Source: The Daily Beast
At the start of election season, I found humor in Trump: his outlandish behavior, his polarizing statements, his intense self-assurance. I was convinced the American electorate would see through his charade and he’d be laughed right off the ballot.
But as primary and caucus results rolled in around the country, it became clear that a certain constituency finds Trump truly appealing. Some members of the Republican party, even a Democrat here and there, embrace his natural inclination to “tell it like it is”—implicit is the notion that his statements are accurate. Now that Trump’s place on the Republican ticket is a near certainty, it’s time to start giving his statements the gravity they deserve. He’s no longer a whack-job presidential wannabe; he’s a true candidate in the 2016 election.
In the past, I’ve offered an impassioned view of Trump based on his own statements. I’ve outlined the ways in which he has repeatedly demonstrated that he is racist, sexist, narcissistic, and generally careless with language. Trump obviously feels he can promote any hateful (or at the very least demeaning) message he likes and then accuses others of being biased against him when they stand among the groups he has insulted:
What Trump fails to recognize, and what makes him so irresponsible, is that his statements as the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican party hold weight and steer our dialogue. When he speaks ill of a particular group, he is granting us all permission to engage in the dialogue—dialogues that were, in most cases, deemed insensitive or irrelevant decades ago.
One group Trump quietly attacks with alarming frequency is women. For the most part, Trump’s comments on the “gentler sex” have objectified women:
But in order to save face during election season, Trump has not hesitated to attack women professionally either. We all remember how viciously he lashed out at Megyn Kelly, when she had the audacity to question his temperament and ability to lead based on the fact that he has called women such things as “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.” Trump’s response was not one of remorse but increased vitriol as he called Kelly a “bimbo,” questioned her professionalism, and suggested that she must be menstruating to challenge him so aggressively. And just this week, a Trump campaign spokeswoman asserted that the concern regarding judges biased against Trump could also extend to female judges, who may be biased purely on the basis of their gender. At this point, Trump has alienated so many groups that, by this logic, the only unbiased judges would be white, Republican men.
Even Trump’s own daughters aren’t immune to his outlandish sexism:
“I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”
Trump has made it clear that the highest achievement for any woman is to be attractive, in his eyes. Woman are not prized for their intellect, their integrity, or their achievements. And when women like Megyn Kelly attempt to get at the heart of the real issues with him, well, we’re simply bitchy, hormonal hags. Women are play things to Donald Trump, which is why we can be assured that he would never make women’s issues a priority or even an interest in his administration.
His attitude toward women makes it especially difficult for me to understand why Trump has so many supporters. During the primaries, we have seen, over and over, that Trump lags behind with women, even Republican women, and obviously for good reason. But I’ve still been stumped as to how so many American men can support a candidate with such clear distaste for women. Do men just not care about women’s issues, or do they feel the same way Trump does about women? Are American men ambivalent sexists, misogynists, or just clueless?
Then it struck me.
I was clearing my inbox when I came across New York Magazine’s “The Cut” newsletter. As I scrolled, I read headline after headline about violence against women.
There is a major problem when the men and women at 20th Century Fox think casual violence against women is the way to market a film. There is no context in the ad, just a woman getting strangled. The fact that no one flagged this is offensive and frankly, stupid. The geniuses behind this, and I use that term lightly, need to to take a long hard look at the mirror and see how they are contributing to society. Imagine if it were a black man being strangled by a white man, or a gay male being strangled by a hetero? The outcry would be enormous. So let’s right this wrong. 20th Century Fox, since you can’t manage to put any women directors on your slate for the next two years, how about you at least replace your ad? (The Hollywood Reporter)
Then, an article about one of Bill Cosby’s nearly 60 victims trying to confront him.
Next, the story of a teenage girl in my own city who was raped and strangled by her boyfriend while he recorded the whole damn thing on his phone.
Finally, the news that Stanford student Brock Turner who was found raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster at the school will only receive 6 months in jail plus probation since the judge deemed the 6-year sentence the prosecutors requested “would have a severe impact on him,” and “he will not be a danger to others.”
New York Magazine’s little sister section devoted to “Fashion, Beauty, Politics, Sex, and Celebrities” is overwrought with headlines relaying instances of the way society (still) treats women. Sure, we’re liberated, we’re educated, we’ve come a long way. But we’re still victimized in the most violent and demeaning ways:
“Nearly one in five [American] women surveyed said they had been raped or had experienced an attempted rape at some point, and one in four reported having been beaten by an intimate partner. One in six women have been stalked, according to the report” (New York Times).
During the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, 5,364 US soldiers were killed in action…; between 2001 and 2012, 6,410 women were killed with a gun by an intimate partner in the United States (Center for American Progress).
Violence against women is still so pervasive in American culture, much more so than any of us want to admit. We look down on other cultures that acknowledge women as second-class citizens, but we don’t look inward at our own complicated views. Outwardly, American men say women are equal, but we still don’t lead in equal numbers or earn equal pay, 20% of us are the victim of sexual violence, and even one of our leading presidential candidates can’t conceal how little he thinks of us.
Naturally, if women continue to be esteemed as sexual objects, and little more, the violence against us will persist, because these are crimes whose sentences, judges worry, will have long-lasting effects on the perpetrators without giving thought to the victims.
Maybe Donald Trump is really saying what so many American men are thinking about the women. Maybe he really does speak for so many of us as a truth-teller, the guy who “tells it like it is.” And what he’s telling us is that we still don’t respect and value our women and girls. Or, we’re not valued for our contributions but for our voluptuous curves and well manicured appearances. It’s better that we’re seen and not heard. And if we are heard, we’re “ballbusters.”
If Trump really is the great truth-teller he claims to be, and his supporters stand behind his sentiments, I fear for this country. I fear for myself and for my daughters. I fear for the feminist movement and the lies we’ve all been telling ourselves about progress.
We can’t possibly expect violence against women to subside if the rhetoric against us doesn’t either.