Excusing Trump Comments: More Tacit Approval for Violence Against Women

Our society — through advertisements, movies, television . . . and now attempts to ignore and/or accept blatantly predatory comments coming from presidential candidate Donald Trump — gives tacit approval to male domination and violence against women.

Donald Trump — photo by Damon Winter/The New York Times

When people accept Trump’s sort of aggressive language against women merely as “locker room chatter,” they reinforce the dangerous idea that men are dominant and can can take any action imaginable to get whatever they want from girls and women.

Most men, thankfully, would never speak in that manner, nor would they consider taking what they want from women without acceptance and permission.  However the sick individuals of our world hear the words of Trump and the acceptance of such remarks as society’s permission for them to exert their “rights” of male domination, allowing them to commit acts of sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, and even murder of women who resist.

New York Times op-ed columnist Charles M. Blow got it exactly right in his October 10, 2016, column entitled, “Donald Trump, Barbarian at the Debate:”

“When the moderator Anderson Cooper said to Trump, “You described kissing women without consent, grabbing their genitals. That is sexual assault. You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?” did Trump actually respond: “No, I didn’t say that at all. I don’t think you understood what was — this was locker room talk”?

Did Trump essentially say that he didn’t actually say the things we all heard him say? Did he actually try to deflect and normalize sexual predation as ubiquitous jocular language intrinsic to maleness itself? Does he not actually realize that this is precisely how rape culture is maintained and perpetuated — through normalization? Does he not register that that answer should scare the daylights out of every woman and shame every man who knows full well how aberrant and not at all normal those comments were?”

More recently Aishah Shahidah Simmons expanded on these ideas in her New York Times article (October 13, 2016), “Still So Much Work to Do to End Violence Against Women:

When high-profile white men assert what they see as their right to do what they want to women, it sanctions all men to do the same. This type of behavior becomes normal, excused as a “boys will be boys” phenomenon. It transcends race and culture because it’s about dominance over women, but more often than not, it is the most marginalized women who suffer the most. Men may not be able to degrade a famous actress to her face, but if they feel free to speak in such vulgar terms about her in private, imagine what they might feel they could say or do to another woman without the same visibility. Or, more broadly, imagine if Trump’s defense of “locker room” language is accepted by judges or those who end up on the jury of a sexual assault case.”

Correcting this deplorable situation is more than being sensitive to the rights of women and girls.  It’s about creating a society that no longer accepts patriarchy and male domination — the gateways to violence against women. What can be done?  The New York Times writer, Peggy Orenstein has some answers in her October 15, 2016, article, “How to Be A Man in the Age of Trump:”

“Boys need continuing, serious guidance about sexual ethics, reciprocity, respect. Rather than silence or swagger, they need models of masculinity that are not grounded in domination or aggression.

Last year, California became the first state to make lessons on sexual consent mandatory for high school students. Meanwhile, the Our Whole Lives program — a model for positive, comprehensive sex education that was developed by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ — encourages students to dismantle stereotypes from a young age. The Population Council’s It’s All One curriculum offers adolescents lessons about gender, power and rights within intimate relationships (not for nothing: including those discussions in sex ed has been proven to reduce rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections). And, of course, we can meet kids on their own turf, with clever internet resources such as the viral video comparing sexual consent to a cup of tea (just because a person wanted tea last week doesn’t mean she wants it now; unconscious people never want tea) or “The Sexually Enlightened R&B Song.”

The murder of Marilyn Sheppard began as a sexual assault.  When she resisted, she was was brutally murdered. Read my earlier blog post, “Did Society “Authorize” this Murder?

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