Mind Matters — Misogynists and demagogues

Several years ago at Chadds Ford Days, a volunteer male re-enactor dressed as a woman being punished for “gossiping.” He, as she, was in chains and wore a metal headpiece — a brank — that would, in colonial times, have pierced the tongue and prevented speech. Remember that women in those days had no legal rights: judge and jury were all male. If a woman were to complain or speak her truth about her husband’s drunkenness or abuse, for example, it would be considered “gossip.” My hope was that this re-enactor’s depiction of such horrific punishment would show us how much more civilized we had become. Instead I discovered men loudly discussing how great the punishment was. When I questioned one of these men about their “positive” reaction, he looked me in the eye and said, “Just don’t gossip.” In other words, “Woman, keep your mouth shut.”

That weekend incident still sends shudders through me, particularly in the face of the coming presidential election I believe that, just like there has been distrust of President Obama — he was “born in Kenya,” “he’s Muslim,” etc. — because he is black; there is a distrust of Hillary Clinton because she is a woman. So we’ve moved from racism to sexism — or, shall we say, misogyny (a demeaning of and hatred toward women). Trump exudes misogyny, from his hands on his daughter’s hips at the Republican convention; to his outrageous comments about Megan Kelly alluding to her menstrual cycle; to his notion that if a woman is sexually harassed, she should simply “quit;” to his cronyism with Roger Ailes, the Fox mogul and sexual harasser par excellence.

Yet he is not alone in his misogyny. Our culture still has a misogynist undercurrent as much as it has a prejudicial one. We’re getting more conscious on both fronts, but there is more consciousness raising ahead.

However, demagogues don’t truck consciousness raising, or any change in a forward direction. Instead, they push for change back(ward). The dictionary defines a “demagogue as a person, especially an orator or political leader, who gains power and popularity by arousing emotions, passions and prejudices of the people … to obscure or distort with emotionalism, prejudice, etc.”

What do demagogues do? They posture fear of others, dividing the populace by demonizing “immigrants, Muslims, women, blacks, and minorities of all stripes.” I quote here Kevin O’Leary, whose article, “Trump and the Racial Politics of the South” appears in the magazine American Prospect. It is O’Leary’s contention that the prototype for Trump was Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who led the white backlash against segregation and sublimated “racial rage [into] hatred of government.” O’Leary asserts that George Wallace harbingered “the politics of Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, and the Tea Party because it connected Southern social resentment to the anti-government libertarian economics of the business right. The explicit racism became latent and coded—a dog whistle.”

It is well known in psychotherapy, family therapy, in particular, that when an individual begins to make healthy life changes, others in the family may push for change back — to the status quo. Change is a challenge and is scary even when it is in the service of psychological health. So it is in society too: our demographics change, our culture changes, and we cling to old obsolete — and worse — misinformed ways.

I don’t know Donald Trump personally — nor would I ever want to. His narcissism and demagoguery is dangerous. I don’t know Hillary Clinton either, but there are only two degrees of separation between her and me: I do know someone who worked for her in the state department and witnessed first-hand her compassion, brilliance, and energy. That testimony offsets any vestiges of cultural misogyny for me.

* Kayta Curzie Gajdos holds a doctorate in counseling psychology and is in private practice in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. She welcomes comments at MindMatters@DrGajdos.com or 610-388-2888. Past columns are posted to www.drgajdos.com. See book.quietwisdom-loudtimes.com for information about her book, Quiet Wisdom in Loud Times: The Rise of the Wounded Feminine.

** The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ownership or management of Chadds Ford Live. We welcome opposing viewpoints. Readers may comment in the comments section or they may submit a Letter to the Editor to: editor@chaddsfordlive.com

 

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About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.

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