November 9th, 2016 – The Day After

How did the least qualified person ever to run for the presidency of the United States manage to win? In large part, by negging us.

Negging is one of the pick-up artist community’s cynical and manipulative strategies for seducing women. A man deliberately delivers backhanded compliments and other sly insults to his “target” in order to undermine her confidence and self-worth and thus render her more emotionally vulnerable to his advances. He shows disinterest or even disdain and, the theory goes, she can’t help but want to win his approval. It’s an exploitation of classic daddy issues.

The crazy thing is: it works.

It works because of how pervasive and insidious sexism is in America . . . in the world. It’s a prejudice so baked into the cake — we’re talking centuries of institutionally ingrained physical, psychic, economic, and sexual oppression — that outward expressions of it aren’t only still considered acceptable, they’re considered funny, while railings against it are reliably deemed uptight, melodramatic, and — the 21st century’s most annoying sin — too politically correct. As Patton Oswalt tweeted last night, “What I’ve learned so far tonight: America is WAAAAAAAAY more sexist than it is racist. And it’s pretty fucking racist.”

We women make up more than 50 percent of the US population. We could have crushed an openly misogynistic sexual predator and elected the first female president. In the same way Obama’s historic election was a major step in the right direction away from racism, Clinton’s election could have been a major step away from sexism. It might have made things a little worse before they got better, at least in some circles, if the racist backlash against our first black president is any indication. But at least that feminist progress would have been on the books.

But no. Like victims of Stockholm Syndrome, women — specifically white women — in depressing numbers embraced this sexist, misogynistic, sexual predator as he demeaned and degraded their entire gender. They bought into the right’s (and oftentimes left’s!) negative characterizations about Clinton as a cold, shrill shrew with a bad body (“2 fat thighs, 2 small breasts…left wing”) and zero sex appeal (“Hillary sucks, but not like Monica”) and rejected her so as not to be tainted by her toxic un-likability. This deep, sometimes subconscious fear, sown by a sexist society, actually kept women, even liberal women, from enthusiastically embracing Clinton at the start of this campaign; even when she won the nomination, and they could finally “go public” with their support, it was lackluster — the dearth of lawn signs proved it. In 2008, people unabashedly celebrated the historical significance of voting in the first black president; this year, cheering for the possibility of America’s first female president was considered reverse-sexism, even by many women!

Gloria Steinem, the gold standard of feminist icons, was crucified when she tried to explain young women’s support for Bernie over Hillary:

"First of all, women get more radical as we get older, because we experience . . . I don’t mean to over-generalize, but . . . men tend to get more conservative because they gain power as they age, and women get more radical because they lose power as they age . . . And, when you’re young, you’re thinking, where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie . . ."

It was an inelegant expression of a real phenomenon created by deep-seated sexism: women wanting the approval of men, because men still hold the majority of the power. It’s why negging works for pick-up artists. It’s why girls give head but don’t expect it in return, even — or especially — during casual hookups. It’s why female celebrities are compelled to constantly sexually objectify themselves while their male counterparts get by on their artistic output alone, fully clothed.

President-elect Donald Trump has proven himself to be the king of all pick-up artists. He put so many people down — not just women, but Mexicans, African-Americans, the disabled, Muslims, the U.S. government, Iowans, the list goes on — and many of them just came back for more. Like the scared, confused victims of domestic violence who reason “he only hits me when I deserve it,” self-hating Americans who wanted to date a man with wealth and fame willingly took the abuse.

And try as we might to convince ourselves that he’ll change, that he really loves us and has our best interests at heart, he will run the country as he ran the campaign, indeed as he has run all his endeavors — with fear, lies, negativity, revenge, cheating and abuses of power that benefit him, and him alone. Some suggest that he’s really pro-choice and not anti-LGBTQ, but that doesn’t matter: he will try to — and with a Republican House and Senate, he most likely WILL — overturn Roe v. Wade, defund Planned Parenthood, and undo marriage equality JUST BECA-- USE HE CAN. Trump will be the most controlling boyfriend we’ve ever had. Those of us who rejected his advances before will be punished for the disrespect. If we dare try to breakup with him, he will spread the political equivalent of revenge porn.

But breakup with him we must. There will be a tearful period of drowning our sorrows in wine and ice cream over this shitty relationship. And it will take a lot of time and effort to pack up all his gold-encrusted mix-tapes and countless copies of "The Art of the Deal" and leave them in boxes on the White House lawn. But we’re worth it. We cannot settle. We can do better so much better.

Follow us out of the darkness and into the light:

© 2021 Em & Lo