Bannon Leaving Wouldn't Solve Trump's Anti-Feminist Issue

by Lani Seelinger
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Students of Trumpology are seeing signs that one of the president's most controversial advisers could be on his way out the door. Stephen K. Bannon has a long and visible history of misogyny, so your first reaction might be to celebrate a victory. However, whether Bannon's potential ouster would be good for feminism is still very much up for debate. It would be a relief to see him leave the White House for the last time, but he arrived there on top of a wave of alt-right sentiment that is very much misogynistic itself. Trump came in on that wave, too — and as long as he's still there, you should put off the celebration and keep up the resistance.

To start with, though, let's look at the specific misogynist credentials that Bannon brought with him. This is a guy who was charged with domestic abuse, which Bannon denied, and one of the charges against Bannon included "dissuading a witness" from reporting a crime to the relevant authorities, which Bannon also denied. When the trial came around, though, Bannon's then ex-wife didn't show up — so the charges were dropped. Bannon, for his part, pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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Bannon also headed up the openly misogynist Breitbart, which gave the world such balanced, well-reported articles as “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.” With Bannon at the helm, Breitbart routinely attacked Planned Parenthood with various strategies — including by comparing the organization to the Nazi regime. Sure, what Sean Spicer said about Hitler is stunning, but it's not quite Breitbart's very purposeful “Planned Parenthood’s Body Count Under Cecile Richards is Up to Half a Holocaust.”

Taken together, I reckon we can agree that having Bannon out of the very top echelons of power in Washington is a very good thing. But before you pop the bubbly, think about who's left: Trump himself. Trump is alleged to have committed sexual assault, accusations that he denies entirely even though a video surfaced of him bragging about doing exactly that. Breitbart's former editor could be leaving the White House, but that doesn't mean that Trump will trust Breitbart and similar right-wing outlets any less. And while Bannon and the alt-right types who he aligns himself may or may not claim the mantle of sexism openly, it's undeniable that their ideology absolutely relies on anti-feminist sentiment. After all, if women are powerful and independent, who do white men have to defend from the evils of The Other?

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The sad truth is that removing Bannon because of an ongoing fight between him and Jared Kushner would in no way be a repudiation of that ideology. The president who Bannon's followers embraced would still be there with his own long history of misogyny, whether or not Bannon's exit would signal a shift to the center. The most male cabinet in decades wouldn't change, nor would the vice president; let's not forget Mike Pence's terrifying stance on abortion, his refusal to meet alone with women besides his wife, and the fact that two women in Indiana were imprisoned for "feticide" (i.e., the beginning of a slippery slope that leads to punishments for abortion).

It's all well and good that Ivanka Trump has an official White House post now, but her husband, Jared Kushner, is the one with the actual control. He has made very few views of his clear and said nothing about whether or not he's a feminist. And when it comes down to it, they're both supporting President Donald J. Trump — which doesn't say much for their feminist cred.

So, yes, Bannon might be gone — but his misogynist stench won't go with him. It's a nice little victory, but there's still a long way to go.