Overnight, news stations around the world have been set into overdrive with the release of the infamous ‘Trump Tapes‘. Footage has surfaced from a 2005 interview which caught Donald Trump making disparaging statements about women. In these tapes he brags about his fame, and how said fame allows him to do “whatever he wants” to beautiful women. His choice of words, in particular, have caused an uproar, leading even the most conservative pundits to publicly condemn his words and many from the Republican National Committee to rescind public support.
Despite the vast public knowledge of Donald Trump as an outlandish celebrity figure and his more recent controversies as a presidential candidate, this footage caught the population by surprise. Amazingly, Trump’s oral history of discriminatory remarks against black people, Mexicans, and war veterans wasn’t enough to truly end his chances at the Oval Office. The lack of real consequence from his comments on veterans is especially surprising given America’s usual national fervor and rabid adoration for anything involving their military troops. Why, after months of acknowledging that Trump is a straight-straight shooting man of the people who “just keeps it real,” has both right and left wing press gotten up in arms? The answer lies in the power of the White American woman.
By this, I don’t mean a realization that women are people and deserve to be treated with respect and not sexually assaulted on a whim. Instead, I mean to say that Donald Trump’s comments extended well beyond the scope of his usual targets and into the typically exempt population of white American women. Given the population of white political figures in Washington, these comments hit a little too close to home for many. While it is easy to disconnect from comments about Mexicans or Immigrants, comments about assaulting women could not be ignored. By reason, if Donald Trump has the power to assault any woman he wants, that woman could be anyone: your wife, your daughter, or even your grandma. Furthermore, by referencing his attempted seduction of a married woman, Trump trampled on the sanctity of marriage that is upheld as a golden principle by the GOP. Again, these comments struck many as personal. For some reason, a large portion of comments from outraged male politicians lead with “As a father/husband/son of a/two loving wife/daughter/mother…” The need to relate these offensive comments to personal situations reflect the degree of separation that exists in politics and in society as a whole. The assault of a woman or threat upon her security cannot be judged on the weight of its own offense, it must instead be related to by some sort of familiar relationship for importance to be allocated. Comments about immigrants have no bearing on the lives of the Average white American family, and so they are easy to dismiss as exaggeration or joke. But a comment about a scenario that could somehow affect the core base of white America was relatable enough to blow into a scandal. By posing a threat to the white American female, Trump crossed a line, and as the reactions show, this blunder would not be tolerated.
Or so was the initial thought. Trump wasn’t kidding when he said that he could shoot someone in broad daylight and not lose voters. The chances are that the person he shot would be black, but that’s neither here nor there. Ultimately, Trump’s comments were excused under the broad umbrella of “locker room talk.” This comment served to show that while the White American female is a prized and important pillar of the white American family, that role is still secondary to the sacred nature of the White American brotherhood. Trump’s comments smack of the kind of fraternal sexism that excludes women and unfortunately can be understood by far too many men.
Trump’s dismissal of his statements as locker room talk is problematic in two ways:
1. Men discussing sex with their friends isn’t strange. If Donald Trump had merely been bragging about having sex with a woman, it would not have been controversial. Juvenile, yes, but ultimately innocent. Sexual assault, however, is a completely different issue and a worrying number of people seem to miss the difference. Sexual assault means a lack of consent, which Trump implied when he said that being famous meant that he could do anything he wanted to women, from grabbing and kissing them to grabbing them in other ways. This statement is not locker room banter.. This statement implies assault, and it is not okay.
2. The untrue excuse that discussions like these between men is common is incredibly disturbing. It creates the impression that deep down, in their private moments, free from the PC constraints of their female loved ones, all men are sex-obsessed beasts who simply cannot handle themselves around women and control the urge to be men, absolving them of all blame relating to sexual assault. As a feminist, I abhor this logic. It is degrading to men, who are more than capable of restraint and above the vapid sexism of this “locker room talk.” Moreover, for all the men that do casually talk about sexual assault in the locker room: Stop. You are a bad person, and you are gross.
So what are we to take away from this? Presumptively, nothing. We can all beat our chests and rant about how Donald Trump is the antichrist, but ultimately, there remains a very real chance of his winning the election in November. As a non-American, I can only distantly observe, and go about my day hoping that no man chooses to grab me against my will simply because he’s famous enough to do so.