If unofficial estimates are correct, the million people attending the Women’s March on Washington just participated in the largest demonstration ever in American history.
And there is good reason for women to demonstrate. Through bragging about the size of his penis and sexually violating women, Trump has now come to symbolize the crudest form of anti-woman hate. But that is par for the course with fascism, which is fundamentally patriarchal and anti-feminist.
The eminent historian of fascism, Eugen Weber, has written that fascism always emerges in response to the rising power of women. The Nazis arose following a long decade of democracy in which women gained the vote and children gained legal protection. The patriarchal family was breaking down in Weimar Germany, as a thriving and open gay scene emerged in Berlin, and the Nazis responded by thrusting to their forefront an aggressive and dominant father-of-the-nation, who sought to re-establish patriarchy.
It is no accident that Republicans chose, out of what the conservative columnist George Will referred to as their most capable field of candidates since 1980, the crudest and most sexist dominator among their number. Republicans chose their most abusive bully and lined up behind him as he broke all social and political norms to tear down the most powerful woman in the world, expressing their archaism through the patriarchal refrain, meted out to women by their families and societies for millennia: “lock her up.”
Fascism in all of its forms seeks to re-establish patriarchy, not only in the family but in society and government. It is no accident that just about the only person Trump ever praises is Vladimir Putin, a macho traditionalist leader who has destroyed the last vestiges of democracy in Russia and set himself up as an all-powerful strongman. If people can be expected to emulate their idols, then we should prepare ourselves for Trump to rule like a tyrant.
Whether the reason lay in biology or cultural conditioning, men tend to locate themselves in a hierarchy of other men and act accordingly. Rebels attempt to preserve their dignity by bucking the hierarchy altogether, while most others try to hold their own in the pecking order while alphas try to reach the top. But fascist leaders seek to set up their own alternative order behind which their followers line up, and together they seek to seize power and lord it over the rest of society.
Domination and intimidation are essential to fascism, for it is necessary to cow the opposition and assimilate the weak. Hence, fascists do not try to prettify their legislation but rather use it to hammer liberals into submission at every turn. Seldom schooled in the art of oppression, women are particularly vulnerable to the politics of domination, especially when the dominators seek to re-establish the traditional orders that have been so oppressive to women.
Republicans have long sought to re-establish a traditional order that puts women back in the kitchen, but Trump represents a peculiarly visceral form of domination. Studies have shown that while support for McCain and Romney was loosely correlated with more chivalrous views of traditional gender roles, support for Trump is highly correlated with an outright hatred of women.
The barrage of presidential decrees to which we are now witness may largely be a show, but it sends an ominous message that Trump is going to hold nothing back. If women are to preserve their most basic social dignities—like the ability to speak without being shut down or the right to live their lives free from familial constraints—speaking out now is essential. And it is essential that women take the lead.
The Women’s March sent a message to the nation that whatever Trump’s administration may do, the most basic social freedoms that women have achieved in recent decades will be preserved. And the freedom of women means the freedom of men to express themselves more fully, free of their own imposing gender constraints. Meanwhile, the freedom of men and women to express themselves as full human beings is the death-knell of fascism, for free peoples do not take to hierarchy, and without the capacity to sit at the top of society, the fascist leader is a mere bloviating pig.
It is time we learn to fight fascism through the full expression of everything we love and cherish(comma) and declare ourselves a free people who are ready to take on the new elites. Not only will this allow us to survive the next four years, but to thrive as well, and to turn the tides of the nation. The largest protest ever in American history is a pretty good start.
Author: Theo Horesh
Editor: Travis May