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Why do women support shit men?

By February 14, 2021No Comments

Trump is objectively terrible. He’s the worst. And yet, 42% of women voted for him in 2020. Cassie Delaney talks to the Republican women that supported him. 


On the 7th of October 2016, The Washington Post published a story about then-presidential candidate Donald Trump talking to TV host Billy Bush lewdly about women. The story included video footage from 2005 in which Trump talked about his attempt to seduce a married woman. He boasted about status and the abuse of power he could easily assert over the woman he and Bush were on their way to meet. 

“I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” 

Aside from its violent and offensive nature, the conversation illustrated Trump’s entitlement, misogyny and disrespect towards women. I thought there would be no recovery.  

The story broke two days before the second presidential debate and in defence, Trump issued an apology for the video’s content but deflected by claiming Bill Clinton had said far worse on the golf course. But, as we know all too unfortunately, Trump won the election and became the 45th President of the United States. Polls showed 52% of women voted for him. 

 During his tenure, Trump quietly and consistently undermined the progress made by previous administrations in the advancements of equal rights. Within his first 100 days in office he slashed funding for United Nations Population Fund, he repealed an executive order designed to force large companies to disclose disparity in pay and he prohibited transgender people from serving in the US army. He banned travel from seven Muslim countries. He tried to build a fucking wall between the US and Mexico. And while leading with xenophobia, hate and violence, Trump continued to utter detestable statements about women. During his presidency more than 26 women accused Trump of sexual misconduct. And yet, in 2020 42% of American women gave him their vote.  

Trump was an abhorrent president and is a terrible man. Like, he’s objectively bad. He’s skin crawlingly,  face-punchable, screaming-on-top-of-a-mountain level awful. More than that, he’s dangerous. He is regressive, he’s ignorant, he’s uncooperating. He’s a threat to women. So needless to say, the high percentage of female voters in his camp has bewildered me and many others.  

For the past number of months I have been present in online Trump support groups, I have connected with Women for Trump supporters and I have interviewed Republican women who not only voted for Trump but also rejected the election results upon his defeat. Of the women I spoke to and engaged with in groups, their reasons for supporting Trump varied. 

 In some cases, the reason for voting for Trump was less about wanting Trump in power, but more about seeking a diversion from economic strife. Many women spoke to me about personal poverty and believed Trump and the Republican party offered an antidote to their struggle. 

“I was a Democrat. I lived in Baltimore city all my life. Baltimore city has nothing but homeless, rats, drugs everywhere. Believe me, my local government is horrible. Two mayors in Baltimore City have been caught stealing, one is serving time,” said a woman who wishes to remain anonymous.  

Another woman, Annette, was a former supporter of Obama but talked about how her employment status changed dramatically shortly after his second term in office began.  

A few months went by and I lost my career, my home and almost my children. I couldn’t find a job to take care of my children so I stripped for years.” 

When Trump came into power, Annette’s circumstances improved.  

“Since president Trump has been in office I have been able to get out of debt and have a way better life.”

Trump’s policies did drive improvement in the labour market, but as current President Biden clarified, Trump did not create a strong economy so much as inherit one. According to Bloomberg, “between December 2009 and December 2016, the unemployment rate dropped 5.2 percentage points, from 9.9% to 4.7%. By December 2019, it had fallen another 1.2 percentage points, to 3.5%. A cursory look at those numbers might lead you to believe that the improvement under Trump was at best a continuation of a trend that began nearly a decade earlier.”

Trump did implement a program of tax cuts, spending increases and unprecedented pressure on the Fed to cut interest rates to zero and keep them there. By 2020, the median household income grew by almost $6,000 and 56% of voters reported that their family was better off than it was four years previously. Economic prosperity was a good story to hang his toupee on and it was one that won Trump much support in 2020.

It’s evident early on that a lot of these Facebook groups and online forums for supporters have become eco-chambers where propaganda is shared. When Trump rejected the election results, these groups lit up with questionable findings, lengthy posts presenting “facts” and reams of conspiracy theory videos. The proliferation of right-wing content and fake news has been an issue for years and I witnessed the danger of it amongst the women I engaged with. One woman, Diana, became so fixated on the proposed election fraud that she took to messaging me frequently and repeatedly about it.  

“The election is a fraud. The Democrats used covid as an excuse to change election laws and protocols in order to rig the election. Donald Trump has the most votes ever cast in person, while Biden has the most cast by ballot. Does that even make sense? Ballots continue to pour in to the battleground states all for Biden, and miraculously they are all for Biden,” she writes.     

