I have read so many hand-wringing articles lately about how 49% of white college-educated female voters went for Trump. How could they? these writers cry. He is a self-proclaimed sexual predator, a misogynist, racist, bigoted bully. How were all these women able to overlook all of the disgusting things he said and still choose him to be the President?
Most of these writers put it down to dislike of Hillary Clinton in one form or another. Some women call her elitist and out of touch with their concerns, or they just can’t stomach the way she stood by Bill while he had affair after affair. Other writers talk about how white women’s economic concerns outweighed their distaste for Trump. Finally, I have seen some who just put it down to people sticking with their party despite not particularly loving their party’s candidate.
I think all of them missed an essential point – Privilege.
White college-educated women in America, broadly speaking, lead a fairly privileged life compared to other groups. I know, because I am one. And so are most of my friends. We grew up in mostly white, middle class communities. We attended mostly white well-funded schools. Many of us looked at our choices and still chose marriage and family over careers, and we now also live in mostly white middle class communities with mostly white well-funded schools.
For most of us, nothing has ever happened in our privileged lives to make us change our view that the life is generally good for most people. We are not afraid of being deported for our religion or immigration status. We are not dependent on welfare or food stamps to feed our families. We did not need Obamacare to provide us with health insurance.
I believe this is the essential point that allowed so many women to hold their nose and vote for the least qualified, most ignorant candidate over the most qualified, smartest candidate. Their privilege blinded them to the real dangers inherent in a Trump presidency. They were swayed by the propaganda of Fox News and their insular social media world because it jibed with their world view and life experiences.
I did not vote for Trump, and I was not alone – 51% of white college-educated female voters cast their ballot for Secretary Clinton. We had many reasons for our decision, not only our wish to elect a President of our own gender. We saw a smart and determined person who was willing to fight for causes we believe in.
Why did privilege not blind this group of women? Maybe, like me, they experienced life events that challenged their acceptance of the status quo. Maybe they were the victim of a sexual assault but were blamed because they wore a short skirt or drank too much. Maybe they had a child with a mental health issue and had to battle their insurance company for coverage of the needed treatment. Whatever the reason, if we ever want to elect a female president I believe the privilege blindness of the other 49% will need to be overcome.