The months between the presidential election of 2016 and the summer of 2019 have been a wild ride, from the unexpected (and for many traumatic) results of the election to growing recognition of how profoundly the Trump presidency has changed our lives, from discoveries of corruption and foreign influence on our democratic institutions to fresh assaults on reproductive rights, the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and the #MeToo movement, Robert Mueller's long-awaited report and its aftermath, and the beginnings of the 2020 primary contest.
Follow cultural historian and media critic Susan Bordo through those events as they happened, in a book whose format is uniquely designed to capture their immediacy. Combining full-length published pieces with spontaneous, unfiltered, never-before published posts, in a voice that is bracingly honest as well as critically penetrating, this collection goes beyond journalistic conventions to reveal the ways in which the political is indeed the personal.
A sampling: "Reflections on Trump's Inauguration," was inspired by an exchange of looks between Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton; "To the Core" recalls both the Anita Hill hearings and Bordo's own experience with sexual harassment in the context of #MeToo; "Please Mr. Prosecutor Mueller" is a personal plea as well as an argument about the power of television; "My MSNBC Interview" finds the author perched on a high stool in a local TV studio, talking about her just-published book on the election, finding out what it feels like to be misunderstood on national television; "On Not Letting Comey Off the Hook" precedes a hard-hitting review of James Comey's book with a personal protest against the idealization of Comey that followed his anti-Trump appearances on television; "Imagine Bernie Sanders as a Woman" confronts the double-standards and double-binds faced not only by female politicians but by all women who are seen as "leaning in" too much, while "Two Elizabeths" explores how the Tudor queen and the presidential contender negotiate those challenges in their differing historical contexts.
"Send the Children Out of the Room for This One" unflinchingly describes what it felt like to be the object of the Hillary-hate that was rampant among certain quarters of Sanders supporters. "The Little King" compares Donald Trump's combination of thin skin and authoritarian bullying to the imperious and volatile Henry VIII (who at least had the excuse of actually being King.) A section on Reproductive Rights takes on "fetal heartbeat" bills, not through familiar debates about the personhood of the fetus, but by arguing that such bills on are an assault on the personhood of the pregnant woman.
Throughout this diverse collection, the role of the mainstream media, both in the election of 2016 and continuing to the present, is highlighted and taken to task, not only for its negative influence--e.g. on perpetuating and sometimes creating overblown "scandals," false equivalences, and gendered double-standards--but its failure to take responsibility for that role. The media analysis is not all grim, however: The more light-hearted approach of "If George Orwell Could Critique Broadcast News" will entertain the reader with familiar examples of the clichés of pundit-speak.
Susan Bordo, Professor Emerita at the University of Kentucky, is the author of numerous books in cultural history, media studies, and gender studies, most recently The Destruction of Hillary Clinton (2017) and The Creation of Anne Boleyn (2013.)