Earlier this year, I read the extremely heartening book All The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women And The Rise Of An Independent Nation by American journalist Rebecca Traister.
It is a witty and rigorous book that interprets American social history through its single women. Traister doesn’t have the sting of a militant feminist writer; she has a rather balanced world view. But it is still a very enjoyable and surprising book. She says the country’s single women are a formidable voting population and are beginning to influence public policy and thinking. She explains how this happened with meticulously collected data, reportage, and a narrative centre that continuously refers back to her own experiences of a woman coming into her own in 1990s’ America. “Single women are upending everything; their growing presence has an impact on how economic, political and sexual power is distributed between the genders....Women, perhaps especially those who have lived untethered from the energy-sucking and identity-sapping institution of marriage in its older forms, have helped to drive the social progress of this country since its founding.”
Traister writes about firebrands, advertent or inadvertent, like Margaret Haley, Susana Morris, Alison Turkos and Letty Cottin Pogrebin, who are not famous women, but who have redefined in some way what it means to be an unmarried woman with a rightful place in the country’s conservative pockets.
Today, after the US elected a repugnantly sexist real-estate tycoon as its president, Traister’s book offers hope. American women need inspiration from her subjects to remain watchful and articulate in a regime that will most likely be anti-globalization and anti-individualism.
Trump’s misogyny is famous, I don’t need to get into its ugly nitty-gritty here. He defeated Hillary Clinton, not the best presidential candidate, but a woman who represented openness, as opposed to his loud and clear xenophobia. I am no expert on American society or politics, although having lived there in the years following 9/11, I have had a taste of its paranoid nationalism. The Clinton agenda was a blend of social liberalism, an openness to immigration, LGBT rights, and government activism—things the American majority has rejected. And the joyous obvious: She would have been the first woman to lead the world’s most powerful country.
On the eve of election night, Vox News reported that the newly elected Senate would have more women than ever before: at least 21 women senators, an increase from the 20 women in the current Senate. After the election results, do these numbers matter? Can Traister’s single ladies still march on?
I feel for you, women of America. This is the mandate of white, male America. Literate and semi-literate white men rushed in and pushed you to the end of the line. Move over, they told you. Worse still, people around you will continue to cheer him, for every small thing he does.
It is a dark day for you and me, for women anywhere in the world.