Why they’re tuning in to the US presidential elections (oh and a book reflection here too)

Admittedly, we are oceans away from the US and with the pandemic, how does US politics really affect any of us? My study, you could argue, has nothing to do with it but I am a Ph.D. student researching within the realm of social sciences and leadership and inequality, and so at the very least, it is all very interesting. My supervisors have not only been such amazing teachers, but also inspiring sources of support and scholarly insight. Our meetings aren’t restricted to updates on data analysis and thesis progress, but also on how our research is relevant to what is happening in the world, to social justice, as well as scholarly and deliberate reflection. 

I was surprised to find out that many other students, from various disciplines, were talking about the recent US Presidential debate. Why, why do we care? I think for some it’s that Trump is controversial but also very entertaining. Now, I’m not going to give a political commentary on the content or what transpired, but rather I’m writing on this blog’s main theme, what messes with your head. A lot of the talk about the debate was how ‘chaotic’ it seemed. Debates tend to be quite highly-charged, yes, but I don’t think we’ve seen anything quite like this. New Zealand has been having their leaders’ debates too and it’s been between two women, Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins. Although also very impassioned, most journalists have started to write about ‘a contrast of styles’ between the recent leaders’ debates in the US and NZ and observed how the two women maintained general civility and politeness.

We are taught it—give me liberty or give me death, live free or die, don’t tread on me—as patriotic catechism, but only when it has been expressed by white men has it sounded or been transmitted to us as admirable, reasonable, as the crucial catalytic ingredient to political change. That’s because white men were always and have remained the rational norm, the intellectual ideal, their dissatisfactions easily understood as being grounded in reason, not in the unstable emotional muck of femininity.Rebecca Traister

Having recently finished reading, Good and mad: the revolutionary power of women’s anger by Rebecca Traister, I find myself reflecting on instances when women leaders have indeed expressed anger and consequently how the public felt about all of that. Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech comes to mind. Also, Hilary Clinton as she campaigned against Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. In 2020, do we still view women’s anger differently from men? Or do we find that what matters for us now is the cause that they are fighting for? How important is the role of the leader? Is it possible that anger has a constructive purpose in social change, that it has something to teach us, just as both successes and failures are equally valuable teachers in our personal lives? How should we act when we are fighting to make things right?

Just because you find that life's not fair, it doesn't mean that you just have to grin and bear it, if you always take it on the chin and wear it, you might as well be saying you think that's it's okay, and that's not right. Naughty is a song from the musical Matilda written by Dennis Kelly with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin


Tagged in What messes with your head, phd, politics, gender