Kiss this Prince Charming and He May Become a Toad
Ruth Nemzoff wrote this article with Helen Berger, both are Resident Scholars at Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center
The Prince Charming myth is alive and well and living in America. The myth, you will recall, is a knight who rides in on his white horse and saves Cinderella or in some other lassie in similar poor circumstances. The modern day version is a knight who flies in on a white jet with lovely leather seats and drinks awaiting. This prince, however, has become an equal opportunity fantasy. He will save not only damsels in distress, but dudes as well. He will, they believe, make all their economic and social woes disappear. Trump is the Prince Charming of the twenty-first century America. The media or at least some outlets and reporters have helped us see his flaws but also it has also spreads his message — this rich man who can save us — well at least if you are white. Unlike the perfect prince, he is a flawed knight in dented armor. Both the press and his voters admit that. Nonetheless, like the prince of our bedtime stories, he assures us that he will magically cure all.
Fortunately Disney has updated the object of the prince's love. She now has agency, that is, the ability to effect her own fate as we saw in Beauty and the Beast, Ariel, and Frozen among others. Sisterhood was powerful in this election, but not powerful enough. The majority of white women did not support Hillary. Was it the jealousy of the stepmother of "mirror, mirror on the wall", or was it the genuine belief in the character flaws of the woman being disqualifying while worse ones slid off the prince. We can't know for sure. But we do know, it is now up to the 53% percentage of white women who voted for Trump to protect women's rights.
Trump is beholden to you. You helped him win by not voting for Hillary. Now when your health bills go up because your company is no longer required to pay for your birth control, you must complain. Before Zika arrives full force in our country and you must bear the lifetime cost of that serious ill baby, you must complain. Before the rate of STD's grows you must insist on good public health measures which means the ready access to birth control. Before abortion rates rise, you must work for the two measures which we know limit abortion, birth control and sex education (and not the raunchy kind we find in the media of politicians who filander and then cite moral reasons for limiting birth control).
The Republican party wants you, needs you, and might even listen to you. If they don't fulfill their promise to you to give child care subsidies, then, you must be the squeaky wheel and speak out. If your moral and religious freedom is impinged when you get pregnant, and your pregnancy might risk your own life, you might rattle the sabers. With your vote came an obligation to all women, an obligation to protect their rights, an obligation to allow women to take care of their own health, an obligation to stop sexual harassment in the workplace and an obligation to women of color that they not experience additional discrimination.
If you men who voted for Trump become disillusioned because "ON DAY ONE" no wall goes up, Obamacare is still around, and no new factories come to your town, we hope you won't throw in the towel and give up on democracy. No, we hope you will not give up on politics but get involved in fixing what a Trump presidency promises to destroy. Your vote too came with an obligation.
The poor and the well-educated "rich" voted for Hillary. What we normally call the middle class voted for Trump. It has always been women with few options and many hopes who dreamed of Prince Charming that is, those who wanted out of a dead end job and possibly dead end life. They and many of us dreamed that some man would find us; choose us; and make us the queen. Now men are hoping for that same rescue. However, like many women who married Prince Charming only to see him turn into a frog, they may find that there is no one to rescue them. You, who voted for Trump, must rescue us all.
The dream of Trump's ability to go back to the future and give women and men what they or their parents had — a pleasant American 1950s style middle class lifestyle is probably not going to happen. Perhaps it is not surprising that New Englanders did not vote for him; the textile factories never came back to us. We still have shells of towns with empty stores on Main st. We don't don't believe in magic.
Too often, we see our children burdened with heavy debt from college loans,living in our basements to survive. We, also, have our own debt from medical bills or from just trying to make ends meet. We liked the detailed boring plans of someone who promised to help us manage. Boring isn't sexy, but we know that is how the work happens.
The paradox of it all is, those who voted for Trump as the standard bearer of change also voted for the 'same old same old' in the Congress, forgetting that unlike the naked king in the fairy tale, in our system, this king has little power on his own to deliver on all his promises. You are right, the status quo isn't good enough. But, what will Trump deliver? To us, none of his policies appear to hold out the promise for improvement. Yet, Prince Charming was never a very helpful myth for women nor, we suspect, will he be for men. But, that myth did, as now, point to real pain. Sometimes when we are drowning we pull our rescuer with us to the depths — out of panic, out of pain — but it doesn't get us to shore.
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