By now everyone who isn’t in a coma knows that Donald J. Trump, the Republican nominee for President of the United States, has confessed to being a serial sex offender.
We’ve heard him declare proudly how he made the moves on a woman, who also happened to be married, despite being married to Melania (who at the time was pregnant with their son).
All the spin in the world is not going to change those two facts.
Trump and his surrogates have called this “Locker room talk.“ Locker room talk?? If that’s the case then there are far more rapists and sexual predators hanging out in locker rooms than I had even imagined was possible.
The reaction to the so-called Trump Tape was swift and certain. Democrats and many Republicans condemned the statements he had made on the tape. On Twitter and Facebook, Trump’s supporters continued to hold on and dig their heels in deeper, if anything, because as it turns out, Trump really can do absolutely anything and they will stand by their man. (See the comments to my Facebook post below for some prime example of this).
While it may come as a surprise to many of us that female Trump supporters are just as strident as male Trump supporters in the wake of this most recent bombshell, they really and truly are. I have heard from women who are blindly loyal, almost to the point of religiosity. (Incidentally, I would argue that sticking up for and defending an admitted sex offender is misogynistic and therefore deplorable, and the overwhelming majority of Trump supporters are sticking with him, so it would seem to logically follow that, if anything, Hillary Clinton underestimated the number of “deplorables” in that basket of hers.)
Anyway, I digress (which is what Trump supporters, led by Trump himself, are so good at doing to try to distract us from the truth).
Here is my point:
Since the Trumpettes are not abandoning him despite his lying, cheating, raping ways, it is up to the rest of us women to pick up the slack and show the rest of the world that we will not tolerate a man like this as our leader, and the leader of our daughters and sons.
See, here’s the deal with the American public and our most pressing socioeconomic problems. Something beyond horrific happens. It can be almost anything: young children are gunned down in their classroom (Sandy Hook massacre), a woman is raped on a college campus and her convicted rapist gets off with a slap on the wrist (Stanford swimmer rape), an unarmed African American man is shot dead by a police officer (Eric Garner, et al.), or even a natural disaster of epic proportions like a flood that devastates disproportionately the poorest members of the community (Hurricane Katrina).
What happens next is that the vast, vast majority of American people are saddened, even outraged. Then, there are the people who immediately try to explain it away. They say to the rest of us: there really isn’t a problem; these things happen; it was an accident; you are misinterpreting the situation; boys will be boys; the victim is a sleaze or has a criminal record, etc.; something else has happened before that is worse.
It’s always for these people: “Yes, but . . . ”
The sympathetic people do what they can to help in the immediacy of the event: they contribute money for displaced and devastated flood victims to rebuild their lives; they write letters or make phone calls to Congress calling for stronger gun laws; they post on Facebook articles and comments reflecting their beliefs and condemning sexual assault. It really and truly bothers and disturbs them—and this is the important part—at the time. Then, real life (for the sympathetic people) takes over. We have to raise our families, go to work, run a household, etc. Maybe part of this is human nature. Maybe we are so deeply wired to be resilient that it is the norm to reset to normality.
What remains, however, in the wake of these watershed events are two groups of people:
- The direct victims of the tragedy who probably will never get over what has happened to them or their loved one(s), and
- A group (of varying size, depending on the tragedy) of determined citizens who can’t let it go. They are saying to themselves, “Wait a second—not so fast—this is really important. This is crucial for the well being of Americans as a whole. We need to do something about this. There is an injustice and inequity here.” Those people may never stop feeling that way. They join groups and engage in peaceful demonstrations, circulate petitions, and continue to pressure Congress. They know that maybe they won’t be able ultimately to make a change but are hopeful enough to think that maybe change really is possible and it’s worth it to at least try. They are often up against great odds—a recalcitrant Congress, powerful lobbyists, big business—who resist change. Thus, change is most likely to happen when there is a groundswell of support that is intense and prolonged.
With that backdrop, we need to look at Donald Trump’s tape and the reaction to it. I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post that ran a couple days prior to the release of the Billy Bush tape. My piece provided a litany of examples of Trump’s sexism and misogyny, all gleaned by looking to readily available sources, including episodes of the Howard Stern show (which CNN began running over the weekend as a “breaking” story— but it was BuzzFeed that actually broke this story, way back in February by pouring through years and years of tapes).
In the meantime, the Howard Stern syndicated radio show began way back in 1980s as part of the so-called Shock Jock genre—emphasis on the shock. Stern’s show took off with its particularly lewd approach to the talk show format. The FCC finally chased Stern from regular radio airwaves in 2006, however, Stern continued to have a voice on satellite radio, where he was completely uncensored and a huge hit for SiriusXM. His show had an even broader reach once he negotiated a deal with E! to have his show videotaped for viewing on the cable network.
Donald Trump was apparently a natural fit for Howard Stern, calling into or appearing on his show about two dozen times over the years. Each time, Trump proceeded to engage in sexist, misogynistic banter with the host, saying outrageously lewd things about famous women, his wives, and even his daughter (Sure, he said to Stern, you can call Ivanka a “piece of ass”). Publicly. There was clearly a market for his particular brand of unbridled misogyny and Stern and Trump catered to it. As for the rest of us? We either changed the channel and didn’t listen, or at least we certainly didn’t stand up and say it was wrong, sexist, hateful, misogynistic.
All of this is to say just this: If you are offended and outraged by Trump’s tape and the things set forth in my article: Don’t. Let. It. Go. Instead of being one of the people who returns to your day-to-day life, que sera sera, say enough and let’s fight for the rights of women in this country and our daughters and granddaughters, including the right to be free of men who think they can treat us like objects.
In 2016, we have laws against sexual harassment, but successful politicians like Donald Trump, who has basically said (about the Fox News sexual harassment case) that rather than enforcing those laws against perpetrators, we should quit our jobs or be grateful for all that harasser has done for us. Perhaps this outmoded view of an appropriate employer/employee relationship explains why, on the set of The Apprentice, Trump himself engaged in sexual harassment, according to many cast and crew members.
In 2016, we have laws against rape, but when people are caught bragging that they sexually assault women and get away with it, Trump and his supporters call it “locker room talk.”
In 2016, we still blame victims of rape because of the way they dress or their backgrounds rather than keep the focus on the perpetrator. We say things like Donald Trump did when his friend, Mike Tyson, was convicted of rape. Well, you know, Donald said at the time, she was dancing with him and went to his hotel room. When victims of sexual assault do come forward, we either don’t believe the accuser or we identify with the perpetrator. We worry about a convicted rapist’s future more than the often shattered life of his victim.
With all that said, my fellow women and moms, you have a choice, and you have the right to vote your conscience when you cast your ballot:
Do you vote for Hillary Clinton, who has been fighting for women’s rights her entire life and really and truly “gets” what it’s like going through life as female in the United States, or do you vote for the man who is a known sexist, misogynistic bully, that brags about sexually assaulting women, and who has absolutely no respect for women.
Together we have the power to make this decision and send a message to the rest of the country and the world that we respect ourselves and our daughters and love our country too much to allow a Trump presidency. We can stop Trump and set ourselves on a path forward to an America where misogyny is no longer tolerated and accepted.