“Trump is the candidate who stands up for America and the Constitution. We want America and the world to do well and Trump is trying to achieve that on our behalf. We want our families protected and our cities safe, the Democratic Party endorses and uses terrorist organizations (Antifa and BLM) to gain power and control. We are sick and tired of it, and the American people will not stand for it this time! We are done playing nice with these communists.” 

In a 2018 study, the Pew Research Centre found that those surveyed struggled to distinguish fact from opinion.  People participating in the Pew study were provided five statements, including “spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid make up the largest portion of the U.S. Federal budget,” and five opinion statements, including “Democracy is the greatest form of government.”

They were also two statements that were ambiguous. Just 26% of the adults surveyed correctly identified all five factual statements as factual, according to the study.  And just 35% identified all five opinion statements as opinion.  Director of Journalism Research Amy Mitchell said the study “raises caution” around news consumers ability “to sort news quickly.” 

In the some of the Facebook groups I joined, before the election, members shared their support for Trump, details of online rallies, mistruths about the Democrats and campaign content. Though many of the groups have dissolved or been removed following the Capitol Riots, some are still in operation. Now members are sharing anti-Biden content. One video that has been shared on multiple occasions is a YouTube video from Mary Greeley News which states that the cost of food is set to sky rocket under Biden as farm land is taken out of production. 

The common theme from speaking to female supporters of Trump is that the Trump administration has improved circumstances for their families and that his policies are designed to protect the family unit. Many were Christian, heteronormative white women who subscribed to the idea of “tradition family values.” For the most part, the women I spoke to seemed able to overlook Trump’s transgressions because their priority was ensuring the safety, prosperity and betterment of their families and the proliferation of their own values. In the dozens of conversations I had, only one woman expressed support for Trump’s transphobic policies. Of course, by their very nature, many of the “family values” these women espoused were exclusionary and homophobic. However that is a lengthy rogue essay for another day.   

The consistent thing I gleaned from these groups and interactions (and late night rants from Diana) is that the support of Trump was not about Trump as an individual but about conservatism. When I broached the topic of feminism and more often than not these women talked about feminism affording women choice and their choice was to stay at home. It became clear that I had fallen into a puritan hellscape, rampant with internalised misogyny.

Psychology Today describes the Misogynistic Puritan as a woman that takes the ideal woman to be domestic, subservient, nurturing, kind, mild-tempered, alluring, youthful, and sexually pure prior to marriage. She has adopted this feminine ideal from her misogynistic husband, family or acquaintances. 

In this school of thought, progressive women are the enemy of family units. Suzanne Venker, the author of The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage: How Love Works, writes that “Women have become too much like men” and hypotheses that modern women struggle to find lasting love because they have a need to dominate and overpower. In her self-help book she pens chapters like “Have Zero Expectations,” “Don’t Use Money as a Weapon,” and “Stop Saying No.” 

And though Venker’s works read like a parody she is a prolific author. She is the niece of Phyllis Schlafly, an American attorney, a notorious conservative activist and author. She held traditional conservative social and political views, opposed feminism, gay rights and abortion, and successfully campaigned against ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Her self-published work A Choice Not an Echo sold over 3 million copies. Together Venker and Schlafly co-authored The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know – and Men Can’t Say.  

They write:

“It is our sincere hope that this book helps support Americans who don’t believe women in this country are oppressed, who know government is not the solution to women’s problems, who don’t believe marriage and motherhood are outdated institutions, who think men are as important as women, who think gender roles are good and exist for a reason, and who see the mainstream media for who they are.”   

I have written and rewritten this essay multiple times over the past number of months. In my quest to understand why women support shit men I have blamed filter bubbles, I have pinpointed religion, I have dismissed it as ignorance. I have examined the concerning role women played in the Capital Riots, I have grown angry by their support of what we identify as fake news and I have been horrified by their defence of Trump. 

But the reality is that there is no one reason why women support bad men. The women I engaged with had a plethora of reasons, a multitude of fears, an unshakeable system of beliefs, unfettered access to propaganda, deeply rooted personal faith and in some cases an inability to distinguish fact from opinion. In every case they had a justification, and though I did not agree with them it helped them sleep at night. 

At home, in bed, with their husbands. 

(Except for Diana. I don’t know how things worked out for her. She’s been banned from Facebook.)