The Woman as Devil: The Basis of the Attack on Hillary Clinton

By Steve Jurvetson - https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/25392716563/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47720773

In the second presidential debate, Donald Trump referred to Hillary Clinton as “the devil,” and it wasn’t the first time. He also called her the devil at an August campaign rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania:

“[Bernie Sanders’] people are angry at him, and they should be. If he would have not just done anything, gone home, go to sleep, relax, he would have been a hero. But he made a deal with the devil. She’s the devil.”

At the Republican National Convention, Ben Carson called her a “devil worshipper” on the basis of her friendship with Saul Alinsky, who once referred to the devil as “the original radical” in his book. Mr. Carson spent a good deal of time engaging in the mental acrobatics to infer that Hillary was ipso facto “one degree away from” Satan by this association. More far-right conservative supporters than I can count have talked about Hillary in these terms. Many men have run for the office of president, but few have been seriously characterized as Satan himself.

Unfortunately, women have a long history of being equated with the Evil One. Some women are witches, and all witches must therefore be evil. To qualify, a woman simply has to have the appearance of someone who is not following the male-imposed rules. They could be unmarried and unwilling to remarry. They could have a strong or independent personality. They could have strange (to the culture) ideas. They could simply have pissed off a man by spurning him. It doesn’t take much to win the disfavor of the patriarchy when you’re female.

In Papua, New Guinea, women are still being burned as witches. According to The Guardian, in one case:

Social media posts said the women were accused of “invisibly” taking the man’s heart, and then putting it back after they were tortured. In their attackers’ eyes this would also prove their guilt as sorcerers.

Taking the man’s heart…you mean, inciting lust? Sexual feeling? Torturing the men with want?

Indeed, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam hold women responsible for the feelings that they incite…in men. A “good” woman will cover herself (with burka, long sleeves, or simply “modest” clothing, however that is culturally defined) and thereby reduce the male temptation to sin. The reason we have a rape culture is exactly due to this belief:  if a woman is raped, it is her fault for inciting the man in some way to do it. In other words, “she asked for it.”

The woman as evil is deeply rooted in the Abrahamic tradition and religions, which several thousand years ago decided to divorce god’s masculine aspect from his feminine one, and consign her to oblivion. But the goddess holds the power of creation. She has Knowledge.

The books that comprise the Bible were specifically chosen by a group of men to conform to the message that they wanted to impart. The Bible itself contains two Creation stories, though the first is often overlooked:

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27

The preferred story for fundamentalists is the one in which the feminine is reduced to a mere rib, over which man is given dominion. Eve later reveals her true wicked nature by disobeying the jealous god and eating the fruit of the tree of Knowledge. Womankind is therefore condemned forever to labor pains, and man understands that inside, all women are evil unless they are made to behave by their diligent lords.

Many Gnostic Christians, however, had a very different understanding of the story of Eve (which no doubt inspired what would later become the Catholic Church to wipe most of them out). To the Gnostics, the serpent in the garden was sent by Sophia, a spirit of wisdom, to help man gain knowledge. Eve was not “tempted;” she was shown the light. In this version, the jealous demigod Yahweh wanted to prevent mankind from having knowledge, which does not make him the good guy. Jealous and rageful, he casts out Adam and Eve, but they have gained the knowledge that will lead them through their cycles of life until they can escape the realms of matter.

The latter story is not what shaped modern western civilization, however. No, what shaped our society is the inherent belief that women are evil and cannot be trusted. Hillary Clinton is actually brave, because she is putting herself out there to attain a position that people with this social/religious mindset can never countenance: she wants to be the supreme head of the country. Of course Hillary Clinton is not the devil, but to those who feel threatened by her, she represents the worst evil that they see in women:  she is independent, she is strong, she is smart, she does not care about their approval, and she does not need them. For many fundamentalists, these are grave sins, the kind of sins that only a woman can commit.

