Originally published October 17 2016 on Huffington Post
Donald Trump may be the best recruitment tool the women’s movement has ever had.
That he remains standing as the Republican nominee for president, continuing to enjoy the support of millions of Americans, makes clear that the fight for women’s right to be respected and treated equally is far from over.
But the release of his 2005 boys-on-the-bus conversation offered a peek behind the seemingly impenetrable curtain woven from the combined threads of American celebrity, financial power and privilege. And it has rallied not only Hollywood royalty (thanks Robert De Niro and Tom Hanks), but also an unlikely alliance of professional athletes, conservative Christians and Republican power brokers to the cause.
And although Trump’s newest critics might not embrace the feminist label, and the moment feels like it’s been humiliatingly slow to arrive, it’s here, and should be exploited every bit as much as Trump himself exploited his inherited wealth and the influence and connections it bought him. Especially now that a number of women have dared to confirm that he was accurately describing his MO, as opposed to merely voicing his fantasies. (No one can convincingly characterize this as a case of “he said, she said;” it’s clearly a case of “he said, he DID.”)
So it is beyond galling that a woman widely recognized to be more qualified for presidential office than any other candidate in the history of her nation is still being expected to debate — as if he were her equal, or even a credible alternative — this man. Broadly acknowledged to be the least experienced candidate ever, he has matched her 30 years of public service with an unflagging commitment to increasing his own wealth and status, at the expense of his contractors, employees and the very taxpayers he’s seeking to lead.
Moreover, although the footage that captured him bragging about his penchant for serial sexual assault was released only a little while ago, his depraved attitudes towards women had been part of the public record decades before he began disparaging the looks of one primary opponent and the wife of another, and attempted to discredit a journalist with a crude reference to “blood coming out of her wherever.”
Trump’s legendary objectification of women had played out on the Howard Stern radio show over many years. On air, he regularly demonstrated his view of women as little more than a collection of body parts, describing how he’d have no problem “banging 24-year-olds” but when a woman hits 35, it’s “check-out time.”
It remains a teachable moment if there ever was one.
The man is a wolf in wolf’s clothing, a sexual predator with a sense of entitlement so vast and unconscious that he has repeatedly broadcast his attraction to his great “piece of ass” eldest daughter, and even found a number of occasions during the campaign to refer to his “impressive” penis.
And yet this blatant misogyny, although condemned in progressive circles and tsk-tsk’ed in polite society, remained sufficiently normalized to permit him to secure the nomination of one of his country’s two great political parties. It took undeniable evidence of him bragging about his prowess as a poster boy for rape culture to turn the tide decisively turn against him, and even then, the widespread rejection of his candidacy was as motivated by his free-falling polls and likely loser status.
However, it remains a teachable moment if there ever was one. Thoughtful and attentive people of all ages and affiliations now have chilling clarity about the depth of the double standard and breadth of unconscious bias and its impact on women — even those who have, in fact, worked twice as hard to be thought half as good.
Here’s a thought: as entire generations of decent men experience in a new way the sickened sensation their wives, daughters and mothers feel every time they’re rated, harassed or assaulted, we need to keep up the pressure. So that #yesallwomen, #everydaysexism and #whyIstayed are understood and re-tweeted by male allies. So that men continue to decry loudly and clearly Trump’s “locker room talk” defense, and reject his cowardly invective and pathetic version of masculinity as in no way representing their own.
It takes way more than a village to defeat such misogyny, and Hillary Clinton winning the U.S. election will be just the beginning.