What does it mean to truly believe in America? To wave a flag? Or to struggle toward a more searching alternative to the shallowness of the flag-wavers – to criticize, to interrogate, to analyze, to dissent?
Throughout the short course of populating my blog I have established a consistent theme of challenging the status quo of American society. As a vociferous critic of human behavior, I persistently point out not the virtues of the republic but its shortcomings. If the U.S. were to represent the world at large then American democracy and its relatively manageable flaws would apply to a much larger demographic and embattled citizens would have easier solutions than the challenges that face so many other countries. This is not the case; the world is plagued with injustice, despotism, brutality and when unchecked this results in the worst aspects and conditions of humanity. Yes, America is an exception, but if this country is to consider itself as “the city on a hill” and a beacon of the best humanity can achieve then it still has a very long way to go, as does the human race.
It’s A Man’s World…
A salient aspect that has characterized the United States of America’s rise from its origins in cessation from Great Britain’s rule of monarchy is its overwhelmingly masculine leadership throughout the entire course of its history. This male hegemony remains in place more than two centuries after its founding and only now can be said to affect change on how politics, money and authority are controlled in the “most diverse and free country on earth”. For a country that prides itself in this motto, it is curious that its record on civil rights and gender equality are so precariously established even in the 21st century. The United States is part of a human tradition of countries and sovereignties that have followed the patriarchal model when it comes to governing or rulership. Seldom have female leaders actually wielded true political power in the rare instances that they were appointed. Great Britain’s Queen is merely a figurehead, same with the scattering of the world’s celebrated princesses, duchesses and other appointees of royalty. Notable exceptions should include Angela Merckel and Margaret Thatcher who served the German and British Parliaments respectively.
Accompanying this dearth of femininity in the ranks of governance, the business world echoes the same practice with female CEO’s occupying less than 10% of boardroom chairs. Wages for female employees vs their male counterparts consistently exhibit a marked difference while hiring patterns overwhelmingly show that men are more likely to ascend positions of authority, commanding higher salaries, than women. This reflects the now obsolete but very real “modern image of the American household” where the father was the breadwinner of the family and his wife was the homemaker. Not only is this outdated model of a family sexist, but it does not apply to the requirements of income in the late 20th and now 21st centuries. Most families with 2 or more children must have both parents employed, often full-time, to support the cost of raising their family. But although the financial demands have changed regarding the domestic family unit, the actual reality of economics and workplace equality have not adapted, resulting in the wage and gender inequality that remains.
Exacerbating this disparity, is the fact that few policy makers in corporations or financial institutions are representative of women. As stated, scarcely 10% of the corporate environment is represented at the top echelons by females. This is after decades of not only a steady increase of women in the workforce, but that also saw a parallel of women seeking degrees in higher education. Unfortunately these increased qualifications have scarcely moved the meter for women’s acceptance and equality in the workplace. This translates directly into the wage disparity reported annually when comparing the salaries of men to women who hold the same positions at their jobs. Overwhelmingly, men are paid more than women in every field of work across every demographic. Minority women are most likely to represent the lower half of the wage scales, often while supporting more of the burden of raising families without a male counterpart. In 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Labor reported that women make approximately .82 cents for every dollar that men make across the workforce.
Toxic Culture Inc.
Broaching the subject of sexism/misogyny is not unlike bringing up the subject of racism in America. It results in a bristling defense, sometimes outright aggression and retort. The United States is a country with a short memory span, or more accurately, a country that chooses to remember selectively. Textbook history that is taught to its youth is revisionist history, picking out the most favorable aspects of our history and discarding the unsavory. Only those who continue to higher education or are prompted by their own curiosity will pursue literature that tells less biased and unfiltered accounts of the past. However, you need look no further than instances in society to recognize the shadow of masculine dominance that exists everywhere throughout the structure of modern institutions and norms.
It should come as no surprise that one of the places that sexism thrives is the National Football League. America’s religion for athletic violence and unbridled testosterone also harbors a power structure that in the least tacitly permits and conceals sexism and a toxic environment of sexual harassment. As if the presence of scantily-clad female cheerleaders on the fields weren’t evidence enough, what takes place behind closed doors illustrates a damning picture of not only athlete misconduct but sexism and misogyny throughout the executive structure of professional football organizations. The most recognized perpetrator of said offenses would be the Washington Commanders team, who until recently were named the ‘Redskins’ which was deemed a racist moniker and required to be removed. Although the Washington team was certainly not the only one investigated for reports of sexism including harassment in the workplace and shady hiring and promotion practices, they were brought before a Congressional Committee who merely scoffed at the idea that their time had been wasted investigating an athletic organization. The congressional panel even went so far as to dismiss the claims of several women who testified, marginalizing their experiences and suffering while ignoring a billion dollar organization’s corrupt practices.
