“It’s OK, men like him will all be dead soon.” That’s what I used to tell myself about my grandfather- the man who sexually abused me and my mother before me. I thought that these “old white men” with an air of privilege and invincibility were a dying breed, and that eventually that “type” of man would simply die out, an outdated model that no longer had a place in our society. I always suspected that his particular form of abuse was born of a feeling of “ownership” of his family, that being a privileged white male had something to do with it, and I still do. Not that all sexual predators come from this place, but I think it’s a breeding ground.
I thought that men like my grandfather, who ironically went to a boarding military academy, and then went to an Ivy League College—just like Donald Trump, were on their way out. I thought we had seen the last of them. I looked forward to describing him to my sons and saying “You wouldn’t understand. It’s hard to imagine now.”
The similarities between Donald Trump and my grandfather are just too hard to ignore. My grandfather also grew up in Manhattan, the spoiled son of a prosperous man, a bit of a dandy in his cashmere socks, a strapping and handsome man, who was brash in his opinions, certain of his place in the world, and innocently thought of as “a bit of a playboy” and nothing more by his relatives friends and co workers. It was thought that his casual remarks were harmless, and they were indulged as if he were no more than a naughty child. “Oh Rex.” my grandmother would say, as she rolled her eyes, when he would say something inappropriate.
It wasn’t so long ago that privileged white men thought of their wives and children as their property, much in the same way they owned slaves. People point out that Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka is nearly the perfect child by all accounts, but when well executed, that is how the dynamic works. I know, I looked perfect on the outside as well. The outside is all that matters. It’s part of the code. It’s what holds things in place. It’s all about how things look. She is a reflection of him, a vain narcissist, and the game only works if the children look perfect, beyond reproach. But she is a possession. On the Howard Stern Show, when Howard started talking about what a beauty his young daughter was growing into, Trump expressed pride that he contributed to her gene pool, and Howard Stern, knowing instinctively that he was speaking to this man’s vanity, ventured, “Can I refer to her as a piece of ass?” and Donald Trump GAVE HIS PERMISSION! He was proud to have a daughter that Howard Stern thought was a piece of ass.
I’m not saying that I think Donald Trump has sexually abused his daughters- that’s not what is at stake here. What is at stake is our culture. Some men, men who are like my grandfather was when he was alive, will take this as a nod and a wink, a sign that that what they are doing is OK. Just as racists interpret the election results to mean that their darkest longings to lash out are legitimized. We’ve seen it already, the graffiti on the walls, the hostile “Go back to where you came from” comments to people perceived to be from elsewhere.
A friend told me that at her daughter’s elementary school a group of little boys were going around grabbing little girl’s genitals and running away giggling, “I grabbed her pussy! I grabbed her pussy!” No doubt the boys had no understanding of the implications of their actions, and in a sense they are victims of this craziness as well. But this is how boys learn to be men. They emulate symbols of masculinity, and who is more worthy of emulation than the president of the free world? Who is more powerful? He’s the commander and chief of the world’s most powerful military for God’s sake. What little boy wouldn’t love that? Sure we can reason, as adults, that his power is held in check by the systems of government, but those subtleties are lost on a child. To them he’s the boss of everything.
I don’t think I need to spell it out, but any man who supports Trump is essentially saying to the women around him, “I think it’s OK for a man to talk like this about women. I think it’s OK for a man to go up to a random woman, kiss her, grab her pussy, whatever,” because by supporting him you are endorsing that behavior. And to any man who says, “I disagree with that kind of talk and those kind of actions, but I’m willing to overlook that because Trump is going to do so many other things that will be good for this country”, I say this, I say you are even worse.
I say that because you are telling women that you are willing to sell them out. You are telling the women in your life that they should keep their heads down and take this on the chin for what you perceive to be the greater good. You are asking women to say, “It’s OK, I’ll put my need to be treated as human aside, because that would be more convenient for you right now” and you are asking women to behave like victims. We are what we stand for and what we will tolerate. At least that’s how it used to be. People stood for things and stood up for things, especially when there was a larger principal at stake. What happened to the kind of man who would defend the women in his life at any cost?
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