In this election, imagery of Hillary as the devil abound (just Google “hillary devil image”), as do shirts, signs, and other items bearing the most misogynistic slogans imaginable: “Trump that bitch,” “Hillary sucks but not like Monica,” “Hillary for Prison,” and so on. While many US elections have invoked high feeling, the only other candidate I can ever recall who suffered this kind of in-the-mud nastiness was Barack Obama. The black guy. (The correlation made by racists between black skin and evil will have to wait another day.) If two white guys are duking it out, though, it may get nasty, but not this nasty.

Hillary hatred is a real thing, and there’s nothing logical or reasonable about it. It’s visceral, emotional, and honestly, most people can’t put into words why they dislike Hillary. But I can. Basically, male and female haters alike, they’re upset that she will not keep her place, and that as good as puts a mark of the beast on her forehead. It’s 2016, so her haters talk about putting her in jail. It’s a good thing this isn’t New Guinea.

Photo of Hillary by Steve Jurvetson – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/25392716563/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47720773

Superman’s Soft Underbelly

men expressing emotions articlesI have always been interested in the emotional lives of men because it seems that so many suffer quite terribly in our society. The more obvious results of this suffering include domestic violence, rape, and male rage, to name a few. Less obvious, but more common, results of this suffering include depression, dissatisfaction with life, and lack of purpose. Because most men are not encouraged to experience themselves as emotional beings, they do not know how to address the basic issue of their unhappiness, and frustration builds. This is bad for them and bad for their families, so this issue interests me a lot. My son, who is nearly 5, is already teaching me how to understand and (hopefully) help men.

We watched “Free Willy” on Family Movie Night recently. Neither my daughter nor my son had seen it before, so it was a new experience for them. In the film, a young foster boy, whose mother abandoned him to the social services system, is struggling to find meaning and resists forming a bond with his foster parents. He gets in a lot of trouble and ends up having to do community work at the local sea park, where he meets Willy, a captive killer whale who seemingly cannot be trained. The whale and the boy form a bond in their loneliness and desire to be reunited with their family, and healing takes place for the boy. The whale becomes endangered by typical Hollywood bad guys, but everything works out in the end.

My son started the movie in my lap. After 20 minutes, he had to go get his lovie. A few minutes later, he had retreated to another chair to chew on his lovie. He cried several times and was visibly moved by the story. I know my son as a tender-hearted mush who needs—not just craves, but needs—to be close and loved. As a newborn infant, he would not allow me to put him to sleep in the nearby bassinet, which the hospital nurses insisted I do. He just cried. I worked out a solution that satisfied everyone:  he slept partially inclined on a pillow between my knees, and my legs acted as guardrails to prevent him from falling. Only then, next to me, would he fall asleep. Given all that, it was interesting to me that Harry chose to isolate himself when the movie became difficult for him emotionally. What was he afraid of?

Why Do Men Not Show Emotion?

I experience my son as a compassionate, loving, kissy, and highly sensitive young man who cries if we are angry with him. I see this same softness and emotionality in most of the men I know or have known, even when it is long buried. It seems to me that most men are actually more sensitive than most women are, which is the opposite of the beliefs that we have about men. More to the point, I think that most men are so incredibly emotionally sensitive that they tend to build walls and shut down at a young age because they don’t know how else to deal with it. And when the men (or women) in their lives tell them to “suck it up,” the problem is magnified.

Of course, women are sensitive and build walls to keep away the pain, too. I’m not trying to belittle that experience at all. I have certainly lived it. I shut down at an early age because it was too painful to be open. My poor toxic parents didn’t help by making fun of my feelings (and then disregarding them). But I have always felt a kinship with my male peers, and most of my friends were boys. I understood them in ways that I did not understand the other girls. A number of years ago, when I was still searching, a psychic told me that my spiritual energy was about 75% masculine and 25% feminine. This made perfect sense to me. I have always felt like a highly masculine being in a female body (and I have no problem with that). So undoubtedly part of my quest to understand men is about understanding myself.

