No Point in Crying Over Pussygate
I am very sensitive person. I am the kind of thin-skinned screeching baby harpy that boys on Reddit have fevered nightmares about. But I was neither surprised nor offended by the audio of Donald Trump talking about grabbing pussies, married women, tits and legs. Donald Trump is an idiot, but that doesn’t mean we all have to act like idiots too.
For instance, why was everyone so surprised? Donald Trump has multiple assault accusations, including his ex-wife Ivana’s horrific story detailing how he, angered by a painful and dissatisfactory scalp reduction surgery, ripped out parts of her hair and then raped her. For the past decade, a woman has been trying to take Trump to court for raping her when she was 13. Stories are rushing in and piling up now, but even before pussygate a one-click Google search could marshal accounts of Donald Trump calling women names, judging them, degrading them, attacking them and mocking them. He owns Miss USA! Meaning no disrespect to the women who work hard to participate in that world, but men who run it are suspect. Trump’s mistreatment of women in his pageants and on The Apprentice were fundamental to his identity and his calling card to fame. Yet we all seemed to forget. Trump was defined by and applauded for his sexism. It was what made him exciting and controversial.
I don’t understand how America still believes in the consensual playboy. Why do we cling to the fantasy that men like Donald Trump, Hugh Hefner and James Dean could obsess over a type of women’s bodies and still have a healthy relationship to the notion and the practice of consent? Men do still want to believe that that if they are big enough, all women will say please instead of no. Trump has said as much about himself. But in believing that any man has this power over women, you demonstrate that you don’t think highly enough of women — or at least don’t think highly enough of certain type of woman (models, gold diggers; i.e. women who are just perpetually available to you) — to give credit to their agency; i.e. the ability give consent. The playboy story must die. Not only is it based on the bullshit idea of upward mobility/bootstrapping-poor-becoming-rich-under-capitalism, but it’s based on the concept of women as rewards. Sorry not sorry, high flying playboys are probably all rapists.
Trump’s specific type of universal racism should have been another big giveaway for his views on women. Other people have already noted that the national reaction to Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims and to his attacks on Mexicans suspiciously pales in comparison to the anger at Trump bragging about groping white women. But extreme racism and the treatment of all women as property are often linked. Trump’s repulsive statement that Mexican immigrants were rapists revealed not only his white supremacist views on race, but also his white supremacist views on women. Trump chillingly echoed the words of Charleston Church shooter Dylann Roof who yelled: “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go,” before shooting the members of the black congregation. White nationalists are terrified of men of other races having sex with white women, i.e. miscegenation. The idea that white women belong to white men so that they can make strong white babies and keep a pure bloodline is a key teaching of white nationalism.
Whether Trump consciously thinks of himself as a white nationalist or not, it was obvious from the beginning of his campaign that he is towing that line, and viewing women as chattel goes with that territory. It’s hard to miss, given that Trump has a long list of women he deems basically unworthy of life, including women with any extra weight, short women and women without big boobs. Any woman who doesn’t meet Trumps sexual standards, or in the case of white supremacists “breeding standards,” have no purpose. This idea of women’s value being based on their breedability is spelled out in blogs such as Return To Kings, which promotes the idea that a women’s only worth is how appealing she would be to mate with. Most notably placed on the list of women beneath Trump’s notice are women of color. Trump never speaks about women of color — not in his short political career, nor even in his tirades on Howard Stern. Trump never attempted to address how his supporters have repeatedly attacked Black women at his rallies, nor did he apologize to Michelle Obama after his wife blatantly copied her speech. In fact, Trump’s main interactions with women of color during his campaign have been incredibly insulting. From his disturbing comment on Ghazala Khan, the mother of a fallen Muslim US soldier, to his 3 AM attack of Alicia Machado, it should be obvious that Trump attributes even less humanity to women of color than to white women. Men like that have very specific idea of the social pecking order and who gets to do what to whom without asking.
Yet, somehow everyone seemed surprised when the racist playboy was caught talking about assaulting women. Men from the GOP and the usual collection of awkward pundits seemed scandalized. We had to watch a parade of thin-lipped men with wide-glazed eyes stutter about their daughters and mothers, and try to find a million ways to not say pussy on air. It was as if they had never heard of someone being groped before. Women are groped in concerts, public transportation, and at work all over the country every day, which means that there are men all over the country who are thinking about doing it every day. When Trump later tried to write off his pussy chatter as locker room talk, the media grabbed hold of it and ran around in circles with articles like “We interviewed real athletes to see what they thought of Trump’s ‘locker room talk’” in which male athletes would amusingly disavow participating in Trump-like conversations. This was confusing for me given how many scandals around rape and domestic violence come out of many major sports leagues and high school sports teams.
Ultimately, what was most frustrating about the collective reaction of the media was that somehow Trump gave men all over the country the opportunity to cough awkwardly and say “well I never.” To act like Trump’s pussy grabbing boast is something so alien to manhood is to discredit millions of women who have experienced such behavior first hand. These scandalized affectations lie at the heart of why I refuse to be offended by pussygate. The chorus of male voices “well I never”-ing is a barrier to addressing systemic issues of bodily ownership and the agency of desire. While we spend time being scandalized by the larger than life Donald Trump, we are distracted for the matter-of-fact reality of sexual assault at hand. Trump is not the problem, but he is symptomatic of it. The playboy story is alive in the heart of America, and in that story, the only women around always want to be grabbed. The white supremacist doctrine in which white women are breeding chattel and other races are less than disposable is growing in followers, not losing them. Trump will lose the election, but neo-racist rapey chauvinists are not going anywhere.
One rapey old school chauvinist that is sticking around forever is America’s creepy uncle, Bill Clinton. When Trump brought out Bill Clinton’s victims, liberals all over the country rolled their eyes. Yes, it did nothing but make Trump look cruel and manipulative. But the point still stands that Bill is probably a rapist. Bill has been accused of rape publicly four times and many of the relationships he has had are with women much younger — and with less power — than he. Bill Clinton is still freely greasing his way around the United States, “dicking bimbos” as Colin Powel said in his recently leaked emails. Bill Clinton is a great example of a guy who, for whatever reason, the public has decided to ignore everything women who know him have said, and hold him up as cute teddy bear whose paw keeps sliding down your back. I remember being told at very early age that he was “charming.” The problem with charming men is that when they assault a woman, no one believes her when she says she didn’t want it. It’s recently come out that Hillary’s campaign gathered data and spent money and energy on discrediting his survivors. While I don’t think wives are ever responsible for their husbands crimes of sexual assault, in any kind of relationship one is responsible for how one acts once the allegations come out. I refuse to be hurt by what Trump said, partly because I refuse feel anger or pain feel in response to Trump syphoned off to support a campaign run by a woman who would go out of her way to discredit other suffering women for her own gain.
I refuse to be offended too. I refuse to be offended by Trump’s words because in doing so I am lending validity to the argument that those words were some kind of jokey banter, not an admission of sexual assault. I don’t need a thicker skin because I am not a mad, bro. I am simply saying you’re a rapist. With the rise of the alt-right and the increase of grassroots white nationalist movements, a group of people has emerged who relish being able to offend others, to anger them or hurt their feelings. To combat something like that we need to step away to a place where we are using our feelings as indicators and to stand in a place in which we are certain of what we are not going to accept. Sexist jokes are offensive; committing an act we know is categorically unacceptable is not offensive, it’s just unacceptable. There is no point crying over spilt milk or awful people being awful when you knew they would. But there is a point in fighting it, or cleaning up the milk when it’s spilled.