The outcome of the election doesn’t matter. Whether Donald Trump becomes President of the United States or a footnote also-ran, the societal damage has been done. And it’s been bolstered by perhaps the most masculine of sports, football. My two-year-old daughter’s generation will be the first in 150 years where women will be treated worse than the generation before them.
Just as Trump’s remarks about Muslims and Mexicans emboldened racists to step from the shadows, his alleged sexual assaults and blatant sexist comments have given misogynists authority to engage in aggressive “locker room talk” around the work water cooler.
Trump’s rhetoric dehumanizes women.
Women are often seen and treated like objects.
Trump is bringing us back to the days when business executives slapped the rear-ends of their secretaries. Trump is alleged to have, all without consent, kissed a former Miss USA contestant, groped a woman sitting next to him on a plane, kissed a receptionist in an elevator in his building, assaulted and forcibly kissed a People magazine writer, groped Miss Washington USA, and groped his makeup artist, among other things.
Trump speaks down to women.
He speaks at women. He blames menstrual cycles for his debate problems. He gauges a women’s worth on his opinion of their attractiveness.
This objectification is further bolstered by Trump’s frank discussion of women as objects—his sexual conquests, his wanton disregard of the dignity of 14-19 year old Miss Teen USA contestants as he walked through their changing room while they were dressing, his treatment of even girls as objects as when he referenced a ten year old and how he’d be dating her in 10 years, his slut-shaming, fat-shaming, and comments about his accusers that imply they are too ugly for him to have sexually assaulted.
Coming from a Presidential candidate, the behavior is normalized and we become numb to it.
The social normalization of the objectification of women didn’t start, and doesn’t stop, with Trump.
Athletes, long the paragons of masculinity, have historically been in the spotlight for cases of spousal abuse. But whereas Dennis Rodman’s and Mike Tyson’s abuses resulted in widespread disgust, recent actions by athletes have not affected viewership or attendance in any appreciable way.
Our country appears comfortable with the idea that “these things happen.”
America’s most popular sport, NFL football, recently ran ads touting “Football is Family.”
Simultaneously, New York Giants kicker Josh Brown received only a suspension of only one game for violating the league’s personal conduct policy by engaging in domestic abuse. For contrast, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady received a four game suspension for his alleged role in tampering with footballs.
Making the Brown situation worse, the Giants re-signed Brown despite knowing of his history of domestic violence, and did not cut him until a week after police reports and Brown’s journal were released, detailing and providing disturbing insight into his spousal abuse.
Worse, the NFL has a history of mishandling domestic violence, most notably in a 2014 incident involving running back Ray Rice, who was captured on video dragging his fiancé out of an elevator after knocking her unconscious. The NFL initially suspended him for two games. Faced with a similar allegation with Brown, the NFL clearly did not learn from its history.
Maybe the league was waiting to see if there would be public outrage.
Maybe this was calculated to take the temperature of the fans. If whatever furor arose subsequently died down, maybe a one game suspension would be okay and the Giants could keep Brown on the roster. If so, what a sad commentary on our societal comfort level with sexual assault. What a pathetic statement of our collective position regarding the objectification of women and gender inequality.
Intentionally or not, the league seems complacent with certain types of bad behavior, provided such behavior doesn’t affect the bottom line.
Maybe it’s not surprising that a vast majority of the NFL’s audience is men, and the NFL’s most dismal record revolves around a women’s issue.
Trump and Brown are singled-out here, but this isn’t an individual issue.
It’s about the aggregate of how women are treated, which affects the societal norm of how women will be treated going forward. We’re witness to the normalization of sexual objectification through unabashed sexual aggression (the Republican Presidential candidate brags about how “when you’re a star” women “let you do it; you can do anything. Grab them by the p—-”) and the minimization of domestic abuse and tacit acceptance by the NFL.
In this environment, women cannot be equal.
My kids are growing up in this time of cultural regression. My sons, six and four, are being taught to treat men and women (and boys and girls) equally. To give and to be kind and to love.
I’m afraid I need to teach my daughter more. That she should give, but also know to take because she won’t have the same advantages as her brothers. That she should be kind, but wary of those who’ll mistake that for acquiescence. That she should love, but far less openly for fear of the gender-role reputation she’ll be tagged with.
People are used to stories of female objectification.
People are numb to it. They won’t care as much when it happens to my daughter. If the (potential) President does it, how bad can it really be? It happens in the NFL all the time, and only warrants a game or two suspension.
Our culture has changed for the worse.
I’m offended not because I have a mother, a wife, or a daughter. I’m offended because equality is equality, and denying anybody their identity as an individual—explicitly through abuse or implicitly through objectification—is reprehensible. I’m offended because despite my personal beliefs, we need different rules for our daughters, since they’ll need them simply to counteract our cultural norms regarding women.
But there may be reason to hope.
If we persevere, perhaps we can right the ship and again progress toward equality, driving misogynists back into the darkness. Woman or man, gender shouldn’t matter. Like Dr. King’s dream, we can all imagine a world where people are judged by the content of their character. Or better, not judged at all, but where everybody is simply treated with dignity and respect.