National Commentary

Sexism & the Presidency

nfbenton-mugIn the late 1960s, when as a Berkeley, Calif., graduate seminarian, this writer became deeply involved in the social ferment of those times, there was a lot more clarity of the moment than the haze of the subsequent dissembling nearly 50 years of history and the seemingly relentless babble of revisionists allow by now.

A fresh appreciation of what actually happened is critically important now as the nation’s stubborn economic malaise, aggravated by the relentless greed of the infamous one percent of the wealthiest, has created a significant majority of Americans living one paycheck from the streets. This has been a critical factor in the acute friction that has police and inner city racial minorities at each others’ throats, and the related surfacing of an abnormally sexist-motivated national presidential election process.

In the spring of 1968, explosive eruptions of social ferment in the wake of the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, in particular, led to inner city rioting and violent anti-war marches and demonstrations that gained a nationwide profile at the August 1968 “police riot” against activists demonstrating at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

At the time, those of us on the scene seeking to make sense out of it all could parse events to distinguish between, generally, legitimate expressions of outrage against the “establishment” forces assailing the burgeoning civil rights and anti-war movements, and a lot of subversive covert counterinsurgency operations by police and federal intelligence entities most often involving embedding “agent provocateurs” into these movements to agitate for violent, destructive, riotous and criminal behaviors.

There has been a long history of this counterinsurgency technique in the U.S., almost always involving acts of violence or terror, including bombings, aimed at turning the police and public opinion against legitimate demonstrations and strikes by labor unions and others seeking social justice.

One of the most important, perhaps the most important, sub-theme of the 1960s ferment was a new offensive by women to reverse the post-World War II trend to return an earlier generation of strong, independent Suffragette-era women back to America’s kitchens and subservience to “The Man” at every level, especially in the home.

“Feminism,” as it was called, was arguably the most serious strand of the ferment of the 1960s era, though seldom supplanting in public perception the anti-war and civil rights components. “Gay liberation” was, in a sense, a byproduct component of feminism’s message. Together, the two strands stood against the war-mongering, racist “white male-dominated establishment” at a more intimate interpersonal level.

But they found that their struggles were most often against dominant male chauvinist elements of their own counterculture movement.

This was not lost on the forces of counterinsurgency, who found that heightening “sexist” impulses in the movement accelerated internal conflict and fraction.

So, the feminist impulse was countered by the forces of “The Man” with what became known as the “sexual revolution.” The objectification of women as sexual objects became an acceptable element of the “revolution.”

Counter-insurgent exploitation of deeply seeded prejudices against women turned out, by 1971, to be the single most effective means of defanging the social ferment of the late 1960s. Feminist demands for respect and equality were drowned out by the drumbeat for “sex, drugs and rock and roll.”

Today, the “woman question” has reached a new importance in American social life. Exploiting it has become almost second nature to the forces trying to keep the American public pacified.

It has taken the form of the egregious sexism, in policy if not in crude language, by all the Republican presidential candidates, and on the Democratic side, the relentless attacks on Hillary Clinton, if not about Benghazi then the e-mails, are based to a significant degree on a predisposed propensity to mistrust her based on sexist premises that many people are not even aware of.

It is such an irony that the U.S. State Department knows the key to introducing democratic ideas in developing nations involves the empowerment of women. But in the U.S. domestically, the Establishment strategy to suppress the 99 percent is through the denigration of women.