On Friday when the video of “Trump on the Bus” came out, I rolled my eyes and shrugged. What else is new? It’s in keeping with everything else we know about him. So it’s been interesting, and surprising, to me, that Republican leaders are using this particular item as their exit pass from the Trump train wreck.
Racism, hate-mongering, already evident misogyny, ignorance about the world, ignorance about the workings of our government and political system, promotion of torture and violence, authoritarianism, nonsensical and self-contradictory agendas (“I’m gonna get us out of these wars.” “I’m gonna bomb the hell out of ISIS.”), and an inability to form complex sentences: none of these caused a mass disavowal by leading Republicans. But this video? That tipped them over the edge. Why?
What I keep hearing is, “I have daughters.” “I have a wife.” “I have a sister.”
Cue continued eye-rolling.
Are these senators and governors saying that if they didn’t have a daughter they wouldn’t be able to figure out that one human being shouldn’t treat another human being the way that Trump and Billy Bush were treating the actress in the video or the other woman Trump was talking about? Are they saying that it seems okay to talk and act that way until they imagine their own daughter on the receiving end of it?
It’s that kind of paternalism that feeds the very behavior they are making such a show of being appalled by. Either way the female is objectified, either as a sexual object, a virginal object, or a wifely object. How many of those same Republicans have worked to undermine women’s rights? Objecting to Trump’s lewd behavior on the basis that one “has a daughter” subtly but powerfully reinforces a worldview in which men have agency and women don’t. It casts women in the role of potential victims in need of protection, and it casts men in the role of protector or villain.
Think I’m exaggerating? Here’s what Mitt Romney said via Twitter: “Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.”
Who is he talking to? When you say “our wives and daughters” you’re only speaking to other married men. Does Mitt Romney not realize that I am a voter? I know this post is riddled with rhetorical questions, so I’ll answer this one. Of course on one level Mitt Romney knows women vote. And he knows gay men vote. And that other people who don’t have wives or daughters vote. But his remark betrays him as someone who views men as the world’s actors and women as existing in subordinate or supporting roles, and a lot of other people as not even existing.
I watched a movie recently, Theeb, a United Arab Emirates film, that had a cast solely of men. There was not one woman in the entire movie, unless you count the small photograph of the Englishman character’s wife. It was a very good movie, so I’m not saying it should have been different. But it’s odd to watch a world devoid of women. The movie blurbs don’t describe it as a film about men. It’s just a story. But if a cast had all women it would be billed as a movie about women, and would be considered an oddity. In Theeb, the Bedouin characters often referred to their father, but never mentioned their mother. Maybe someone who knows more about Bedouins than I do could explain to me where the women were when the characters were still at “home” (to the degree that nomads ever are) before setting off across the desert on their adventure.
When I see Romney’s “our wives and daughters” I feel like I’m a step away from the erasure I experienced watching that movie. And he ran for president four years ago!
I’m a Bernie Sanders supporter, but when Hillary Clinton won the nomination I thought, well, it will be a pleasure watching her destroy Donald Trump in the debates. I couldn’t wait to see her dance circles around him with her intelligence and experience (and ability to form complex sentences). What was I thinking? Of course she doesn’t get to do that. Of course she spends the first debate getting interrupted by Trump over 50 times. Of course she has to stand by politely and endure his nonsensical blathering. Bernie would have been able to shout. He would have been able to say, “You’re wrong and you’re an idiot.” But Hillary Clinton can’t do that. She has to smile and keep her voice moderate, and act, for the most part, as if she’s engaging in an actual debate rather than tolerating the ranting of an ignorant, overgrown bully.
So yeah, all the Republican hand-wringing and prim outrage over “Trump’s lewdness” leaves me both unimpressed and nonplussed. You reap as you sow, and Trump is the big ugly mess that grew out of the seeds planted via Fox “News” and conservative talk radio. He is the most obvious symptom of an underlying disease.