Nevertheless, my spirit inhabits a female body, and we make different social demands on females than on males. Our emotional nature is tolerated more—and derided more. But the scope of what is considered “manly” is narrow, indeed. Often, the only emotion that is “approved” for men is anger. That’s pretty messed up. Where are the tears of grief and joy? Where is the glint of sadness? Where is the warmth of contentment and happiness? Where is the light of love and compassion?

Fear of Failure

My son, like most little boys, loves superheroes. It’s an interesting thing, because he began to love them before he even knew what they were. Before he had ever read a comic book, seen a TV show, or even discussed it with us in any way, he suddenly began to seek out all things Superman, Batman, Spiderman… The passion was ignited by his peers, who may have experienced those things first. But I wondered, what is it about these hypermasculine caricatures (hey, I read comics, and I love them, too, but let’s be honest) that is so appealing to him?

I think that Superman and others like him embody the hard turtle’s shell that protects the sensitive man from the pain of judgment, perceived failure, and being seen emotionally. And if Superman cries for Lois Lane, who’s going to ridicule him? The man of steel is impervious to the criticism of others, and his soft, sensitive, emotional underbelly is safe as houses.

Superman comes in other forms as well. The science fiction author, Robert A. Heinlein, made an entire career out of writing about the “Competent Man.” His heroes (and heroines, who were thinly disguised men with vaginas) were superhuman in their ability to perform a wide variety of tasks and ultimately win the day. Failure was impossible, and if anyone fails, it’s surely their own stupid fault, and they should know better. Because a Competent Man can fix or solve any problem.

I fear that we have left our men with an abundance of black-and-white thinking. You are either a success, or you are a failure (conveniently undefined). You are either aggressive, or you’re a wimp. You are either strong, or you are weak. Given that failure, wimpdom, and weakness are “bad things” in our society, we haven’t provided men with a lot of alternatives. Women are complicit; we prefer the high school jock over the nerd—until the nerd is in a position to hire the jock, and then we readjust our definition of “success.”

It’s no wonder that some men act out. What are they to do? How can they succeed? Do we even agree on what we mean by “success?” How can we avoid stigmatizing our men with labels like “failure,” “wimp,” or “passive?” Is the Dalai Lama passive, or is he at peace? Do we have to choose one label or the other? Why?

The Hidden Truth

Joan Didion once said in an interview that she loved to type the words of Ernest Hemingway, over and over again. The magic, she said, was in what he withheld. I have to agree. You can read Hemingway and come away with the idea that not much is happening. Or you can read Hemingway and find a deep, deep well of powerful, unexpressed emotionality. If you don’t see and understand the withheld feelings in the story, then you don’t understand what is actually happening in the story at all. And this is the truth about men’s inner landscapes. It is deep, complex, and rich, but if you can’t see the below the surface, then you can’t understand them at all. The challenge for women is to look deeper. The challenge for men is to let others see it.

Overcoming Superwoman Syndrome

overcoming superwoman syndrome

Publicity photo of Lucille Ball from I Love Lucy, 1957.

I am a feminist, in that I believe that women are the equal of men and should have equal opportunity and equal respect in this world. I do not believe that women are a subclass, “weaker,” inferior, or owe obedience to anyone but themselves. And yet, we have drunk the Kool-Aid of our culture, and even the strongest women find ways to beat themselves up regularly for failing to perfectly perform tasks that even Superman himself could not handle.

In order to be taken seriously, women have to out-perform, out-think, and out-compete our male counterparts. We masculinize ourselves by wearing business suits that only give a half-nod to femininity by virtue of having some color. We suppress our emotions (business executives don’t cry), cut or plaster our hair, and overachieve. And even then, we may not be treated as equals.

At home, we beat ourselves up for failing to keep our houses clean enough, our food tasty and hot enough, and our children happy and educated enough. We are even so accustomed to suffering and abuse, in its many devious forms, that we actually compete with one another to see who can suffer the most and still be left standing.

For example:  childbirth. “Natural” childbirth has many adherents, and that isn’t a problem in itself. But in some quarters, if you didn’t feel every agonizing moment of a vaginal delivery, then you have somehow failed as a woman. When I attended 6 weeks of childbirth classes, I finally had to ask when they were going to discuss anesthesia. “Oh, we’ll talk about that in week 4.” One day out of six, in other words. And God help me if I should have a C-section. You’re not a “real woman” if you get one of those. I had two, and I was blissfully anesthetized.

