October 14, 2016
This is very much to the point, and it’s happening. The process is inexorable. Women are no longer second-class citizens. Not in the Western world anyway. Elsewhere”in the Muslim world, for instance”it’s still different. The Islamist view and treatment of women seem wrong to us, even disgusting and contemptible. Our society, however, has moved on whether you”we”like it or not. The change has been rapid; it’s only 37 years, less than half the average life span in the West, since Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s first female prime minister. Her elevation was surprising and for many disconcerting. If there was any surprise when Theresa May became prime minister this summer, it wasn”t on account of her sex. Nobody made any great thing of it; Scotland and Northern Ireland already had women as their First Minister. It’s no more surprising now than going to hospital and finding that your consultant is a woman, or being defended or prosecuted in the law courts by a woman, with another woman sitting there as judge.
The speed of change has been unsettling. It’s not surprising if many of us find it hard to accept, let alone to adjust to. Back in 1979 there were senior Conservative politicians who had difficulty in coming to terms with Margaret Thatcher, only partly because they were doubtful about her policies; it was uncomfortable, a bit freakish, having a woman boss. Throughout society, there are many men who feel devalued, and it’s no comfort for them that women have felt undervalued and excluded in the past. But the change has happened”and has happened, despite everything, more easily and in general acceptably than I would have thought likely, or indeed possible, half a century ago. Margaret Thatcher didn”t call herself a feminist; she set out instead to show that a woman was as good as any man, and more capable than most. She succeeded, and women everywhere have reason to be grateful to her. So have men.
I feel a bit sorry for Donald Trump. Of course he spoke unpleasantly, coarsely, in a manner that I suspect would have had his mother telling him to behave himself or she would wash his mouth out with soap. But his language was the language of a time that has slipped away. People are calling him a misogynist, and I guess he doesn”t understand why. For the fact is that the word has changed its meaning. A misogynist used to be a man who disliked women. Now it’s applied to a man who likes women in the wrong way, or what is deemed to be the wrong way, which, as it turns out, is Mr. Trump’s way. No wonder he looks baffled and seems aggrieved. Poor Donald, the puzzled and indignant inhabitant of a world that has left him behind, stranded on the beach or immured in his gilded tower…