This is not a blog about Donald Trump. Can I just make that clear? It’s about how some men think and speak about women. But I’m going to use Donald Trump’s recent comments as my jumping off point.
No doubt you’ve heard (unless you’re newly arrived from Mars) that back in 2005 Mr Trump made some very lewd, indeed disgusting remarks about women in a conversation with Billy Bush of Today and Access Hollywood.
As they see actress Arianne Zucker approaching, Trump is heard saying to Bush, “I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.”
When Bush expresses some incredulity at this statement, Trump presses the point, “Grab them by the p*#%. You can do anything.”
In brief, Mr Trump boasts that he can grab women’s private parts because he’s a celebrity. He refers to another woman as a “bitch” and a “piece of ass”, and bemoans that she, a married woman, had once rejected his, a married man’s, oafish advances.
There’s no need to go into Mr Trump’s obvious weaknesses. Neither do I want to express any opinion on his qualifications to be president. In fact, those of us who have heard his vulgar ranting about women on the Howard Stern Show weren’t the least bit surprised by the Billy Bush conversation.
What shocked me was the level of justification and minimizing that occurred by his supporters afterwards. When I posted a link to the Change.org petition launched by American Evangelicals Concerning Donald Trump, my Facebook thread filled up with comments like these:
- Who cares?!!!
- So he said some bad words. Hillary and Bill are worse.
- Guilty of the potty-mouth.
- So be it. He is a street fighter, but many believe he will fight for America.
- Real sexism is not locker-room braggadocio.
- JFK and LBJ and Bill Clinton did far worse!
- You are against a man who talks dirty?
- He said mean things and hurt some feelings. So what?
- No one is perfect.
Let’s be clear, some men think that boasting about sexually assaulting a woman is simply potty mouth. Think about that!
Another commenter on that thread posted, “Gentlemen, which of you has never said something to your friends about a woman that you wouldn’t want played back years later?”
Answer: Well, me.
I’m pretty sure, to the best of my recollection, that I haven’t called women bitches, dogs, animals, or pigs, and that I haven’t boasted about groping their private parts.
If you think Trump is a worry, think on this: there are men walking among us who think his attitude to women is no big deal. We all do it, they say. He’s only guilty of having bad manners, they minimize.
Dismissing Trump’s remarks as “he said mean things” is frankly outrageous. I can’t imagine how women felt reading the comments on my post. My first reaction was to delete them (I did delete some of the worst of them), but then I thought there was value in letting these men expose themselves for all to see.
Trump’s Billy Bush moment was like ripping a scab off male culture and revealing the misogyny, the fear, and the downright insensitivity toward women.
It’s male privilege at its most appalling. And, if Van Jones is right (and I believe he is), it’s white male privilege because as Jones points out, if a black man spoke about a white woman that way he would have been arrested.
Too many men are completely blind to the effect of their speech about women. Face it, guys, we have a serious problem with sexism. Minimizing sexism IS sexism, so we need to knock it off.
Dreadful as it is to admit, there are men in this world who assault women. But that’s a crime and they should be appropriately punished.
Now we’ve discovered there are men who actually boast about assaulting women, whether they have done so or not.
But even worse, there are many men who minimize and make excuses for men who boast about assaulting women. And that makes it a scary world for women, and a revolting world for men like me.