I told someone recently that I am not Eve. It is not my lot in life to continue to pay for “Original Sin,” which is something I don’t even believe in. I don’t have to feel labor pains if I don’t want to. I was awake and aware of my children’s births, and the manner of their arrival makes me no less of a mother. Yet, the peer pressure in this area is enormous. And it’s not men who are doing it. Women are doing it to themselves.

When my first child was born, I attempted to breast feed. The nurses were single-minded in their attempts to help me, but it became obvious, as my child lost weight, that she wasn’t getting enough. Nothing, in fact. The formula was brought in. I felt enormous guilt for essentially starving my child for 2 days. And yet, there is a lot of (female) judgment out there about feeding formula to your baby. But I am grateful for it. It’s what my children needed, because lord knows I couldn’t give it to them.

Most women have to work in today’s economy in order to provide a decent standard of living for their family. Fortunately, the guilt of putting your children in daycare has more or less subsided, because most people just don’t have a choice. A good daycare and preschool can be beneficial, in any case, and many neighborhoods are often empty of small children during the work week, for better or worse. Gone are the days when most women had the luxury of choosing to stay home.

While the demands of work and domestic duties have been thoroughly discussed in the media, women still perform the lion’s share of domestic duties. Thankfully, many younger men have stepped up and are more involved daddies and more helpful around the house. Still, many women subconsciously feel it’s “their job” to do certain things, and we are disinclined to take even simple steps to lighten our load. For example:  housekeeping. If you work 40 or more hours per week and can afford it, why not hire a housekeeper? Very often, we don’t because we’re afraid of what our spouse or our friends will think of us. God forbid we should be considered too lazy to clean our own homes.

As a whole, women have suffered terribly in the past few thousand years, and somewhere in our psyches, we equate being able to endure suffering with being a good woman. Self-esteem, we think, is built upon having a successful career, maintaining a well-run household, and raising overachieving children, all while maintaining the figure and face of a teenager. Even Atlas couldn’t support that load. Yet, we continue to compare ourselves with other women, alternately judging and feeling guilty for not performing our womanly duties perfectly enough.

Physical, emotional, and sexual abusers prey on our capacity to endure suffering. After all, if you believe somewhere inside that you deserve it, or that your ability to endure the suffering will one day bring you validation or relief, then you will put up with a lot of abuse. Don’t.

The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.
~ Steve Biko

The oppressor is sometimes malesome men are bad news, and vice versabut most often, we simply oppress ourselves. We believe that suffering is “our job.” We believe that what’s good for us has to wait until some distance future day when the children are grown up, the husband is retired, and we have no worries. That day will never come. Such women never look after themselves. Don’t be that woman. If you cannot matter today, then you will not matter tomorrow, either.

Release yourself from self-imposed suffering. Hire a maid service, either weekly, biweekly, or monthly, if you can. Negotiate chores with your significant other. Make sure your children have a list of chores, too. They can start doing small things at 2 years, such as putting away their toys. Acknowledge that you are not Superwoman and that you do not have to do everything to have value on this earth. Delegate. Put up with some chaos. Take some personal time for yourself often. Have date nights with your partner. Be an equal member of your family, not the family pack mule. But most of all, release any beliefs you may secretly harbor about needing to suffer.

Henry Kissinger said, “A diamond is a chunk of coal that is made good under pressure.” But you never started out as coal. What need has a diamond for additional pressure? It is already priceless.

On a related note…

Understanding Midlife Male-Female Relationships (or, What the Hell Happened to My Sex Life?)

The Beguiling of Merlin by Edward Burne-Jones

The Beguiling of Merlin by Edward Burne-Jones

I decided to write this because I know a number of men my age who are genuinely puzzled at the decline of sexual intimacy in their marriages. These are good men and good husbands who sincerely love their wives, but they cannot figure out what has gone wrong in the bedroom. I’m hoping my experiences and perspective can help shed some light on this for them. Of course, no two women are the same, but hopefully this will give you a place to start.