The NFL is no stranger to accusations of harboring athletes that abuse women, owners that conceal extramarital affairs and illegitimate family members, and a long and well documented history of objectifying and underpaying cheerleaders as well as female staff. They are certainly not the only league in professional sports to be accused of such violations. Virtually every sport at one time or another has been on the front page for the wrong reason. Not only does the culture of misogyny permeate sports in the real world, but it has found a place to thrive in the virtual frontier. Not that this should come as a shock to anyone, social media has already demonstrated that it is a ready conduit for human mistreatment and slander. The realm of interactive video games has cultivated large online communities with message and discussion boards. As you might imagine these have sometimes devolved into cesspools of racism, misogyny and abuse. While many are not regulated, the negativity projected by some of the users has resulted in the removal or restriction of posting on many of these. Like professional sports, the contamination has infested the digital locker room and even the boardroom as the game manufacturing company Blizzard Entertainment has now been involved in a sexual harassment lawsuit for years. It should be noted that like the NFL, they are not the only company in the crosshairs of civil litigation regarding sexual harrassment and abuses.
All fun and games aside, what about environments where the decisions of men and women reach beyond buying colorful jerseys with logos and getting drunk in parking lots on Sunday afternoon? I have already mentioned the statistical difference in corporate boardrooms between male and female CEOs. But looking even higher, quite literally, I can point to 2022’s nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to fill the vacated Supreme Court spot. Not only was her nomination an unprecedented announcement in political history, it also provided another opportunity for conservatives to demonstrate not only their disdain for women, but a woman of color as well. Naturally the proceedings were characterized by the expected talking points from senators and congressional representatives. But behind the scenes, the nightly news/infotainment channels carried a different story. Largely one of reverse discrimination by not only nominating a woman but a black woman. In the history of the Supreme Court, 95% of its justices have been represented by white males with women and minorities only seeing recent additions to its ranks. If Jackson is approved she will be only the 6th woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court out of a total of 115 appointees. Of those 115, three have been non-whites. For an institution that represents justice and equality, those numbers are blatantly not representative or equal for America’s “melting pot” of diversity. Apparently the powers that be would be satisfied to believe that only white males have the sufficient requirements to fill the seats that decide civil judiciary cases for the entire country?
21st Century Fox
Lately I have read and seen any number of social media posts, blogs and Youtube videos criticizing the backlash against “toxic masculinity”. The reasons behind these statements range from the idea that masculinity itself is under attack to victimization of those not practicing this sort of toxicity, and traumatizing future generations with guilt. You can pretty much take the same script used to shut down CRT and/or the LGBT “agenda”. Essentially, the party being criticized in any case is:
a) Not guilty of said offense because they support or fulfill the criteria for being sensitive and understanding of the issue.
b) Unfairly characterized and placed in a bin with others to satisfy a liberal or manufactured agenda that targets a majority demographic.
c) The issue at hand does not exist because in the 21st century the United States has proven that it has completely addressed and eliminated the errors of its past.
d) Fox News said that the accusations and controversy are actually “fake news.”.
And, problem solved because the friendly patriots at the world’s largest corporate news agency told you so. Not so fast. Obviously not every male in the United States of America is what would be considered toxic in their behavior towards women. Most men are average, compassionate, understanding, and just as confused about women’s needs as their fellow males. However, when you look at the bigger picture of our institutions, governance, social attitudes and even legal permissions in some cases, America is struggling with its implementation of what our laws and statutes have tried to affect and the lingering structure of male hegemony. The greatest mistake we make as citizens is to assume that we have done enough when the system has not assimilated the necessary changes to elevate the status of women to equal the status of men across the broad spectrum of experiences. This is why progression of women’s rights in places such as boardrooms, league offices, state capitals and even health clinics has stalled.
Shattering the Glass Ceiling
If you look at some of the events recently it would appear as if women are gaining ground. In politics, the U.S. nominated its first female Presidential candidate in 2017 who was defeated by a career misogynist. The 117th Congress contains the most women (144) ever in history. And as of this posting, Kentaji Brown Jackson was confirmed as the first black female Supreme Court justice. However optimistic these events are, they represent markers on the path of a much longer journey. Appointments to office demonstrate that political culture is shifting and that young females should aspire to any goal their dreams lead them to. But just as the 13th Amendment was not a magic spell that eliminated slavery, Jim Crow or racism in this country, the 19th Amendment only addressed women’s right to vote and did not affect their treatment in the workplace or society as a whole.
Just like all issues of social injustice and disproportionate treatment throughout society, sexism and misogyny is a problem that represents a larger defect in human behavior. It certainly isn’t contained to a single country alone. Women around the world face far greater threats to health and well-being and possess less resources to reverse the tide. Americans like to believe that they are exceptional and have advantages that many others do not. This is only as true as our citizens are willing to exercise their rights and freedoms. Injustice ignored does not sway the perception of neglect; those who suffer do not cheer for those who do not. Gender equality, like racial equality, is a value that must be pursued relentlessly in society with the goal of instituting it as the norm and not an exception. Centuries of laws have not removed the pain inflicted upon the oppressed. Right now, our country has an opportunity to demonstrate that it can be a model for the rest of the world and in order to accomplish this we have to admit that there is no “weaker sex” just as there exists no “master race” and end the perceptions of inequality.
All over the world, young males and females, schooled in the art of patriarchal thinking, are building an identity on a foundation that sees the will to do violence as the essential way to assert being.