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Sexism Revisited

Updated: Sep 19, 2018

All too often the media reports the salacious details of a famous or powerful man who crosses the line either by sexual harassment or sexual assault only shortly after turn to the next story.

Donald Trump's comments about kissing, and grabbing women's "pussy" is an example of not only rape culture but, male privilege. As the reporting on the infamous video, continued into the late night, the language changed from discussing sexual assault to "groping." Making matters worse were Trump and his supporters' claims that it was "jock/locker room banter." But we are looking at a bigger issue. Naturally, this falls into the realm of rape culture. Not only rape culture, but yes this is about race, gender, sexism, and privilege.

Trump meant what he said and felt entitled to carry out the activities he boasted about doing. But I would argue that his entitlement had little to do with his so-called stardom but more to do with his maleness and yes, his white privilege. I ask you, could a woman, or man of color say the things Trump has said over the past year and a half in his march toward the coveted American Presidency? Are we still debating whether Trump is indeed sexist at a minimum? Why is he given the benefit of the doubt? Was it essential to wait for his response? What could he have said to remedy the situation? Why did the public expect an apology? Really? Countless news stations debate at nausea the meaning and intent of Trump's statements for 24 to 48 hours.

Going head to head were Clinton and Trump supporters about the egregiousness of the statements. I found this incredulous that the issue had gone in this direction. Was it not clear that this was not just some banter? At the very least did he not objectify women? The defense and conversation around his statements began to sound like discourse about intent.

I have a private consulting practice. I spend lots of time educating and training on the very concept that intent is inconsequential. Investigating these matters, I've heard explanations such as "well I didn't mean to" offend, upset or fill in the blank. At times this excuse articulated artfully and skillfully but takes me down the same old road. I've done this dance many times. You know, the "good guy" that made a mistake or was a little foolish. The ultimate innocent, unknowing offender. Yes, the offender that was "just kidding around." For some reason, we are unable to move pass evil-doer with malice and ill intent. We were diverted from viewing these issues without seeking some sinister motive. Rather than focusing on the real problem, impact. It is the impact of the behavior which is ultimately the issue. It is perplexing that some claim a defense to kissing, and touching a woman without consent merely rests on a person's intent. Why can't we see that Trump was just engaging in "jock talk," because it's just not true.

Research shows that it is challenging for survivors/victims to come forward to tell a story about being demeaned and violated. It doesn't matter if any of the women have come forward or if he was ever convicted as one Trump supporter who is female suggested while being interviewed on CNN. I have been sexually harassed and subjected other unwanted sexual behaviors and verbal assaults. This unwelcome and unwanted conduct occurred in the workplace and personal spaces. Last I check these men have remained among society, living, learning, working, playing. Encountering people like Trump is part of my life story as with many other women. It was not uncommon for me to run across a man who felt entitled to cat call, make sexual comments, kiss, touch, caress, or violate me some other way. Many women have been given all or nothing ultimatums to submit to sexual advances. These were men who women have thought were acquaintances, friends, co-workers, bosses, etc. Their lack of criminal conviction fails to negate the behavior.

The media coverage shifted in less than 24 hours in part due to the hurricane running up the east coastal line, but something else was at play. The reporting tone and tenor of the Trump story had indeed softened. There was a knowing feeling that came to me, as the reporting continued past the early hours. Outcries were replaced with "well it was 11 years ago," "Bill Clinton did worse," "Hillary aided Bill Clinton" "Hillary's emails" etc. The reporting time frame on the issue became shorter and intermittent with reporting on Hillary Clinton's leaked emails. Initially, the word "pussy" was allowed to play uncensored. However, as the Trump and his goons ascended on the media and the Clintons the word "pussy" became a beep, and the media called it vulgar language. The softening towards the Trump video was in step with excerpts of the video being edited out, even as many women were outraged. Language has a profound impact on how the world is viewed, how people are viewed, and history is viewed. Language matters.

I couldn't understand why the media was contemplating if Trump could win presidency of the United States. I thought "of course not." But the parade of experts arguing the point, supporters and foes. This exercise became yet another diversion from a man discussing sexual assault and exuding sexist and misogynistic views. A near-perfect example of rape culture. Now the media, Trump supporters, and others who want to place the video squarely in the past are calling for a sincere apology. Can't un-ring a bell. Is an apology going to remedy sexual assault or misogynistic views? I wasn't coveting an apology. I wanted to linger in the more important discussion that needed to happen. But no, it was back to politics and rape culture. I couldn’t help but question if an African American male could make the same statements or any man of color. Say, a powerful, wealthy man of color. I doubt we would be talking about leaked emails less than 24 hours later.

Trump feels entitled, excuse or not. He feels entitled because he is male. A white male can say things and get away because he's a white man. It is allowed. This video leaked by the Washington Post is not the first time Trump has made disparaging remarks about and towards women. While many male and female are appalled and disgusted by the comments in the video, it has been trivialized. It has been trivialized immediately by the language being used. People are characterizing the behavior which Trump proudly boasted about on the video as groping. Grouping means to touch someone in an unwanted and unexpected sexual way. But let's call it what it is sexual assault.

Sexual assault, according to the Department of Justice, in pertinent part "is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities" such as forced fondling. Grabbing women's pussy falls squarely under the definition. Calling the behavior groping rather than sexual assault leads to my fundamental point, Trump's behavior is immediately being minimized which is the crux of rape culture and gender inequity. Characterizing his statements as "jock talk" and the actions such as grouping misses the point entirely. That's why the media has turned to the next story instead addressing rape culture, sexism, and male privilege

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