First, it’s important to understand that what has happened isn’t “wrong,” per se. It’s partly biology. So let’s start there. Everyone knows, men in particular, that they are hardwired to want sex. Well, women are, too, particularly in their younger, fecund years. But while men’s wiring may not change all that much over time (unless prostate problems enter the picture), women’s wiring does change, and it’s important to understand this before you can begin to resurrect your sex life.

“She’s changed.”

Yes, your wife has changed. People change over time as they grow and mature. In addition to that, women can enter perimenopause as early as their 30s, but more often in their 40s. By the time they get into their 50s, they are probably experiencing full-blown menopausal symptoms. Perimenopause can last 10 years or longer. What happens?

The hormones that flowed so regularly and evenly in her 20s are now flowing spottily, and she is more likely to experience a serious surge of hormones—an overdose, really—once or twice a month. These surges are “above and beyond,” you could say, and yes, they can change her personality temporarily. Never underestimate the power of hormones.

During a hormone surge, she is likely to feel more touchy, more nervous, more easily stressed, and generally as though she is about to crawl out of her skin. Guys, you would, too. Trust me on this. During these times, she is going to be more testy than normal, or full-on bitch, from your perspective. From her perspective, her mood is not something she can control; it’s just how she feels. She does not want to be bothered. Ideally, she’d like to sip red wine in a spa somewhere until this thing blows over, but she probably doesn’t get that option.

Men, I’m guessing that when your wife appears to react as though you were the creature from the black lagoon, you take it personally. That’s normal, but stop and consider that sometimes it’s just her body chemistry talking, not her. If you need to give her some space and drink a beer in your man cave for awhile, then do it. But before you consign yourself to the mood swings, know that your wife can get some relief for them if she is motivated to do so. I was tired of being a bitch once or twice a month, so I went to an herbalist, who gave me something for it. And it really does help. Now, I don’t need to tell you that you will need to find a loving and supportive way of encouraging her to help herself, right? (Maybe you could even show her this blog. It could be the start of a healthy discussion.)

“Why won’t she sleep with me any more?”

This is probably the number one thing that bothers men in their relationships. Part of the reason is because they genuinely crave sexual relations with their wives. There’s nothing wrong with that. And the other part is that the wife’s seeming lack of desire feels like rejection, and that is dispiriting.

The female sex drive can decrease with her hormones. While she may get surges that make her cranky, the rest of the time, she may be experiencing a trickle. Again, some herbs may help. It’s also a good idea to consult a western doctor, too, to make sure that there are no other problems that may be interfering with her sex drive. But it’s also important to understand that the desire for sex is not just about hormones, and this is where you have some homework, guys.

Intimacy does not equal sex

Most of the men I know equate sex with intimacy. It isn’t, not to a woman. Yes, it is surely an intimate act, but intimacy is what occurs the rest of the time. Let me repeat:  True intimacy is what occurs when you are not having sex.

If you have buried yourself in your job (because “bringing home the bacon” and taking out the trash fulfills your marital duties), then you are not being intimate with your wife. If you spend more time talking about how you feel with your buddies than with your wife, then you are not being intimate with your wife. If the bulk of your conversations with your wife concern the dinner menu, the children, your taxes, or tiling the bathroom, then you are not being intimate with your wife.

Men, you have deep feelings and insecurities, but you may feel uncomfortable expressing these things to your wife. But if you want to create a truly intimate space—one that will enhance your sex life, too—then you need to start getting real with your spouse. This also means listening to her deep feelings and insecurities, and supporting her. Women are more outwardly expressive of their emotions, while men tend to keep them inside. Learn to let some out occasionally, and you will find that you are creating fertile ground for a deeper relationship. Talk to your wife—and not just about sports.

