When Election Coverage Reaches a Tipping Point and I Start to Cry Once a Day
After the 2005 tape came out of Donald Trump talking so crassly about assaulting female bodies in general, specific women started coming forward to accuse Trump of sexual harassment. His response has varied from dismissing his comments as locker room talk, to implying his innocence by putting down the looks of the accuser, to vehemently refuting the allegations.
I have seen this all before– brave women being treated horribly, then dismissed and discredited. Of all the friends and students in my life who live with horrendous stories of sexual assault, only a handful choose to report it, and even fewer saw any consequences for the assaulter. Most, knowing how successful perpetrators can be at blaming the survivor, remain silent, creating a dangerous and prevalent closet that remains severely under-addressed in our society.
Trump’s deflection tactics also include trying to make Bill Clinton look worse than himself and blaming Hillary in the process.
This move is too familiar. For the duration of time a guy I dated cheated on me, he aggressively accused me of cheating on him. I was so taken aback and disillusioned by the unfounded accusations, I focused on clearing my name. I didn’t have enough energy left to see his blatant acts of betrayal. Deflection works.
Also related, Trump called Mexicans rapists and asked for the death penalty for the Central Park 5, refusing to take it back after their innocence was proven. By projecting sexual violence to the other, to strangers, to people of color, it creates ungrounded fear, takes focus off actual offenders, and de-legitimizes the experience of assault victims all while creating hateful and harmful stereotypes.
Of all the women I know who have been raped, only one was raped by a stranger. Almost all the women I know, including myself, who have been assaulted or harassed have been assaulted or harassed intra-racially by people we know and have to see all the time. Trumps tactics are tactics I know well.
It has been fascinating to see sexism and misogyny play out on the global, presidential level where there is so much media traffic, but underneath the scope and scale, the actual patterns are not surprising. Some people are seeing the moves clearly for the first time. For others, they are painfully commonplace. The interrupting, the name calling, or the getting credit without credentials or hard work, are exaggerated by Trump and televised and then analyzed by the media on a scale and stage that is new, but the patterns of sexism are ones we live with daily. We are seeing our lives played out, albeit Trumped up, right in front of us. This uber, misplaced caricature of masculinity is helpful if we are reflective about it and not dismissive.
Now that sexism and harassment patterns are in the spotlight, how do we best take advantage? We can start by voting, sure, of course. We can pay attention to the women like Michelle Obama and Samantha Bee. We can listen to the truth seeking conversations Kerri Miller is masterfully curating on MPR News. But then we need to bring it home. It can’t stop at the presidential level by analyzing Trump, keeping it a safe distance from ourselves, or we will be no better than him. This is a great opportunity for all people, especially men, to do some work in this area.
We can listen to the women in our lives without interrupting. We can give them proper credit for the work they do. We can believe their stories, validate their stories, and let their stories change how we think and act. We can write more stories with lead female characters who are familiar and complex so that both boys and girls grow up knowing that women are not disposable accessories to the main plot line. We can work with our sons and daughters on what it means to be decent human beings who love and respect our bodies and the bodies of others.
There is so much more, but I’ll stop there for now. It’s not enough, but it’s where I plan to start. I’d love to hear from you, too.