Archive for the ‘2016’ Category

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Pussygate

October 8, 2016

This is an amazing day, watching the Republican Party descend into chaos. By the time I’m done writing this, Trump may have been forced out. WHY? Over this? And isn’t it deliciously ironic that the GOP might kick Trump off the ticket because he said things that aren’t politically correct?

Don’t get me wrong – when I heard Trump saying that he can get away with whatever he wants with women – kissing them uninvited, grabbing them by the pussy – because he’s a star, I wanted to vomit. I was disgusted by his sense of entitlement to women’s bodies. I was horrified that he obviously thought he was being hilarious when he was describing sexual assault. And I was saddened because, yeah. He’s not wrong. Our society absolutely lets celebrities get away with sexual assault (just ask Bill Cosby). The audio file repulsed me – but I wasn’t the least bit surprised.

The reaction from the press and from the Republican stalwarts that they are shocked – shocked! – that Donald Trump is a misogynist piece of shit is a bit too much to swallow. C’mon, people. Donald Trump has made it very clear that he sees women only as sex objects. He ranks us all from 1 to 10. He appeared in a Playboy video ogling twin playmates. He cruelly demeans women he finds unattractive. You’ve seen him in footage, leering at 19 year old pageant participants, or on his reality tv show, making lewd jokes at the expense of the female contestants. You’ve heard and seen him with Don Imus and Howard Stern, being crude and vile and entitled, describing the threat of STDs as his “personal Vietnam.” For goodness sake, we’ve all even seen the clips (multiple) of him saying that he would date Ivanka if he weren’t married, and he weren’t her father (in that order). You’ve seen the snippet where Robin Leach asked him how his daughter Tiffany – then ONE YEAR OLD – was like her mother, and he says that this baby has Marla’s legs. (“We don’t know whether or not she’s got ‘this part’ yet, but time will tell.”)

This is a man who sees women, ALL women – including his daughters, EVEN WHEN THEY WERE BABIES – as sexual objects. Of course he feels entitled to grab, kiss, and take women. That is how rape culture works. When you see women as objects, and not as actual people, it’s easy.

Yesterday, one after another, the party faithful expressed their disgust at this new, entirely predictable revelation. Today, the endorsements are being pulled, Pence is in hiding, and the party leaders are scrambling to force Trump out, even though it’s far too late to take him off the ballot. So back to the question at hand – why was this the tipping point? He has always been a pig; this is not news. But rats flee a sinking ship, and Trump is going to lose. If he had held his own in the debate, if he were polling even, they’d still be solidly supporting him, shrugging this off as old news, and just boys being boys. The reality that Trump is lewd and vile and lecherous, as well as racist, ignorant, and fascist, and Putin’s stooge, and quite likely mentally ill, was all somehow acceptable to the GOP. Republican leaders are abandoning Trump now because they finally realized he’s going to lose. And losing? That is unforgivable.

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This is What a Chauvinist Looks Like

September 30, 2016

Donald Trump’s ugly sexism has always been inescapable, but since the public humiliation of losing that first debate it has blown up exponentially. His wounded ego has been obsessed with two things: punishing Hillary for beating him by bringing up Bill’s infidelity, and punishing Alicia Machado for damaging his reputation by any means necessary.

On Monday night, Trump “held back” from attacking Hillary Clinton with her husband’s affairs (while making sure we all knew he might). When she mentioned Alicia Machado, Trump immediately threatened “I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself, ‘I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. It’s inappropriate. It’s not nice.'” In the days since, his surrogates have openly pushed for him to smear her this way, and he teases the possibility at all his public appearances. The breathtaking sexism inherent in attacking Hillary for Bill’s infidelity seems to escape all of them. How, exactly, is that attack supposed to work? Leaving aside that WE ALL ALREADY KNOW THIS, what would he be alleging about Hillary? That she failed in her duty to satisfy Bill? That she is less of a woman because Bill cheated on her? That since women are the gatekeepers of virtue, either leading men astray, or keeping them on the narrow path of monogamy, Hillary wasn’t a strong enough virtuous influence and is responsible for Bill’s fall into sin? No, seriously, explain to me how the fact that Bill Clinton is lech and a philanderer makes Hillary look bad. Is it because she stayed with him, forgave him, stood by him – does that make her weak? Is it that she is human and wasn’t “supportive” of the women Bill cheated with – is this some crazy attempt to suggest her feminism is lacking because she isn’t perfect? There is literally no way to tar her with her husband’s past that isn’t inherently, inescapably sexist, but Trump cannot stop talking about how much he wants to do it.

Still, his threats to discredit his actual opponent pale beside his unhinged attacks on Alicia Machado. Machado’s allegations of sexism and racism were the strongest blow HRC landed in that debate; Trump wants to destroy her for hurting him. He has gone after her even more than he went after the Khan family for daring to criticize him. He first “defended” himself on Fox & Friends by noting that she had actually gained weight after winning the crown, completely missing the point that dehumanizing her, belittling her, and mocking her are not ever acceptable. Somehow, his entitlement and sexism let him think he had a right to humiliate her for not being hot enough for him. He honestly believes she deserved to be dehumanized because she gained weight.

