I’ve noticed this trend in conservative circles–this sort of minimizing how Trump talks about women, turning it into a micro issue. It’s not really important, after all. Democrats and liberals are making a mountain out of a molehill. There are more important things to talk about. Democrats are hyperfocused on this, it’s minimal, there are plenty of conservative women who wouldn’t care if Trump called them fat, it’s unimportant.
I’ve even heard this mentality from my friends, the idea that Trump is the lesser of two evils. It shocks me, I won’t lie. Especially given the insults, the slut-shaming, the 3AM hysterical tweeting–and of course the newly released audio where he brags about grabbing women “by the pussy”.
So let’s talk about why it’s important.
I’m 12 years old. I’m at the seventh grade dance. I’m wearing a dress my mom bought on sale, looking with longing at the girls in brand name outfits. Their makeup is perfect, even at 12-years-old, they know how to do their hair while mine resembled a dirty haystack. I want so badly to be asked by a boy to dance. I work up my nerve and ask two boys. They shake their heads, walk away, and laugh. I hear the words “freak” and “weird”. Girls snicker at my failure. My mom picks me up, I go home, and cry myself to sleep. No boy wants me. I am not pretty enough. I am unworthy.
I’m 13 years old. Boys come up to me, ask me out, then laugh at me when I believe them. “She actually said yes! Kevin, I did the dare, you owe me your lunch!” Now, every time a boy talks to me, I am suspicious. They couldn’t possibly be interested in me. I am not pretty enough. I am not valuable.
I’m 14 years old. A boy asks me to homecoming. I think it’s a joke. He has to convince me that he’s serious and is bewildered by it. I go to homecoming with him, still feeling like it’s all a prank, because that’s what I’ve been taught.
I’m 15 years old. I walk to the QT during the summer to get slushies and snacks. Middle-aged men honk at me from their trucks. One even follows me while I’m walking home, seeming to enjoy my discomfort.
I’m 16 years old. I learn that one of my female classmates had sex with her boyfriend. I feel superior to her, because I’m still a virgin, because I think that my inherent worth as a woman is based on whether I’ve had sex or not. I talk about her behind her back.
I’m 16 years old. I walk to the library by myself. I feel flattered by the catcalls I get from boys at the local public school. I’m desirable, I’m worth something after all.
I’m 16 years old. A guy grabs me on the street. I pull my knife on him. He calls me a bitch and walks away. This time, I tell my dad what happened. He calls the cops. I wonder why my dad is shaking. This is hardly abnormal behavior from men.
I’m 17 years old. Boys ask me about one of my friends. “She’s lost so much weight! She looks so sexy!” I find out, months later, that she developed an eating disorder. I never forgive myself for not noticing.
I’m 17 years old. I see another friend date a guy who pressures her to have sex. She has sex with him, because he tells her no one else will want her. When he dumps her, she cries on my shoulder all night long.
I’m 18 years old. I go to college. A guy tries to grab my chest at a winter formal. I nearly break his fingers. One friend laughs and high fives me. Another says I was too harsh. “He was just joking around. All guys get handsy when they’re wasted.”
I’m 18 years old. The first time I get drunk is in a boy’s dorm with six other male soccer players three years older than me. I’m the only girl. Nothing bad happens to me. I realize later–after something bad happened to a friend at my new college–how much danger I was in and how lucky I was.
I’m 19 years old. I transfer colleges. A guy on a bicycle slaps two girls on the behind while they’re walking to class. They are upset enough to report it. An email is sent out and it becomes a campus-wide joke. A Facebook group for the “Ball State Ass-Slapper” appears, with guys cheering him on and girls saying, “He can slap my ass any day!” I feel like I’m the only one upset about it and I worry about the two anonymous girls, reduced to a joke.
I’m 20 years old. My favorite professor is voted “hottest professor” on RateMyProfessors. The student newspaper wants to interview her. She refuses. I wonder why. Isn’t it nice to be validated by your looks? Doesn’t she like the attention?
I’m 20 years old. I walk with my best friend to the local Chinese place. Guys catcall us. We raise our middle finger at them. They call us bitch. I’m just starting to learn that I do not exist for men’s validation.
I’m 21 years old. I visit England for the first time and go out dancing. A guy smacks my ass. I turn around, infuriated, and scream at him. Later, I’m told that it was silly for me to get upset. “That’s just how guys are, it’s not a big deal.” I try to explain that me going out dancing doesn’t give guys the right to touch me.
I’m 21 years old. My friend tells me that someone grabbed her ass on the bus. I’m shocked by the bored resignation in her eyes, that this is just something she has to deal with permanently. When I hit middle school, guys stopped talking to me and started talking to my tits.
I’m 23 years old. I move back to St. Louis and start working two jobs to pay off my debt. I work at a hotel on the weekends, at the front desk. After making a mistake on a reservation, a trucker suggests that he turns me over his knee and spanks me. I force a laugh because I don’t know what else to do. I then think, “I shouldn’t have worn this dress…it attracts too much attention.”
I’m 24 years old. Guys hit on me at the hotel constantly. I’m accused of being “frigid” and “rude” when I don’t flirt back. They threaten to complain to my manager.
I’m 26. I’ve known girls who were called sluts, girls who were called fat, girls who were called disgusting, women who were called ugly, women who were called whores, women who were called bitches, ladies whose qualifications were called into question based on their gender, who were seen for their looks before their brains, who were dismissed when they tried to be more.
I’m 26 and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of this idea that when I call this kind of sexist behavior out, it’s dismissed as “women are too sensitive” or “hurt feelings”.
No. This behavior is not acceptable. It’s not acceptable for the man who catcalls me walking down the street and it is certainly not acceptable for my Commander in Chief.
All things considered, compared to many women I know, I’ve been lucky. Which is horrifying, considering the damaging messages I’ve internalized.
Why? Why does this behavior matter?
Because this type of behavior, this type of dismissive culture is what allowed Brock Turner to get away with ruining a girl’s life. Brock’s father said, “His life shouldn’t be ruined for 20 minutes of action.” On The Apprentice, contestants reported: “We were in the boardroom one time figuring out who to blame for the task, and he just stopped in the middle and pointed to someone and said, ‘You’d f… her, wouldn’t you? I’d f… her. C’mon, wouldn’t you?'”The person continued: “Everyone is trying to make him stop talking, and the woman is shrinking in her seat.”
The Steubenville rapists that what they did was all in good fun and didn’t matter. She was asking for it, after all. Jill Harth reported Trump’s behavior towards women. Harth alleged Trump groped her at the party. In a limo afterward, another model said she heard him say that “all women are bimbos” and most “gold diggers.” Trump reportedly joined another model in bed, uninvited, late at night. On other occasions, he forced Harth into bedrooms and made passes at her, she said.
Because she had to have wanted it, right?
It’s not locker room talk. It’s not guys just being guys. It’s unacceptable of any man, let alone the leader of our nation.
I don’t want little girls to to look up and see this man as their president. I don’t want them believing that their value is based on how “hot” they are or if they’ll have sex. I don’t little girls thinking that they are a target, that they are a “piece of ass”. I don’t want little boys seeing this as normalized or acceptable. I don’t want little boys looking up at their president and thinking that his treatment of women makes a good leader.
We deserve better.