Trump is a Symptom
I have been trying to write this post ever since the tape in which Donald Trump confesses to sexual assault was released. Initially I thought my frustration was with the hypocrisy of Republicans who were stepping back from Trump because suddenly they realized he was a sexist asshole, in spite of their own efforts to suppress women’s rights over the years.
That was part of it.
I am also frustrated by their willingness to let him spew racist, bigoted and sexist commentary all this time before they cravenly started disavowing him to save their own electoral skin because he said the word ‘pussy’ while confessing to assault of women – presumably mostly white women. I really think that they were more offended by his choice of vocabulary than what he was saying. I suspect if his poll numbers hadn’t already started to tank, there would have been fewer defections and more ‘locker room talk’ defenders.
Every day more things come out about Trump and his behaviour. More and more women are coming forward to talk about Trump’s sexism, abuse of power, voyeurism, sexual harassment and assault. Trump continues to try to deflect and divert attention by talking about this mythical locker room world and point to Bill Clinton’s alleged and confirmed sexual harassment and assaults of women.
We all know Bill Clinton was unfaithful to Hillary Clinton, and that at a minimum he harassed women and it is likely that he also assaulted women. I don’t know if every rumoured and alleged incident occurred as they have been reported in the media and portrayed at Trump’s press conference, but there are enough women making allegations that I believe that there is more than a kernel of truth in their stories. However, Bill Clinton is not actually the one running for president this year – the woman he betrayed is. Bill Clinton is part of the same culture as Donald Trump. They are both symptoms of a culture that permits mistreatment of women, as are all the men trying to excuse their comments and behaviour.
Donald Trump has portrayed his comments as locker room talk of the sort that every man engages in. His son Eric says it is to be expected when you get two ‘alpha’ males together. I was originally going to write about how that has not been my experience. Men don’t stand around chatting about their sexual assault strategies regardless of whether they are a locker room or not. Then some pro athletes came along and made that point and since my experience in actual locker rooms is pretty limited, I’ll leave them to make that case.
I was going to make the case that it is not all men who behave this way or stand around rating women. Each time I started down that road I could think of instances where I had been in the room when men were talking about how hot specific women were or other comments / jokes were made that objectified women. I also thought about how I did nothing to stop that commentary.
Most of this objectification comes from a version of masculinity that requires us to constantly demonstrate our heterosexuality. It is a a dangerous and toxic expectation that was certainly very strong when I was a teen, and while I have hopes that things are better for young men now, I suspect that they haven’t changed a whole lot. Most of us grow out of the need to brag, and in most cases exaggerate and lie about our sexual prowess. Most of us grow up to realize that the guys who talk the most shit are the ones who are the loneliest and most immature. Most of that locker room talk really are just words, except that they aren’t. Discussing and rating the attractiveness of specific women is part of the objectification of women and lays the foundation for a rape culture.
Then Mike Cruse over at Papa Does Preach wrote this great piece about the need to stop saying ‘Not All Men‘ and I couldn’t agree more. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t all men who are harassers and abusers. It does matter than there are enough men who see women as objects that lots of women experience harassment and assault and rape. It does matter that men stand up for all women and put a stop to this behaviour and attitude.
It is on all of us to examine our behaviour and attitudes to ensure we are treating all women with respect – and not just because we have daughters, sisters, mothers, etc. We need to ensure that we demonstrate that respect for all women, all the time, because they, like us, are people deserving of respect. It is also on all of us to step up when we hear other men disrespecting and objectifying women, regardless of whether there are any women in the room. It is on all of us to step up when we see other men harassing and abusing women. It is on all of us to take a stand and say – this is not ok.
It is men who will change the perception that it is ok for men to suppress women to demonstrate our own masculinity. It is men who need to change the box that says ‘boys will be boys’ – an excuse that irritates me to no end. It is the phrase that gives permission for boys and men to misbehave and get away with it.
This boys will be boys excuse is the same as the ‘locker room talk’ excuse that Trump and Billy Bush are using for cover. It is not ok. It is not acceptable and we, collectively need to stand up and say that.
It is time for men to step up and change the culture than spawned Donald Trump.Click To Tweet