Trump’s Tweets Hold a Mirror Up to America. Are You Looking?
Trump’s string of Twitter attacks on Mika Brzezinski was called petty, childish, and beneath the dignity of the office he holds. Yes, all true, but they miss the point.
Often when I write pieces on political or social issues, men who disagree will post comments that, 9 times out of 10, are about how much they don’t want to f**k me. These fellows never respond to my perspectives with rational arguments or undermine my argument with facts or any sort of Hegelian dialectic. Nope, they aim to go after what they assume is the worst thing I can hear – my appearance and unf**kability. I don’t know any of these men personally, but I do know a few things for sure:
- I look them up on Facebook or LinkedIn, and yes, these hapless (often toothless) gentlemen absolutely would f**k me, if they could tear themselves away from their inflatable dolls.
- More important, I know they, like the new Leader of the Free World, reduce all women to their gender. Women are dimensional human beings, but to Trump and men like him, we’re distilled to just our appearance and a narrow standard of desirability that has little to do with reality and more to do with these men’s desperation – and lack of imagination – to insult.
- I know that I don’t care if some knuckle-dragging Internet troll tries to wound me the only pathetic way he knows how. But I DO care that the a large portion of the electorate and their representatives support a President who doesn’t see me as human…just maybe a 4. (On a good day, a 5?)
Of course, it’s disgusting that the POTUS spends his time in silly, nasty online bullying; the President is supposed to fight FOR the people, not with the people. But we’re talking about a man who mocks the disabled like a left-back, 4th-grade class clown, a childish narcissist obsessed with crowd numbers, TV ratings, and TIME covers – and fakes all three. The man’s dishonesty, immaturity, bigotry and stupidity are a matter of public record – for those members of the public who choose to care. Trump’s flagrant misogyny has been evident for some time, and yet politically he persisted – or rather, was allowed to persist. In fact, he triumphed.
In the primary debates, when Megyn Kelly brought up the words he commonly used to describe women – “fat pigs, slobs “ – the crowd laughed. To “defend” himself he said he used them to describe Rosie O’Donnell; the crowd roared. (Oh, and I guess it’s okay to call some people the N-word, kikes…you know, the ones who “deserve it”.) Kelly said that “for the record, it was well beyond Rosie O’Donnell,” noting that once Trump told a contestant on The Apprentice it “would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees.” Later, because the journalist doing a journalist’s job was a woman, Trump described Megyn as having “blood coming out of her eyes and…whatever.” (Trump is obsessed with women’s imaginary blood.)
Then the infamous Access Hollywood tape came out. Donald bragged and laughed about sexually assaulting women. Trump’s supporters – including social conservatives and self-proclaimed good Christians – well, they just shrugged. Some women who’d been assaulted came forward; Trump responded by vowing to sue them. (We’re still waiting for that to happen.)
For Trump, when it comes to women it’s always about sexuality and looks, a dynamic that makes him superior. His perspective makes women the products, him the consumer. If a woman isn’t young enough, slim enough, acquiescent enough she deserves his disparagement. Or what if a woman’s judged too much, a threat to the “short-fingered vulgarian”? If she’s too big for her britches, she must be belittled.
According to Kelly Dittmar, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University at Camden, “One way he exercises his ‘masculine power’ is to talk to and about women on the basis of their appearance, instead of more substance. Trump has played the gender card all along and played into very stereotypical tropes, like characterizing women’s values and intelligence by their appearance and also calling women things like ‘crazy,’ which has been done to women for centuries when they’ve spoken truth to power.”
What Trump shows us time and again, whoever it is, if she has a vagina, it’s all about appearance. That’s what she’s about, and that what to attack. Trump only sees half the human race – and communicates about them – in terms of his evaluation of their attractiveness. We’ve known about his trophy wives, his beauty pageants, his inappropriate remarks about his daughter for some time now. We’ve heard him reduce intelligent, professional women to unkind stereotypes based on their looks – Rosie, Hillary, and candidate Carly Fiorina. We remember when his idea of defending himself against a charge of sexism was to chortle that former People reporter Natasha Stoynoff was too ugly for him to grab. (I can prove she’s lying not by saying I wouldn’t do it but that I only assault the very best!) We remember when his idea of a good campaign tactic was to tweet a side-by-side comparison of his wife and the wife of then-rival Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) Recently many of us squirmed while we watched the POTUS on the phone with Ireland’s newly elected prime minister, as he told a young Irish female journalist to come over to his desk and told the new PM, “She has a nice smile on her face… I bet she treats you well.”
Then came the tweets about Mika. Once again he went after a woman’s looks (his remarks glazed once again with lies and talk of blood – but so not the point.) Now candidate Trump is President Trump, and even some Republicans had to admit these remarks were “unhinged and shameful” and “amazingly graceless.” Staunch supporters like Bill O’Reilly gave tepid critiques about Trump’s tweets being a distraction, “It’s kind of discouraging for Americans who want important things to get done to be sidetracked by something like this.” But for a lot of us, the misogyny of America’s leader, who is supposed to represent the country – including those of us with ovaries – is not an ancillary issue. Republican Nicolle Wallace, an MSNBC host and former Communications Chief for George W. Bush, urged women working in the White House to “go on the record and condemn your boss’s comments.” She wondered how mothers can raise their sons to be “good men if the most powerful man in the world gets away with this” and warned that the GOP “will be permanently associated with misogyny if leaders don’t step up and demand a retraction.”
Sadly, queen quislings, like Mrs. Trump, defend Donald’s looks-based bullying: “When you attack him, he will punch back 10 times harder.” (Way to go with that anti-cyber-bullying campaign, Melania! Bully for you – literally.) The Christian Right remains terribly supportive; I guess the whole “turn the other cheek” thing wasn’t meant to be taken too seriously. White House minions like Scottie Nell Hughes, Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders also spun POTUS’ remarks to be merely the self-defense of an innocent, beleaguered victim. “Look, I don’t think you can expect someone to be personally attacked day after day, minute by minute, and sit back,” said Sanders, “The American people elected a fighter. . .They knew what they were getting when they voted for Donald Trump.”
That’s just it. That’s what is most disturbing. The electorate and the GOP DID know what they were getting. And they were fine with it. No one even tries to make the argument that no, really, despite everything Donald Trump has said and done during the course of his entire life, no really, he does respect women. Really. Now his supporters tell us the women who have faces, bodies, thoughts and menstrual cycles with which he finds fault, well, they are at fault. The women deserve his ad hominem attacks.
What upsets me most about the flagrancy of Trump’s misogyny is the implicit sexism of the complicit. Trump’s tweets don’t just expose the prejudice and malice in Trump’s character; they illustrate just how widespread and deeply ingrained this attitude is in 21st century America. Trump’s supporters tell us it’s acceptable for a man to brashly denigrate women. His supporters tell me that I’m still a second-class citizen, whose thoughts and talents are meaningless next to short-lived superficial attributes. The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg put it perfectly: “The Trump administration may advance policies that make it harder for women. But Trump and his enablers are day by day validating feminists’ claims about women’s experiences and how the world works.”
So please, don’t call Trump’s disdain for half the population a distraction. Let it occasionally take center stage under the spotlight. Giving misogyny a platform hurts in the short-term, but in the end lots of light is the best way to combat the dark.
And sometimes the occasional tweet.