The Boys on the Bus

D.F. Allen

As the nation reels from Trump’s newest outrage, the shocking and cavalier language he used to describe sexual assault of a married woman, it is a good time to look inward. To examine how Trump has happened, and why. This is beyond politics, beyond policy. This is misogyny, sexual violence and the celebration of the sexual objectification of women that has permeated American culture for far too long. From the jokesy repugnant banter on the Howard Stern show to the rise of Fox News sexual predator Roger Ailes, the abuse and degradation of women is alive and well in America.

Donald Trump is horrible, his remarks and behavior disgusting. But his behavior didn’t happen in a vacuum. We live in an environment where the assault and grotesque objectification of women is encouraged, rewarded or just allowed through quiet acquiescence. Trump’s comments about his daughter on The Howard Stern Show rightfully drew indignation and disgust. But let’s not get so fixated on our disgust with Trump that we can’t see the forest for the trees. The very existence of a monstrosity like The Howard Stern Show speaks volumes. Couched as humor, Stern’s casual and crude mockery of female guests exploits their sexuality and reduces them to little more than fodder for for his amusement. This is a man who joked “The closest I came to making love to a black woman was I masturbated to a picture of Aunt Jemima on a pancake box.” How many people can you possibly offend with one sentence? At its peak, The Howard Stern Show had 20 million listeners. What’s wrong with this picture?

The rape epidemic in our society is a disaster and can no longer be ignored. Once beloved comedian and actor Bill Cosby now faces trial for felony sexual assault after more than a dozen women came forward claiming Cosby drugged and sexually abused them. Earlier this year, we read about the physical and psychological sexual abuse of a woman for two decades at the hands of her boss, former CEO of Fox News, Roger Ailes. Sexual violence on campus is so ubiquitous that the Obama administration released the first-ever federal guidance on how universities should handle sexual assaults. Stanford Swimmer Brock Turner raped an unconscious girl behind a dumpster and walked away after a mere 3 months in jail. We watched Owen Labrie stand trial for sexually assaulting a 15-year old girl during a ritual called “Senior Salute” at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire.

And let’s not forget the encouraging laughter of the other boys on the bus, namely Billy Bush. The casual joshing, the knowing winks. Because therein lies the other problem — those who perpetuate by doing nothing but nodding and smiling. The approval of the profane, the quick defense of both Trump and Ailes by men in power like Rudy Guliani. The admonishment not to throw stones. The sad, desperate references to “locker room talk” or “guy talk”. We live in an era where we excuse men because they are men and “sometimes men talk like that.” The bar for our shock and outrage has been raised so high, that we no longer function in a way that makes sense for women, in a way that is fair to women, that treats them as adults and equals.

This is a difficult time to be a woman in America. Although we’ve made strides we have a long way to go and perhaps our biggest challenge will be changing the way we view sexual abuse and mistreatment of women. Men and women must collectively realize that it’s horrible, that degradation is not funny, it is not erotic. We must stop allowing such vile treatment to become pervasive. Women must make a choice for this election and there is only one candidate to even consider. Trump should never have gotten this far but as women we must actively ensure he goes no further. Make no mistake, his administration will do you harm. Trump does not like women, Trump does not respect women, Trump degrades and uses women. I urge you, whether Republican or Democrat, to take this election as the most serious we’ve ever faced. This is bigger than your party. Help protect your sisters, your daughters, your mothers, and yourselves. Vote to keep our country out of the hands of this monster. Women deserve better.