncing “manophobic hell-bent feminist she-devils.”

The candidate, Courtland Sykes, a conservative Republican, is seeking to oust a moderate Democrat, Claire McCaskill. That diatribe by Sykes is worth quoting as a window into the backlash against #MeToo and empowered women:

“I don’t buy into radical feminism’s crazy definition of modern womanhood and I never did,” Sykes wrote on his campaign’s Facebook page. “They made it up to suit their own nasty, snake-filled heads.”

“I don’t buy the non-stop feminization campaign against manhood,” he added. “I want to come home to a home cooked dinner at six every night, one that (my fiancée) fixes and one that I expect one day to have daughters learn to fix.”

Speaking of those daughters, Sykes clarifies: “I don’t want them (to) grow up into career obsessed banshees who … become nail-biting manophobic hell-bent feminist she-devils.”

Sykes, who has not been endorsed by Trump and who seems unlikely to be elected, says that young women are turning against feminism because of distaste for Hillary Clinton: “They look at her personal life’s wreckage and didn’t want to become like her.”

Really? Sykes doesn’t seem to acknowledge the personal wreckage of his idol, our president, a serial adulterer who appears to have cheated on his three wives.

Progress on women’s rights has been enormous since I was a kid and Margaret Chase Smith was the only female senator . As recently as 1987, only half of Americans said that it was always wrong for a man to beat his wife with a belt or stick.

Yet in recent years, there were some signs that progress might be stalling — and then Trump galvanized feminism again. Many women, and some men, were horrified that a man who boasted of sexual assault could be elected president. An astonishing 390 women are now running for Congress.

Men like Sykes reflect the other dimension, the powerful backlash fueled by a combination of male resentment, anxiety at social change and a newfound freedom in the Age of Trump to say things that were previously beyond the pale.

But one reason for hope is that youth and education are sometimes better predictors of attitudes toward women’s rights than gender is. Last year for the first time, Gallup found that a majority of Americans don’t care whether their boss is a man or a woman; Americans under 35 actually prefer a female boss over a male boss by 14 percentage points.

The most important trend in the world, I believe, is the empowerment of women. This is transforming society and the global economy.

Women’s rights aren’t “just a woman’s issue,” any more than civil rights were “just a black issue.” We all have an interest in a more fair society — and if only women speak up for gender equity, they may be dismissed as shrill “hyenas.”

What matters above all are policies. That means pushing for easier family leave, better child care, more women on boards, and cracking down on sex trafficking and domestic violence. It means helping teenage girls avoid pregnancy, providing locations at work for moms to express milk, and confronting the general tendency to defer to male self-confidence rather than female expertise.

The fundamental fault line today is between those working toward broader opportunity and those yearning for a mythic past before feminists developed “nasty, snake-filled heads.” To be on the right side of history, we should all, men and women alike, stand on the side of the she-devils.

Writes for The New York Times.



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