They both follow misogynist liars whose ‘movements’ are just thinly veiled cults

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Image: Starz

As I was watching Starz’ Seduced, the second documentary series to come out in recent months about Keith Raniere and NXIVM, I started to understand why pop culture is so engrossed by the story of the the Albany-based “sex cult” that branded women. It’s not just because of the salacious details, or because of Raniere’s wealthy and high-profile followers. Americans are riveted because NXIVM is a cult whose members call it a movement, led by a shockingly misogynist man who lies about being the smartest person in the world.

Sound familiar?

The parallels between Raniere and Donald Trump aren’t always clear-cut, of course. Trump is a consummate boaster and carnival barker; Raniere quietly lets his deputies repeat fabrications and exaggerations about his “genius.” (Both men claim to have the highest IQs in the world.) The president’s sexism is of the coarse, name-calling variety, while Raniere’s is shrouded in his philosophy about gender roles and women’s illogicality. And while both Trump and Raniere’s followers are mostly white, NXIVM members look like upper-middle-class hippies — the kind of women who wear dream catcher earrings and men who whip out guitars over campfires. …


There’s nothing worse than watching the left’s inaction while Republicans happily call themselves the real feminists

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Ivanka Trump with the winners of the Pledge to America’s Workers Presidential Award in Washington, D.C. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

I’ll give it to Republicans: As sexist as they are, they somehow manage to use all that misogyny to their advantage. While Democrats are still performing postmortems on the 2016 presidential election — reeling over the sexism that played a role in voters’ decisions — the GOP elevates religious zealots like Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court while praising her for the size of her family and marveling how the laundry ever gets done in such a busy house.

In that way, conservatives really have a leg up on their left-wing counterparts — their sexism is core to their belief system, and they’re not afraid to empower women who support that ideological project. Democrats, on the other hand, haven’t come to terms with how deep misogyny runs on both sides of the aisle and are so afraid of sexism that when given a young, diverse roster of exciting presidential candidates, they selected… Joe Biden. …


I don’t know if we’ve ever witnessed Republicans’ ability to flout the rules as we have these last few weeks

Donald Trump.
Donald Trump.
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Donald Trump keeps saying he’s “immune” and, honestly, I’m starting to believe he’s right. The president’s wild claims about being cured and immune to Covid-19 less than two weeks after being hospitalized with the virus are, obviously, wrong and dangerous — more bombast from a politician who thrives on the lies he tells himself and his supporters. But it’s impossible to watch Trump break rule after rule with little consequence and not start to understand why he’d believe he’s invulnerable to Covid: He’s been “immune” to everything else.

The rules of the powerful have never been the same set that applies to most Americans — we’re not even playing the same game — and Trump has always been a master in eliding responsibility. But I don’t know if we’ve ever witnessed Republicans’ ability to flout the rules as we have these last few weeks. …


Jessica Valenti

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

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