And then, at 5 a.m. last night, Trump let lose the following flurry of tweets:

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What stands out, of course, is the obvious slut-shaming of Machado (as far as anyone can tell, there is no sex tape, but that is beside the point). Alicia Machado is a sexual woman, and therefore “disgusting.” Trump’s pathological sexism goes even further: being a disgusting sexual woman means she deserved to be treated like dirt. Somehow, he thinks he can justify being abusive to her when she was 19 by implying that many many years later she maybe made a sex tape.* Of course, disgusting sexual women not only deserve to be demeaned and mocked (preemptively!), they are also not to be trusted – she conned Hillary into presenting her as an “angel,” and “a paragon of virtue.” And this is where we see just how deep his chauvinism goes. Hillary, of course, never said a WORD about Machado’s “virtue.” She never painted her as a saint. She only said that Trump treated Machado terribly. Trump imagined that Machado was being held up as the vestal virgin, because to Trump, no other type of woman could possibly be credible, could possibly deserve to be treated as human being, could possibly cast aspersions upon HIM.

This week really has been a master class on Old School Sexism. All the classics are here, ancient hoary principles that uphold the patriarchy – Women are to blame if men sin! Women are to blame if their marriages fail! But women who stay are weak! Women who weigh more than 117 pounds are pigs! Women who enjoy sex are disgusting! Women are liars! Women are either Angels or Whores! Women deserve to be treated like dirt! And above all, any woman who challenges a man – especially a woman who bests him – needs to be torn down. Trump shall (apparently literally) NEVER REST until she’s destroyed.

* I am NOT mentioning Melania’s past, other than to say that not seeing the hypocrisy there really does suggest he’s mentally ill.

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Hillary’s One Weird Trick for Dealing with Interruptions!

September 28, 2016
Ever since the debate, the ThinkPiece Industrial Complex* has been in overdrive, pointing out that what seems so galling here – that he spoke 2/3 of the time while she patiently, politely, humored him, that he interrupted her no less than 51 times when she finally had a chance to speak – is a reality American women negotiate every day. And it’s true – study after study establishes that men dominate conversation time, in real life and in media. Again and again there’s proof that both men AND women interrupt women much more frequently than they interrupt men. To say nothing of the reality that qualified women are so often competing to be heard over men who have no idea WTF they are talking about. Heck, just a couple of weeks ago, the internet was ablaze with the One Weird Trick Women Used to be Heard in the Obama Administration, proving that even when women ARE invited into the Room Where It Happens by men who overtly value their insights, they still have to develop strategies to make sure these men HEAR THEM and give them credit for their own ideas over the deafening din of assumptions and expectations and implicit bias.
What fascinates me, though, is that we noticed at all, and why. Why, if this is so much a part of our culture, are we all suddenly talking about it? Why did so many men note what an amazing accomplishment it is that Hillary did not explode in anger and frustration, if it is true that we are conditioned to expect women to be polite, to not even notice that men always dominate the conversations?
Part of it was the stage, of course. We have the first woman who is seriously contending for the presidency of the United States, running against not just a man, but a man who embodies the sick misogynist false ideal of hyper-masculinity. The “strongman” bully who derides opponents as losers, who equates strength with aggression, who promises order through physical intimidation and violence. But I think the answer goes beyond that. We didn’t just notice how unacceptable his behavior was because of the stark contrast.
We noticed because she didn’t cave. When it was officially his turn to speak, she let him speak, with admirable grace (grace modifying her patience, NOT his speech!). A patience that yes, many women practice all the time. But we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all if that were her whole reaction. No, we *noticed,* we’re *talking* about this, because she did something else far more novel. Men everywhere interrupt women – but until last night, very few of us had seen what it looks like when the interrupted woman just *goes right on speaking.*
We noticed his interrupting because she didn’t cede the floor. If she had, all of our cultural assumptions would have come rushing in to fill the void, and we would have seen him as strong, would have accepted the interruption as his taking control of the conversation. But she didn’t do that. She didn’t lash out, she didn’t get angry, but she almost never acknowledged his outbursts in any way – she just kept talking, with the result that his interruptions didn’t look like a confident man controlling the conversation, they looked petulant and  childish and rude. On a few occasions, she replied directly to what he’d said – but then she held on to the floor, returning seamlessly to her original point. She didn’t let him derail her, she didn’t let him dominate her. She had a fearlessness that comes from having dealt with so much more crap in her career than any of us can imagine, and the poise that comes from truly trusting herself in that moment. She made us see him as a buffoon. The debate highlighted, finally, how unacceptable our cultural norm is. And Hillary showed us what it looks like when we have the clout, and the moxie, to hold our own.
The women of the Obama administration showed us how to be heard – have each other’s backs, amplify each other’s ideas, keep repeating and giving credit where it’s due until the men finally hear you. And last night, Hillary taught us the secret to dealing with interruptions: just keep talking. Own your right to that microphone, shake it off, and say what you came to say: don’t let anyone derail you when it’s YOUR TIME. Easier said than done – but oh, it can be done.

* I wish I remember who came up with this phrase, in response to Beyoncé’s “Lemonade,” but I can sadly only say it isn’t mine.