Trigger Warning: This post contains discussion of sexual assault and abuse.
If you have an Internet connection and/or a television, you have already heard the tapes of Donald Trump, Republican Nominee for President of the United States, brag about sexually assaulting women. In fact, you’ve probably heard it dozens of times by now.
To recap, Trump was caught on a hot mic talking to Billy Bush back in 2005 about how he tried to have sex with a married woman. Yesterday, The Washington Post shared the video, which showed Trump speaking in horrifically vulgar and aggressive terms about trying to sleep with a married woman. “I moved on her and I failed,” Trump said in the video. “I did try and fuck her. She was married.” Trump went on to explain how he can’t resist kissing beautiful women when he’s around them, but because he’s a star, he can get away with it. “When you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump bragged. “You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy.”
We feel the need to pause and remind our readers that this is the Republican nominee for President of the United freaking States bragging about grabbing women by the pussy. We are choosing not to censor his words, even though they are offensive. We feel that it is important that everyone be reminded constantly, every day, from now until November 8th, that this was said. This can’t be another “controversy” that is quickly forgotten with the turnover of the news cycle. Women will remember.
The Trump campaign was quick to issue a series of non-apologies. First, Trump said in a statement, “This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago.” Then, around midnight this morning, Trump released another “apology” to his Facebook page, claiming that he’s “not a perfect person.” Both statements had the edge of “sorry to anyone I offended” to them, which, as everyone knows, is not a real apology. It’s like saying, “Sorry you feel that way,” or “Sorry if that’s what you think.”
Furthermore, to dismiss his comments as mere “locker room banter” is a huge problem in and of itself. And it keeps getting repeated – Michele Bachmann was just on CNN this morning, calling Trump’s words “bad boy locker room talk.” To be clear, this was not just a PG-13-rated conversation between two men discussing a hot woman. This was specific, violent, aggressive. There was an underlying message of, “I’m a powerful man and therefore I can touch women without their consent.” Again – this man wants to be president. If he thinks he’s entitled to groping women as a reality star, what will he think when he’s sitting in the Oval Office?
And to anyone who doesn’t think rape culture exists, this is the perfect example. To write off his words as guy talk or to say that he was just “being a bro” is to perpetuate the normalization of sexual violence against women. It is not normal or acceptable for a man to boast about assault. When you minimize the severity of his words because of his gender, you are doing a disservice to every single woman AND every single good man. We should be able to give men more credit than to essentially insinuate that they can’t help themselves from saying disgusting and violent things about women. It is NOT “typical boy behavior.” And we should be able to protect women better by taking a collective stand against such language. Every time we dismiss something like this, it makes it harder and harder for sexual assault victims to come forward for fear of being minimized, dismissed, overlooked.
In the aftermath of the tapes, there has been an overwhelming response from other politicians, celebrities, and the general population of the Internet. The collective outrage over Trump’s statements is electric, and a quick scroll through Twitter will yield hundreds of thousands of angry tweets. Even high-profile Republicans have either made statements or taken to social media to condemn Donald Trump’s words. House Speaker Paul Ryan disinvited Trump from his own campaign rally, saying, “I am sickened by what I heard today. Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified.” Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney both took to Twitter to speak out against Trump’s words.
While we are happy to see these impactful political figures taking a stand, we also need to point out that women don’t need to be wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces, granddaughters, or aunts in order to be respected. Men should be able to sympathize with women without looking at them through a lens that paints them with a “relatable” label. Of course you wouldn’t want anyone saying or doing anything hurtful to your mother. Of course you would be enraged if someone groped your sister. But you should be enraged by ALL of it. You should be enraged when a stranger is assaulted. You should be enraged when a woman is violated, regardless of whether or not she is married or has children. A woman is a human being, before all other labels – and we need to start remembering that.
Depending upon the makeup of your Twitter feed, you might not see a lot of the other side. Unfortunately, what’s scarier than Trump’s words – what’s always been scarier than Trump himself – is his supporters. And there are some people who are standing by his side no matter what, or worse, cheering him on.
One woman on Twitter asked sexual assault survivors to share their stories after receiving tweets from Trump supporters defending him or denying the existence of rape culture. At the time of writing, she has received over a million stories from women.
Sexual assault and sexual violence has become a goddamn epidemic. According to RAINN, 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. And every 109 seconds, another person is assaulted. And the majority of perpetrators are never arrested or tried for their crimes. If you don’t think that rape culture exists, or if you don’t think that this is a crisis, then you are part of the problem.
One thing is clear. Trump’s comments throughout this election season transcend any one issue of gender, race, or religion. In choosing to support a candidate like him – someone who boasts about sexually assaulting women – says something about our character and morality as a country. It’s time to stop explaining away his illogical, irrational, and indefensible behaviors. We can do better. It’s time to stand up for what we know is right.
The time to make the right choice is now. Actually, it was yesterday, three weeks ago, three months ago, but since we can’t turn back time, it’s now. We cannot let this man become president. As Bill Maher said last night on Real Time, “Don’t fuck around with this election.” There is one choice and only one way to stop Trump: and that is to vote for Hillary Clinton.
But let’s be honest, this goes beyond the election. This goes beyond November 8th. Even if Hillary becomes President, this is not going to go away. Trump has unearthed something deeply troubling in our country. Between his comments on immigrants, his remarks about women, his mocking of people with disabilities, and all of the hundreds of things that he has said and done that would get anyone else disqualified from the election, he has still amassed a frighteningly large following. And that is the biggest problem of all. We have work to do in this country.
We are standing at the crossroads of history in the next thirty days. It’s essential to be on the right side, to make the right choice, so we can begin to heal and just do better. If we don’t make the right choice, our children will be looking back in history class one day and asking themselves, “How do we learn from these mistakes?” Let’s not be a cautionary tale – let’s be an inspiration.