I’m currently taking a class on Civil Rights in the United States, and I was in the middle of drafting this great piece about Colin Kaepernick, black demonstration, and race in the US. I was fully prepared for this to be a nice, slow burn type of piece that would fully occupy me for the next month. However, American politics has once again proven to be an endless source of entertainment and confirmation that I did the right thing by pursuing choosing a Political Science degree (thanks, Mum and Dad!).
News stations across the world have been going crazy over the #TrumpTames. If you haven’t managed to hear about this, perhaps because sheer mental exhaustion over the global political climate has caused you to disconnect your TV, I’ll explain; tapes have surfaced from a 2005 interview which caught Donald Trump being quite disparaging about women. In these tapes he brags about his fame, and how said fame allows him to do “whatever he wants” to beautiful women. The particular phrase he uses is truly a work of art that could only be sincerely uttered by one as refined as The Donald, but I’ll leave that out because I have heard that particular soundbite over 20 times in the last 12 hours.
Now, were Donald Trump’s remarks sexist? Yes. Is he a misogynist? Probably. Is this surprising to anyone? Somehow, yes. Amazingly, Trump’s oral history of discriminatory remarks against black people, Mexicans, and war veterans wasn’t enough to truly smoke his chances at the Oval. And the last one is surprising given America’s usual national fervor and rabid adoration for anything involving their troops. Saying Mexico is sending over rapists? Fine. Supporting stop and frisk? A-ok. Saying it’s okay to grab a woman “by the p*ssy”? Whoa, whoa, whoa, man. Too far. But why? Why, after months of acknowledging that Trump is a straight-talking Oompa Loompa who “just keeps it real,” has both right and left wing press gotten up in arms? Ah, because of the women.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mean a realization that women are people and deserve to be treated with respect and not, you know, sexually assaulted on a whim. I mean because, if Donald Trump can do this to a random woman, that woman could be anyone. Your wife. Your daughter. Your grandma. That one lady you shared the elevator with last Tuesday. Who cares if he’s disrespectful to women in general, Trump hit on a married woman! That could have been your wife! Because apparently, you can’t empathize with the plight of a woman who doesn’t have some relation to you. For some reason, half the posts from outraged and disgusted male politicians lead with “As a father/husband/son of a/two loving wife/daughter/mother…” Would these comments have been okay if you were a father to two sons? I understand the need to relate, but if the only way you can see these comments as a problem is by relating them to yourself, there is a problem. By posing a threat to their possessions-sorry, female loved ones, Trump crossed the line, and as the reactions show, this will not be tolerated.
Well, kind of. The Donald wasn’t kidding when he said that he could straight up 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. Every day on the internet (mostly Twitter), I am reminded of the human capacity for intelligence and understanding, and also gross stupidity. The most common defense I have heard of Trump is truly baffling.
“Okay, yeah, as a presidential candidate, what he said was bad, but come on! It’s just locker room talk; it doesn’t mean anything. All guys say stuff like that around their buddies!”
Hm. Okay, yeah, two things:
1. Guys talking about sex with their friends isn’t strange. If Donald had been bragging about having sex with a woman, nobody would bat an eye. Following? Okay.
Sexual assault, however, is an entirely different ball-game, 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 bro-y sex talk. This statement is assault, and (this is the important bit): it is not okay.
2. The argument that all guys talk like this to each other, while being false, is also worrying. First of all, 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, which is why rape just isn’t their fault. 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.
The easy admission of this behavior by some people is pretty amazing, to me, at least. What I’ve understood from this is that talking about women in this way is “normal” behavior. However, going by the youtube comments section, I am also to understand that rape culture(normalization of male sexual violence) is a myth. Fascinating. Nonsensical, but fascinating, nevertheless.
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 because he’s famous enough to do so.