The consistent drumbeat of vulgar racist, sexist, trans- and homo-phobic language of the infamous Donald Trump has so many of us run down , frustrated, and cringing in fear of a backward dystopian future. If we are looking for silver linings, we can look at this as a string of opportunities for constructive dialogue about many difficult issues. Indeed, Trump has forced us – on a nearly daily basis – to discuss and digest the brand of masculinity that he so proudly promotes.
While I do see a lot of positive dialogue emerging after every one of his humiliating public appearances, I also have to admit that I am forced to encounter a world informed by the worldview he voices and embodies nearly everywhere that I go. And it has been that way for a long time.
Donald Trump is not a new phenomenon; he is the symptom of a system that prunes and molds little boys into a spectrum of future abusers. He did not create this brand; he is merely its ambassador and one of the best at promoting it.
Last Friday, I went out with a few friends after a night of work. The scene was common, but unnerving. Men continuously and ruthlessly bypassed even the most basic social protocols in order to try and dance, grope, kiss, and swindle their way into a sexual interaction with my friends who are women.
These women are amazing, strong and confident human beings who want to go out and want to meet new people and want to dance and want to have sex! But watching them come up with more and more creative ways to side-step harassment and spin away from assaults was so disgusting, embarrassing, and horrendous that it made me absolutely sick for them.
Luckily, we were all there protecting each other from anything seriously harmful happening. And – in the comfort of knowing that – we later used humor to keep our night from spiraling into an angry rage. But it’s sad that laughing it off becomes a mechanism for coping with what should be a rightful rage.
Ultimately having to deal with this kind of behaviour is downright scary for my friends, and infuriating for me as a man:
I was called a “fake boyfriend” when I told one guy to respect my friends. Apparently if two guys and two ladies are out together, they are either couples or the guys are “pretending to be boyfriends” so that other guys won’t approach their friends. However, if the predatory male realizes that the “boyfriends” are just “fake boyfriends” then they can probably sneak in there and get some.
I was told to “chill”, to “take it easy”, when I told another guy to respect my friends.
The first question multiple men asked me was “is this your girlfriend?” As if she was my property. As if I was her gatekeeper.
I told one guy to watch his friend as he talked to my friend. I told him to watch my friend’s body language and how she was trying to get away from this guy as he leaned in close to her. He actually saw what I was talking about, and apologized to us and left us alone.
But when these boys were turned down – their sloppy and nonconsensual advances rejected – they returned to their post on the edge of the dance floor lurking around for their next prey.
Looking around, it felt like my whole environment was a Trumpian locker room, where we’re all just trying to change comfortably.
The thing is, guys like Trump built these walls and this ceiling—we live in his locker room. Maybe it’s too big and we don’t see those guys over there as part of our space, or part of our lives, or part of ourselves.
The behaviour I witnessed at the bar that night was not about respecting human beings and it was certainly not about good healthy sex. It was about power, entitlement and about getting ourselves off.
As a straight, white-European cis-gendered man, I feel this power all too well. We should not forget that imperialism, capitalism, white supremacy and cis-hetero-patriarchy govern the space that we all live in together.
It’s unhealthy. And it’s harmful. We need to stop doing this.
Instead of distancing ourselves from this man, and the ambassadors of toxic masculinity, we need to be vigilant, see our environment more clearly, confront how these ideas have built our society, and take action to tear down these walls.
Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Ted Van Pelt