After an NBC employee leaked tapes of Trump blatantly objectifying women and bragging about acts that constitute sexual assault, I thought for sure this would be the end. Trump has attacked Latinos, Immigrants, Muslims, African Americans, people with Disabilities, and so many other groups. After each volley of attacks and the ensuing media circus I was sure that somewhere along the way Trump’s supporters would disavow their allegiance and his campaign would disintegrate, but to my dismay here we are in late October and Trump still has a strong standing in the polls. I expected that after that tape explicitly revealed the sexually predatory behavior that Trump condones, it would be impossible to defend him. How could we as a country elect a man who boasts about grabbing women “by the pussy” and “getting away” with sexual assault because he’s famous? I then realized I was expecting too much of a country where 1 in 5 women report being sexually assaulted during their lifetime. Donald Trump may be who we’re talking about now because he is a presidential candidate, but Donald Trump is not the sole creator of rape culture. His comments are evidence of a pervasive and systemic degradation of women’s bodies and their autonomy.
His comments are evidence of a pervasive and systemic degradation of and disregard for women’s bodies and their autonomy. When asked about the comments he made on the tape, Trump immediately jumped to derailment tactics:
COOPER: You called what you said locker room banter. You described kissing women without consent, grabbing their genitals. That is sexual assault. You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?
Yes, I’m very embarrassed by it. I hate it. But it’s locker room talk, and it’s one of those things. I will knock the hell out of ISIS. We’re going to defeat ISIS. ISIS happened a number of years ago in a vacuum that was left because of bad judgment. And I will tell you, I will take care of ISIS.
COOPER: So, Mr. Trump…
TRUMP: And we should get on to much more important things and much bigger things.
He moved from normalizing sexual assault to ISIS so quickly my head spun. It was then both a triumphant moment and agonizingly painful to watch Hillary give a measured and reasonable response. Hillary attacking this one man does nothing to erode a system that protects men for having to take responsibility for these sexually predatory thoughts and actions. It does nothing to stop women for being criminalized and mocked for coming forward with their stories of surviving sexual assault. It does not change the fact that Donald Trump paraded women at the debate who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault as political prawns, not individual human beings who have a right to have their stories be heard. Hillary may have gotten on stage and condemned what Trump dismissively called “locker room” banter, and I’m proud of her for that, but also furious. I’m mad because these tapes only galvanized a small section of Trump’s base to disown him and abandon the campaign over their moral objection to these comments. I’m angry because of all the groups and identities that Trump has attacked, it took these comments about the bodies and experiences of white women to provoke the righteous anger that so many have now directed at Trump. I’m livid because we made it this far into the campaign season and a competent, qualified woman is still being interrupted and bullied by an inept, childish, egotistical man. These debates have really taught me a lot about sexism and about who we are as a country and what we value. So honestly as much as I hate to say it, I’m not shocked by Donald Trump’s success even in light of these most recent disgusting comments and his mockery of the women that have come forward with their stories of him sexually assaulting them. I shouldn’t have expected better from a country that routinely has debates (dominated by male voices) about if women have the right to make health decisions concerning their own body, and where sexual assault survivors are stigmatized and shamed. As much as I want us to be better, we’re not. Donald Trump still has support from many because a lot of his base doesn’t consider sexual assault to be important and like him they want to move on to “much more important and much bigger things”. These campaigns have left a bittersweet taste in my mouth. I’m excited at the possibility of having the first woman serve as President of the United States, but because we’re still living in a culture that’s saturated by sexism, how much of a victory will it really be?