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.”Movie All Is Lost (2013)
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.
5 thoughts on “Minimizing sexism IS sexism, so knock it off”
“Gentlemen, which of you has never said something to your friends about a woman that you wouldn’t want played back years later”
Wow. How do these guys think about their sisters, wife’s and daughters?
He honestly couldn’t see the malevolence in his question,
I can honestly say there are no comments I have made over the past 58 years about women which I would not want played back now. I totally reject the “all men do it” garbage which is coming out after Trump’s comments were made public. All men do not objectify and treat women so appallingly. And I reject the notion that all men in leadership are like Trump. John Howard? Paul Keating? Gough Whitlam? Malcolm Fraser? I seriously doubt you would find any “Trumpisms” in these men’s closets! Mike is 100% correct. In fact I would say that minimising sexism is the WORST kind of sexism because it reveals an arrogance which only multiplies the impact of sexism.
As a fiftynine year old white male, married and father of two adult children I’d like to throw in my two bob’s worth.
I have been brought up in a sex-drenched, mysoginistic society. Naturally, this has had some impact on my life. In contrast to both my father’s and step-father’s example and encouragement I developed a level of respect for others. Perhaps I am odd. Perhaps I am average. I don’t know.
I regard to women, I hold them in respect as persons. At just about every level, my culture has encouraged me to objectify women. I am not immune. My head often goes to places that I am ashamed off. However, I can say that I have never (in my somewhat faultering memmory) participated in a conversation that has objectivied a woman or a girl. My sons have never heard me speak disrespectfully about a woman. This is not to say or suggest that I am a doyen of morality. Far from it according to my thought life!
But for me there is something about speaking those thoughts into the air; about sharing them with someone else and, thereby, possibly encouraging them or inticing them to also think those thoughs. To possibly translate those thoughts into actions.
Our words are important. Once spoken, once committed to the air, they do things.
My words are important.
Donald Trump’s words are important.
Every man’s words are important.
Locker-room talk is important.
Words that normalise sexual objectivity are important.
We have to be wise, deliberate and controlled with what we commit to the air.
Sexism should be called out, absolutely true.
And a point does need to be made that women are quite capable of being equally sexist and make equally sexually predatory comments.
A quick scroll through Facebook posts is proof of that – the bottom-flashing kilt shots, the ‘lets stare at David Beckham’s ass’ meme, the shirtless firefighters to name a few and that’s not to mention the comments those posts generate.
That an equal (but hopefully diminishing) number of men and women behave like boors should come as no surprise to anyone.