Rudy Giuliani’s Role In Normalizing Sexual Assault
ATTENTION RUDY GIULIANI: NOT EVERYTHING IS A FUCKING JOKE.
ICYMI “America’s Mayor” is one of three remaining Donald Trump surrogates. Everyone actually in elected office or running for elected office, from Speaker Paul Ryan on down, is scampering quickly away so they don’t get any of the shit in the “Trump tapes” on their shoes.
“When you’re a star they let you do it,” Trump said on the tape leaked last week. “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Then, yesterday, in case you didn’t yet feel like you were living in a reality show called “American Democracy on Fire,” Giuliani ratcheted up his support of Trump’s “locker room talk” with some of his own.
“We don’t want your socialized medicine! Take it and stuff it, up, ummb buh,” [trails off]. HUGE cheers from the crowd. “I didn’t say it!!” [hands up] “I didn’t say it; I suggested it, but I didn’t say it!”
While I contend that you can make jokes about anything (seriously, even rape — Dane Cook, who is awful, has a funny rape joke), not everything is a joke. Part of what makes Cook’s joke work is that he’s openly mocking how we have essentially casualized the word “rape” in a way that completely desensitizes us to sexual violence and gaslights victims.
Considering Giuliani’s public divorces (he notified his second wife of their divorce via press conference) and fighting with his ex-wives, it wasn’t necessarily inconceivable (if it ever is) that he was misogynistic enough to utter distasteful things about a female political opponent. And then there was his whole “men, at times, talk like that” shrug defense of Trump’s “locker room” talk tape.
“First of all, I don’t know that he did it to anyone,” Giuliani said on CNN. “This is talk, and gosh almighty, he who hasn’t sinned, throw the first stone here.”
When I accidentally heard the audio from yesterday, I was initially stunned. Like all of the women/femme people in my circle, I am worn down because — SORRY, BRO — words matter.
When “suggesting” that someone(s) shove ANYTHING up anywhere on the first woman candidate for president elicits laugh breaks in a speech, violent language against women has again been normalized. And this normalization actively perpetuates assault.
Studies show that shrugging off statements about sexual assault helps cultivate a sense that this violence is normal and to be expected; as a result, women are more likely to question other survivors, and even to refrain from reporting their own assault. I have questioned my own assaults in part because of this normalization.
Moreover, these statements are damaging because, for so many women, they are triggering, bringing to the surface traumatic memories that have been painfully downplayed as no big deal. As writer Kelly Oxford proved on Twitter, this affects basically everyone, to some degree.
Not even 30 minutes later, she followed up her original tweet by tweeting: “I am currently receiving 2 sex assault stories per second. Anyone denying rape culture, please look at my timeline now.”
Oxford was just asking for people’s first sexual assault. (For the record, I was 8 or 9; Kevin, on the playground as we were lining up after recess, walked up and performed the action Trump bragged about in front of the teacher. No action was taken.) Millions of people have seen it, tens of thousands directly retweeted it, and more than can be accurately counted shared their stories.
For most of us, our first assault was done rather casually, and for many it was brushed off by authority figures. So, listening to a high-level campaign surrogate — an authority figure — smile and laugh while describing a violation similar to what we have experienced is FUCKING TRAUMATIC.
It gets worse.
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was on ABC’s Good Morning America Wednesday morning; Politico reports she had this to say about Trump’s dwindling support and surrogate count:
“Well we want the support of anybody who’s going to publicly endorse us. But enough of the pussyfooting around in terms of, you know, do you support us or do you not support us? The fact is that some of these leaders have been wishy-washy.”
I get that “pussyfooting around” is a colloquialism. I’ve heard my mom say it in polite company, so I’m going to assume most people aren’t particularly offended by the phrase on its own.
But for the campaign manager of the Republican party’s presidential candidate to NOT GET THE OPTICS of using anything with “pussy” in it right now — WHILE their most active defender and surrogate is at a rally joking about shoving something up an orifice of the opposing candidate — is the death knell of satire.
This is not just — as has been repeatedly suggested to me on Twitter — me being “oversensitive” or demanding everyone be (GASP, THE HORROR!) “politically correct.” It’s not even just me giving a fuck or two about the psyche of more than 50% of our population.
This matters because words become action when they’re legitimized.
And this is hardly limited to words about sexual assault.
America’s Voice updated their “Trump Hate Map” today with a story from Talking Points Memo: “A Donald Trump supporter was arrested Monday night after allegedly threatening to beat a black woman outside a ShopRite in upstate New York.”
According to the responding officer, 55-year-old Todd Warnken yelled: “Trump is going to win & if you don’t like it I’m going to beat your ass.”
Trump’s encouragement of Islamophobia has also led to such pervasive violence, families are being driven out of our country.
To keep from pulling my hair entirely out, I’m going to rest in the optimistic rhetoric of Rebecca Traister, who wrote Monday that “Trump’s One Public Service Was Exposing the Misogyny of the GOP.”
Great, it’s exposed. The question we’re left with, then, is now what? Other than shoveling Skittles into our face holes, how do we use this moment and all this misogyny exposure?
We know how the far-right patriarchy fuckos are using it:
I have to hope we can do better — eventually. But much like overt racism spiked during the administration of the first Black president, I’m anticipating even more of this when we inaugurate a woman in January. If that proves to be true, it’s men that will need to handle themselves and their boys — and do a better job of that than us white folks did for our friends of color the past eight years.
You shouldn’t need to be anyone’s father or brother or son to not want to hear men in positions of power talk about grabbing, shoving, poking, sticking, etc. women against their will. Sexual violence is pervasive and destructive; that should be enough to condemn it. Just as language like that used by Giuliani and Trump can give others permission to speak and act in abusive ways, challenging the words that our friends, family, and co-workers use can work to reverse rape culture.
It’s not enough to ignore your buddy’s distasteful rape joke or not participate in egging him on while he plies the girl at the bar to soften her judgement. If we want the violence to stop, we must actively condemn the words and behavior that write the permission slip.
Lead image: flickr/PBS NewsHour