Lock her up. Let’s Make America great again. I’m going to build a wall. Obama created ISIS. The Republican Party offers America Donald Trump as their presidential nominee for the 2016 Election, ultimately causing internal splits within the political party. Citizens and government officials are disgusted by his illogical rhetoric and careless political incorrectness. He has demonstrated an inability to lead the United States in a sufficient manner through his approach to speeches, debates, business, and relationships. And yet, he has been granted the presidential nomination, and maintains a powerful network of supporters throughout America. Why is that? Let’s break it down. Trump’s campaign relies heavily on two things: the fear of the American people, and the national pride of the American people.
Trump’s rhetoric often returns to a few main points. He knows how to, and will, take down the terror group ISIS, he will not hesitate to bomb ‘dangerous’ countries, and he will build a wall after deporting all illegal immigrants residing within the United States. Presumably, the United States’ system of government would not allow any of these things happen without careful planning and reviewing the consequences of said actions. Trump fails to mention this in his platform, because it simply is not relevant. The people who support him do not care about how he exactly is going to accomplish these things, they are simply satisfied with the acknowledgement they will be taken care of. Citizens who support Trump are scared. They fear attack from terror groups, especially due to recent accounts internationally. Trump offers them safety in his promises, and they choose to overlook his faulty rhetoric.
In addition to fear, Trump’s campaign relies on the pride of the American people. The United States of America, a new, booming first world country. The land of the free and the home of the brave. Trump supporters are obsessed with their country and want only the best for it. What is ‘best for it’ is subjective, but Trump has spoken out in favor of his supporters’ conservative ideals. This includes deporting anyone who cannot claim American citizenship. For example, his supporters believe people who immigrate illegally from Mexico should be forcefully removed from the country, literally keeping them from reentering with a wall.
While it is not as simple as plucking immigrants out and putting them back in their country of origin, promising to do so results in his supporters feeling their needs will be satisfied with a Trump presidency. Trump supporters validate this rhetoric because they believe noncitizens should find a way to immigrate legally. Another reason is some individuals feel their status grants them more legitimization as a human being than as someone who is not of the same white prestige, middle-class identity. Whether they actively realize this assumption, or are subconsciously practicing the mentality, Trump’s campaign is catering to their desires and national pride.
Starting, interjecting, and ending with his signature slogan, Make America Great Again, instills nationalism in Trump’s followers. We see this strategy taking advantage of ‘the realm of fetishism’ (McClintock 374) that comes with intense nationalism. As stated by McClintock, “fetishes embody crises in social value, which are projected onto and embodied in…impassioned objects,” (McClintock 375). In the case of Donald Trump, his ‘object’ is actually his entire rhetoric.
In a similar white supremacist fashion, when European nations set out to colonize various areas of the tropics, the mixed race children resulting from concubine women were often shunned by their European fathers. Because the children were not one hundred percent European, like their native mothers, they were not considered a ‘valuable life.’ On top of being soiled with native blood, eugenic arguments claimed that certain “acquired characteristics were inheritable, and thus that poverty, vagrancy, and promiscuity were class-linked biological traits,” (Stoler 62). Essentially, any offspring the child may eventually has will also be contaminated. Therefore, is was no point in connecting with the child, or helping create a fruitful life for it.
Now, let’s discuss why these mixed race children are being born in the first place. The colonial state advised men find a native Asian woman to keep as a concubine. These women filled the sexual desires of the European men without requiring the commitment of a marriage. As a result, mixed race children were born. Men had a right to this child, but many refuted taking responsibility. According to Stoler, “The legal system favored a European upbringing but made no demands on [European] men to provide it,” (68). More children were born and rejected, eventually creating a European pauper class.
When European women eventually arrived in the tropics, they brought ‘European ideal reinforcement’ with them. These women were “not only bearers of racist beliefs, but hard-line operatives who put them into practice. It was they who destroyed the blurred divisions between colonizer and colonized, who encouraged class distinctions among whites,” (pg 57). European women emphasized the racial hierarchies in numerous ways. First, they helped to define proper gender roles. In addition to creating viable European offspring and creating a comfortable, happy household for her husband, women were expected to “safeguard [white] prestige and morality and insulate their men from the cultural and secular contamination of contact with the colonized,” (Stoler 71). It became recommended to practice good living, meaning working hard and getting physical exercise, rather than using sexual release with concubines to keep men happy and focused on their work. By creating a comfortable home for her husband, a woman helps keep his mind centered on work instead of the native women. Thus, the races are again separated.
Women who arrived in the tropics were advised they would likely become infertile. As this is considered a key part of life, this as detering for a woman to hear. It would also render her useless to both her husband and society, as motherhood is essential to maintaining the her race. This was proven to be untrue, but its impact cannot go unnoticed when deciphering gender roles. European women raised their children away from the influence of native servants. The child was granted limited communication with the natives because society believed the native would negatively impact the child’s development by exposing them to their culture.
When the child became old enough to get an education, European mothers were often faced with a difficult choice between sending their child to Europe for a proper education or leaving her husband behind to go with their child. Seeing as ‘mother’ and ‘wife’ are two key roles a woman is expected to fulfill, this rendered a near impossible choice. Home schooling offered a solution to the problem, but has its own detriments, such as lack of socialization, the increased potential for racist, sexist ideals to be learned, and the focus on religion without offering scientific reasonings as well.