When you create an emotionally intimate environment in your relationship, sex will more easily and naturally spring from that place of trust. On the other hand, if the only time you approach her for “intimacy” is when you would like to ejaculate, she’s not going to feel very loved or valued for herself.

Foreplay does not begin at 10 p.m.

When your wife was 21, before children and a career, sex could happen any time, any where, at the drop of a hat. But you are no longer living a 21-year-old lifestyle, and it’s time to acknowledge that. If you begin to initiate sex the moment she drops into bed at night, exhausted from her day and with the alarm set for the next one, then you have waited too long. At that point, she is tired and just wants to sleep. She might throw you a bone occasionally, but she probably won’t enjoy it (fake it), and she’ll resent it. That’s not good.

It’s culturally popular to think that sex isn’t “romantic” unless it’s “spontaneous,” but that’s a load of malarkey. In nearly every Hollywood sex scene, the couple run at each other, embrace hotly, and they’ve both tumbled into bed and come within 5 minutes. In a scenario like that in the real world, the guy might come, but the woman definitely did not. And she’s keeping score.

If you really want to have an intimate moment with your wife, you need to think ahead. This will show that you are aware of what’s going on for her and what her stresses are. Does she have a big event or obligation the next day? Or is her schedule fairly relaxed? Think about it. And then start your foreplay before dinner. Seriously.

Bring home some flowers or a bottle of wine. Help her with dinner and dishes. Talk to her about her day. Start the cuddling on the couch. Whatever you do, do not wait until she is so exhausted that the last thing she wants to do is have sex.

Relationships change over time, so you have to change with them

The main thing to recognize is that you cannot compare your current relationship with the way it was 5, 10, or 20 years ago. It has changed; it will change. If you’re committed to it, you will work with your wife to figure out how to respond to each other’s changing needs. Yes, your wife should want to meet you half-way in the bedroom. She may not know how. Be helpful and loving, not judgmental or hurt. It isn’t really all about you, even though it feels that way. Talk to her so that you can understand where she is today. Tell her where you are today. Let her know how much you still value the relationship—and her. Just showing this level of commitment is an aphrodisiac.

Good luck, men! We need you. Don’t give up.

Save Yourself

The Silent Heart by Sulamith Wulfing

The Silent Heart by Sulamith Wülfing

Every woman I have ever known, including myself, has had to learn this one particular lesson:  your love cannot “save” anyone. No matter what their potential is, or how wonderful or smart they are, they will never come to their happiness or reach their potential unless they want to. You can lead a horse to water, even the finest and purest spring water, bottled and sold for five dollars a bottle, and you still cannot make them drink. In fact, the more you try to lead them to water, the more they may resist you. You can’t budge a horse who is dug in and sitting on his haunches.

It seems to me that it is mostly women who have this “need to save” impulse (a.k.a. “martyr” complex), but of course, men can have it, too. And those who need to be a martyr to the cause of someone else will typically find someone who appears to “need” it the most, but who will also resist the most and eventually suck the martyr dry.

I spent 12 years (Ahnna spent 7) trying to help someone who didn’t want to help himself, trying to love someone who certainly didn’t love himself, and trying to make someone happy who consistently chose unhappiness. In the early years, this obstinacy quickened my resolve to save him. I dug in. I could do it! I loved him, and this is how I would prove it.

But over time, I grew tired of doing everything for him (I even looked for jobs for him). I grew tired of pouring my emotions into a bottomless pit that either could not or would not return the favor. And I grew tired of trying everything I knew to make him happy, only to be met with a solid determination to live in anger and depression, which always had the effect of evaporating my own happiness. In short, I wasn’t making any positive inroads into his life, but his preferred mood cast a definite pall over mine.

When I realized the folly of my ways, I set about trying to help myself, love myself, and make myself happy. This changed the entire energy of our relationship. For him, it was an opportunity to choose to change, for himself. He chose not to. I chose to move on, and my next relationship was with someone who didn’t need me to save her at all. She was already saved. She helped herself, loved herself, and made herself happy. Now we do it together, and with two willing horses at the water hole, it is an easy pleasure to drink that purifying tonic called Happiness.