Vanity Fair, that peerless assessor of all things political, has bravely come out with the shocking opinion that the movies, TV, and our much-vaunted national media-industrial complex don’t hate right-wing women as much as they ought to, leading to the unjust and the always unhappy conclusion that people such as Phyllis Schlafly in Mrs. America, Megan Kelly in Bombshell, and Margaret Thatcher in the film Iron Lady are portrayed in some venues as real human beings, and not as the monsters they are:
We pull our punches when it comes to the tales of handmaids of conservative politics. If women’s suffrage anticipated a voting bloc comprised of women voting for women’s issues, the 2016 election shredded that notion. An oft-cited statistic, based on exit polls, is that 53 percent of white female voters cast their balloters for Trump, choosing not just a male candidate over a female one but a proud sexual predator at that.
But let us remember that some years ago feminist voters not only voted twice for a “proud sexual predator” named William J. Clinton but supported him when he was impeached for lies under oath and other offenses and supported his wife and protector as well. And we don’t know today whether or not “women’s suffrage anticipated a voting bloc composed of women voting for women’s issues.” What in that day were “women’s issues” (beyond voting rights), and how many women were for them? We haven’t been told, and don’t know.
The problem with feminism as it has developed is that it can’t tell the difference between “we” and “they” — meaning between themselves, for whom feminism is a creed and a cause and an overriding obsession, and the vast mass of women, for whom gender is one part of a complex identity, and often less signal than some other traits. Liberation movements, at least in this country, always begin with a great sweeping cause — giving the vote and the right to rise upward to nonwhites and to women — that justly enlists most nonwhites and most women, and, once those are achieved, the goals devolve down to things such as abortion and quotas, which are more problematic, and on which many good people divide.
On things such as these, there are enormous divides between the voters themselves and the interest groups that claim to speak for them: In the primaries this year, Democratic nonwhites and women showed no interest whatever in voting for members of their own race or gender, and much more in supporting the people whose views they espoused. Those who ran strongest on race and abortion — Kirsten Gillibrand and “Beto” O’Rourke, who fawned on an ethnic group that he didn’t belong to — left the race with between a 2 percent and a zero percent rating. Hardly a win for the anti-Right lobbies, and no perch at all from which to look down on the Kellys and Thatchers, whom the Condé Nasters presume to abhor.
“One Hundred Years of Voting Hasn’t Done What We Thought It Would,” lamented the New York Times’ Gail Collins, conceding that women had let themselves down. Sure, Phyllis Schlafly’s support of the stay-at-home housewife was at odds with her public career, but this was not unremarked on, and it made her intriguing. Fox News under Roger Ailes was nothing to brag of, but NBC under Matt Lauer was worse. And as for Thatcher, she was one of the giants, the greatest English prime minister since and save for Winston S. Churchill, but VF describes her in the disparaging words of a Communist mayor of London, spiteful perhaps because she, along with Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, was one of three people whose pressure on multiple fronts finally squeezed into extinction the former Soviet Union, forcing it to let go of all Eastern Europe, seized by the Russians from Hitler’s retreating armies at the end of the Second World War. This was the woman Vanity Fair has described as a “monster,” a theory that would be hard to sell to Melania Trump, among many others, and all people who want to be free.