In today’s society, women are not expected to teach their children from home, although some choose to do so. Women in the modern age still face gender expectations, such as partaking in heterosexual marriage and bearing children. Women are able to choose not to marry or have children, but society does not let her forget she may ‘change her mind’ when she ‘meets the right guy.’ American society assumes heterosexual relations are the norm and considers having children part of the ‘natural progression’ of life. Modern women who do choose to partake in a serious relationship are then harshly judged if their career pays more than their male partner’s, because men are expected to be the breadwinners of American society. When women take on the role, they are considered to be rare exceptions. A woman who prefers to focus on her work rather than ‘family values,’ she faces extreme backlash.
These family values that women choose to neglect are key to capitalism’s success. Family values are created based on cultural influences, including economic and religious ideals. They assume a married, heterosexual couple who has children. As explained by Jakobsen, “Values not only serve as a cultural control on the market… they also serve the socially constructive function of making the crucial distinction between those persons whose lives are inscribed only in economic value and those who have values and so are empowered to be agents in relation to the market and economic value,” (61). Capitalism is a system in which we all, willingly or unwillingly, a part of. Corporations benefit from marketing Protestant ideology to the public, because Protestant culture dominates the United States. By determining what the typical American family values and creating a market for said value, capitalism is able to generate revenue.
However, sometimes someone’s idea of a family is not the family capitalism planned for. In cases such as homosexual relationships or single parents, expectations are different. The state assumes that the majority of people are heterosexual and will marry their partner, therefore “marriage is…thought of as the purchase on legitimacy,” (Butler 106). . When the state marries a couple, it literally ‘recognizes’ you and your spouse as a legitimate relationship. Your relationship becomes legally justified in the eyes of the state and the people you know. Now, acknowledging a marriage is a complicated thing, although it does not appear to be. Butler wrote her essay before the legalization of gay marriage, but its main argument still proves true, “legitimitation is double-edged,” (Butler 117). When married heterosexual relationships are the only types of relationships recognized by the state, all other relationships are, as a result, not being recognized as legitimate.
Married couples are eligible for more tax benefits and are able to receive access to each other’s healthcare. Both spouses are able to claim legal guardianship of their child. Homosexual couples, for most of history, did not have the same benefits. However, homosexual couples were not the only ones who were affected by the restrictions of marriage. Some couples are uninterested in marriage, some people are divorced, widowed, or polygamous. All of these groups, and others unlisted, are being denied the benefits that come with being recognized as a married couple by the state. Couples who do choose to marry become part of the expected “norm,” and are able to avoid exclusion from specific groups. The previously mentioned groups remain marginalized.
A woman faces the same struggles in terms of rights to her own body whether she chooses to marry or not. If a woman were to become pregnant, whether through rape or consensual sex, and decides she does not desire to or cannot have the child, she will encounter serious social repercussions. Many states do not have enough access to abortion care available due to tight restrictions on the procedure. Women are often required to take off work due to travel time and waiting periods, which accumulates a high reciept on top of the procedure costs. This puts women of low economic status in a difficult situation. They do not have the funds to pay for the procedure now, but do not have enough money to raise a child either. Women who can afford to take time off work and have the ability to travel will still face the psychological and emotional damage the stigma surrounding abortion entails. Protestors outside clinics, judgement from family and friends, and graphic information online can all lead to feelings of guilt and shame, despite the woman making a choice that is best for her.
A woman who cannot afford an abortion results in a situation where a child is born that they are not prepared to provide for. Anti-abortion activists will argue a woman should put her child up for adoption, or should simply apply for welfare. She may not want to put her child up for adoption, which would still require her to carry the baby full term and recover from birth afterwards. There are millions of children already in orphanages worldwide anyway. So, she seeks said welfare assistance, but the system is not designed to provide enough for a woman to raise a child and also care for herself, so she must work. She is unable to dedicate herself as fully to the child as she would if she had been in a better situation when she became pregnant, if she wanted to be pregnant at all. This becomes a vicious cycle that, depending on the woman and her individual situation, has the potential to repeat itself. Unfortunately, the majority of women who end up in this situation are disproportionately of low economic status, women of color, or both.
For queer people, the issue of having a child or not becomes a question of legal guardianship. Until very recently, homosexuals were unable to legally adopt a child as couple. A parent would claim to be the designated guardian of the child, despite the other playing a key role in parenting as well. Although this situation could suffice to allow gay couples to be parents, in others it could not. If the legal guardian would pass away, the other parent would not have immediate claim to the child- their partner’s family would. As you can assume, in a home culture where homosexual relationships are unaccepted, this can get messy quickly. Similar to legitimizing both heterosexual and homosexul relationships, legitimizing both straight and gay parents, as we do today, demolishes the family capitalism has been dreaming of.
Unpacking race, gender, and class politics can get complicated quickly. There is truly no simple way to approach the topic of privilege, or lack thereof, and the way it plays in our current systems. Gender expectations are politicized and influenced by race and class. A previous example includes how European women had different expectations than Asian concubines, despite both being women. When race and class are factored in, the expectations change. As mentioned previously, legitimacy is a double-edged sword, and no group can truly be legitimized without delegitimizing another. Choosing who to legitimize is political, and it is always based off of a society’s values. When discussing marriage and abortion rights, those who fall outside of this legitimacy are forced to live in a system that refuses to accommodate their needs.