Yesterday I was driving along when I saw the little rhyme “4 DOORS FOR MORE WHORES” affixed to the rear window of a pickup truck. The timing was rather serendipitous, as I had been checking in on on the fallout of the latest iteration of Trump being Trump throughout the day.
Several years ago, during one of the country’s periodic flares of interest in police discrimination against black men (it may have been Rodney King, cause I’m that old), I saw a black male comic discussing the event. He said that it was only whites who were shocked at the beating of a black man by police, because black people know that it happens all the time, it just doesn’t (or didn’t) usually make national news.
I can’t speak to whether that is the case or not. However, for similar reasons, I can’t help but be somewhat bemused by the reaction to this tape of Trump discussing his attitudes toward and treatment of women. Why, of all the horrible things he has said and done, is this the “nah thanks” moment for so many people?
While I personally find Trump’s language and actions reprehensible, I was a bit surprised by the terminology of Republicans such as RNC chairman Reince Priebus (awesome name): “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever.”
Really guys? I never knew you cared!
While I can’t attest to the experiences of all women in the country–perhaps there are bubbles where women really are habitually treated with respect and as something other than sex dolls–but I can tell you how the reality of being female has been represented to me since my early childhood.
I’m not sure when I first became aware that I was overweight (aka a “fatso” as it was perfectly fine for kids to call each other in the 70s), but I know that I was on a “diet,” without noticeable results, from age 5 upward. Beginning in middle school, all female bodies, from students to teachers to celebrities, were under scrutiny and freely discussed every day by the male members of my cohort every day, using the crassest terms that they had yet managed to pick up from their elders. Date rape, stranger rape, molestation by family members, being randomly grabbed on buses, are all part of a girl’s world from age eleven or twelve or so up (if not before). While it was wrong for boys to do these things, it was our job not to get ourselves into situations where it might happen. And this is just me, I’ve led a pretty sheltered life all things considered, just imagine what life is like for girls who did not have the blessings of caring parents and teachers at that vulnerable age.
Like most adult females, I find myself in the grocery store checkout line multiple types a week. Every time I’m confronted with dull-eyed, slack-jawed females, who look to me to be on the brink of death, dripping out of their clothes and surrounded by promises that if I buy this magazine, it will teach me to be more like the female on the cover, so that I can be wanted. If women are ever wanted for anything other than this particular, bizarre version of sexuality, you certainly couldn’t tell it from the newsstand.
And so far I’ve only been talking about women’s magazines. Moving to men’s magazines, pornography is now almost entirely mainstream, and every terrible thing Trump has said about women is entirely in keeping with what’s said every month in these perfectly healthy expressions of adult male sexuality, as we’re now expected to believe. And the pornographic mentality–that women are primarily if not exclusively there for the sexual gratification of men, things that are technically alive but whose feelings, much less thoughts, don’t matter–is seeping into the Christian world as well (see http://www.driscollcontroversy.com/?page_id=610). Women’s feelings don’t matter, that is, unless they enjoy being humiliated. And women are buying into this, note the popularity of that book 50 shades of grey.
4 DOORS FOR MORE WHORES. If you’re female, that sticker means you. If the guy who put it there wants you, that is. If not, I’m not totally sure what you are. Maybe nothing.
One in four girls (and one in six boys) are sexually abused before age 18. One in five women (20%) and one in 71 men are raped at some point in our lives. 100% of women are aware that they are in danger of being raped every day of their lives. We know where they should not go, what times of day they should not be out, who they should not be alone with (99% of rapists are men), and we pass this information along to our daughters. While men, and especially boys, can be rape victims as well, they do not need to be burdened with this type of information (at least as adults).
It is the latter percentage of women–100%–who I suspect hears Trumps comments and thinks “Yeah, that sounds about right.”A woman should never be talked about this way? What’s should?
Am I shocked by Trump’s comments? Well, in order to be shocked by something, you have to be surprised by it, right? I’m never surprised when a man says something like this about women. I’m surprised when they don’t.
Trump seems to identify primarily as a celebrity, not as a businessman and certainly not as a public servant (lol). Oh sure, technically there is a line which is generally recognized and not to be crossed which says that women must give their consent in order to be treated as sexual objects (yay). But so many celebrity women, regardless how talented and successful they are, bow to some kind of imperative that they must give permission to have their bare bodies gawked at on the covers of Rolling Stone, Playboy, or whatever. Of course, there’s a difference between being photographed and being physically grabbed. On the other hand, there’s always been the institution of the “casting couch,” and while I have no way of knowing whether that’s still a thing, it appears that the extent of sexual abuse of children in show business is starting to come out (http://www.salon.com/2016/05/30/the_dark_side_of_hollywood_the_secret_is_out_now_the_alleged_abuse_of_children_must_be_confronted_and_investigated/).
That’s the culture that Trump identifies with, the one that expects serious actresses (though not actors) to disrobe for public consumption, the one that decrees that women’s worth is dependent on youth, beauty, and boniness which must be simulated by means of cosmetics and surgery once/if she doesn’t have it naturally. This is the culture that makes Trump’s remarks perfectly normal, within their own context.
Does that mean Trump should get a free pass? Of course not. However, this is only one of many reasons he can’t be president. Look, even if he’s elected, he won’t be a president, if that word is to continue to have meaning, because he’s incapable of doing the things that presidents do.
But here’s what I am saying: Anti-Semitism was practically ubiquitous in literature before World War II. After the war, it suddenly became unfashionable; it went underground. But singling out, for example, Ezra Pound as an anti-Semite is absolutely legit: we are all responsible for the awful things we say and do regardless of cultural context. But it’s more useful to call out the culture that made it totally fine for Pound to be listened to and respected in spite of his anti-Semitism.
Even if it’s just a quick blip on the public’s consciousness, perhaps this Trump moment will wake up to the fact that there is a culture, perhaps not ubiquitous but extremely pervasive, in which Trump’s comments are perfectly normal, maybe not the best, but certainly overlookable. This culture impacts every girl and woman, every daughter, mother, and sister in our country. It’s time, as women, that we noticed this, recognized it, said “nah thanks.” And guys, it’s time for you to notice.
Citations for statistics cited: