Before Benito Mussolini became Italy’s fascist dictator, he worked as a schoolteacher. I find this bit of trivia about Il Duce telling. Most children have their first encounter with public authoritarianism in a classroom, I certainly did, and I’ve heard it quipped that what white men are to policing, white women are to public education. Both of these professions can serve as gendered pathways to small-scale authoritarianism.
According the Department of Education, the average schoolteacher in the United States is a 43-year-old white woman. In 2016, 47% of white women voted for President Donald Trump. In 2020, that number rose to 55% Columnist Moira Donegan has noted that the high level of support Trump enjoys from white women has elicited “exasperation” and “rage” from the left. Because I’ve worked in public education among middle-aged white women for over a decade, I’m unsurprised by these numbers as well as by this bloc’s enthusiasm for an autocratic strongman.