"...The numbers are disheartening and disappointing and, for some progressive white women, shame inducing, that they are part of a demographic that has the power to decide key elections but continually uses it in favor of candidates whose policies are anti-women. We theorize and spitball: Are they so invested in their own white privilege that they simply don’t care about other women? Are they parroting their Republican husbands and/or brainwashed by Fox & Friends? Maybe and maybe. But either way, the rest of us shouldn’t be shocked, because if history serves, there is plenty of precedent for white women protecting their own power and status.
“Our perception that white women are going to vote the way ‘we’ think they should has been proven false over and over again,” Elizabeth Gillespie McRae, historian and author of Mothers of Massive Resistance: White Women and the Politics of White Supremacy, tells Vogue. She points to white women’s historic role in upholding racial segregation, from campaigning against the United Nations (on the grounds that it would upend the racial divide) to rallying against school integration after Brown v. Board of Education, including leading the charge against busing black students to new districts. The Confederate monuments that have caused so much modern-day controversy, McRae adds, were often funded by white women’s organizations, prior to the 19th Amendment.
And yet society at large tends to make an assumption about white women voters—that because they are oppressed by white men and the patriarchy they will stand with progressive social movements and rally in solidarity with the underrepresented. This lingering expectation has roots in the suffragettes of the 1910s and ’20s, who argued, according to McRae, “that women would bring a more moral, domestic, maternal, progressive outlook to the political arena, that they would clean up politics” and be an “inherently good” influence.
This presumption continues—that because “women want better schools for their children, that means they want them for everybody’s children,” McRae offers as an example, “but that is not the case.”
Look no further than all of the ink spilled and time spent investing hope in Ivanka Trump to be some sort of progressive heroine in her father’s White House, or reporters calling on Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be any more disgusted with the Trump administration’s family separations at the border because she’s a mother—never mind that Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, among many other men in their ranks, are parents themselves. As McRae points out: No one looks at a family-oriented bill and says, “Oh, my God, how could fathers vote against this?”
Emotionally, though perhaps irrationally, we want to believe in white women’s better angels. We want to believe that certain issues should be universal to all women (and, really, all humans): a right to health care, to choose what’s best for our bodies, that our children should be safe at school. But, clearly, it’s not so simple. Even as we rightfully mourn their voting habits, we may be misguided to hold white women voters to a higher standard. Time and time again some of them have proven that they identify more strongly as Southerners or Christians or GOP members than they do as women—and they vote accordingly, even if and when that vote negatively impacts not only them (voting against equal pay) and their families (paid leave, affordable child care), but women in poverty, women of color, and queer women..."
Read full story at Vogue