Despite the outcome of the US election, the voting patterns of white women should not to be overlooked. White women were expected to turn against Trump this election, yet they supported him in even greater numbers than 2016 – 53% of white women voted Republican, compared to 55% in 2020 according to the NBC exit poll. Why would they vote in favour of a President that has proven time and time again that the freedoms and safety of women are not a priority of his? From reversing on-campus sexual assault guidelines, restricting limits to birth control access and facing accusations of sexual misconduct by twenty-six women, what has kept Republican female supporters loyal?
White women are at an intersection in which they are both oppressed by their gender but privileged by their race. The struggle of white women is incomparable to that of non-white women for this very reason. Following Biden’s win, some have heralded women as the electorate that took Trump down as 71% voted for Biden. Activist Bree Newsome Bass rightly claimed that this race-neutral gender analysis is problematic. Approximately 91% black female voters supported Biden as opposed to the minority 45% of white women.
“Women vote more similarly to men in their own racial group than they do to women in other racial groups” – Christina Wolbrecht, University of Notre Dame
Inferred from their voting patterns over decades, the majority of white women are not ready to give up the benefits they reap from white supremacy. It is worth noting that, generally, there has been a shift away from Republican support – that peaked in 1984 when 62% voted for Ronald Reagan – but, it has been excruciatingly slow and 2020’s results are another anomaly. Hilary Clinton was unable to influence the majority of white women in 2016, despite being one herself. This is not to say that one should support someone that looks like them blindly, but it does raise the question of whose progress white women advocate for.
American white women have been viewing their “identity in ethnicity, not gender”, said by Eric Foster, and have voted accordingly. Undoubtably, some white women are racist or see nothing more than traditional roles of housewife and mother, so they vote for the Republican Party with this in mind. However, their position can be analysed further – they have the choice to be loyal to only one of their identities, and most choose race as a means to ignore the realities of the ingrained oppression they, too, face. Unfortunately for them, their choice of ignoring their oppression does not lessen it.
Recent studies carried out by The Conversation have explained this by an analysis of linked fate. Linked fate can be defined as group consciousness that, often, sees political cohesion amongst its members – an example of this would be African-Americans who overwhelmingly vote Democrat despite differences in age or education. The Conversation’s study showed a significant lack of linked fate amongst women. 38% of single women felt their futures were strongly connected to other women, while just 18% of married women felt this way. This difference can be explained when seeing marriage as a driving force for the merging of beliefs over time – a merging that favours the man. So, when they majority of white women marry white men, majority Republican, they merge political beliefs and their acceptance of tradition can strengthen. As heterosexual married women, it is possible that their economic dependency means their interests are with the prosperity of their husbands – as many see an improvement for men, an improvement for themselves too. Unsurprisingly, married women have proved themselves to be Trump’s strongest demographic this election.
White women’s support of Republican candidates comes from a place of privilege that only they have. While there are reasons of familial ties and economic dependence, a white woman’s vote for a Republican, or most right-wing parties, is an acceptance of submission to the patriarchy. This acceptance allows them to temporarily feel uplifted by their whiteness. Feminist Andrea Dworkin has accounted it ‘as part of a subconscious survival strategy’ in the hope they gain respect from men. These efforts are futile and abandon non-white women and liberal white women in a continued struggle for intersectional women’s liberation that will, ultimately, benefit all women.