One of the more telling aspects of the GOP’s ongoing implosion over Donald Trump’s “pussy tape” is the succession of men (mostly Republican, i.e. white) expressing their outrage solely as it relates to their daughters or wives.
Framing the matter this way treats a woman as a possession. She’s protected because she’s in a family AND because she’s owned by the man in that family.
This attitude implies that only to the extent that she happens to be a man’s wife or daughter does a woman deserve to not be sexually assaulted. Not because she’s, you know, a human being who doesn’t deserve to be sexually assaulted.
It also highlights the fact that none of the other horrific things about Trump — like the fact that’s a racist, anti-Latino, anti-Muslim who chose one of the country’s leading anti-LGBTQ fanatics as his running mate — none of that was worthy of condemnation.
THIS IS THE PROBLEM. The inability to see the victims of injustice as human beings unless they’re a member of their immediate family.
Never mind “as a father of daughters, I find this outrageous.” What about “I find this outrageous,” full-stop?
Still, since they’ve framed the issue in terms of their fatherhood, it’s puzzling that none of them are denouncing Trump’s behavior as it relatesto their sons, in terms of what his actions teach their sons about what kinds of behavior are OK.
Alongside the wives-and-daughters crowd are the “not in my locker room” crowd. “That’s not the way my male friends and I talk when we’re alone,” is the point they’re making.
And fine, I take all of you at your word that boys are not learning these behaviors from you. But they’re learning it somewhere, a fact made painfully clear in this gut-wrenching thread:
Women: tweet me your first assaults. they aren’t just stats. I’ll go first:
Old man on city bus grabs my “pussy” and smiles at me, I’m 12.
— kelly oxford (@kellyoxford) October 7, 2016
Hundreds of women recounting sexual assaults and rapes committed against them by hundreds of men and boys, who, fine, didn’t learn it from you. So where did they learn it?
From other boys? On the playground at school? OK, but where are THOSE boys learning it? Older siblings? Then where are THEY learning it? And so on and so on.
It really could not be more perfect that the pussy tape reveals Trump exchanging rapey banter with Billy Bush, the nephew of the former president.
What about him? Where did he learn that it was OK to discuss women that way? (It’s worth remembering that the woman in question was his work colleague.) Where did he learn to laugh and play along with this kind of talk, rather than calling it out?
Trace it back. The nephew of a President, himself the son of a President, who is himself the scion of one of the country’s most prominent and blue-blooded family dynasties.
Somewhere in the lives of these men and boys are fathers (or father figures) who either modeled this behavior themselves or otherwise signaled that it was OK.
I hope it’s clear that I’m not suggesting that the Bush family are solely responsible for rape culture. What I am suggesting is that a big part of white male privilege is the unquestioned assumption that women and girls are objects and possessions, and that you have the right to treat them that way.
Dads, if your son is learning something similar from you, you’re failing.
But if he’s learning it somewhere else, and you’re out of the loop (to borrow a favorite Bushism) about what he’s learning and where he’s learning it, YOU ARE ALSO FAILING.
That’s it. There are only two possibilities, and both are on you.
I feel I need hardly mention that it does no good to communicate to our sons explicitly that treating girls and women this way is unacceptable, if our actions belie our words.
Am I perfect? Hardly. When I was little, I sometimes saw my dad turn his head to admire a beautiful woman as we drove by. Once in a while I catch myself doing the same thing. Maybe my son sees me. I’m striving to be a better man, too. It starts with self-awareness.
Ask yourself, what kinds of behaviors am I modeling for my son? What kinds of words is he hearing me speak?
Ending the culture of rape and sexual assault is not about protecting your helpless women. It’s about teaching your sons. This is a non-optional part of the job of being a father.
Don’t want your daughters getting groped? Teach your sons not to grope.
This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post
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