I can't pinpoint the time where I really knew how to treat women properly. I guess when you're raised in a good home, you learn by example. I saw how my dad treated my mom and my sisters, and while he was a pastor, I saw how he treated various women in the churches I grew up in. Dad showed nothing by tremendous respect for females regardless of their age. This despite his biological dad leaving his mom not long after he was born, and even his step-dad walking out on her also when my dad was in his twenties. Among those experiences, dad knew women were to be treated with respect and honor.
As we enter the home stretch of what has easily been the ugliest and most divisive election cycle of our time, the disgust factor has reached a fever pitch with a disturbing video released last week of Donald Trump speaking on a live mic to Access Hollywood's Billy Bush, essentially describing his desire to grope women, because his power and fame gives him the right to do so. The coarseness of the words used was appalling, to say the least, and it finally forced Trump into a corner. It gave him the opportunity to be apologetic, to be sincere in his love and appreciation of women, and to show some modicum of sensitivity and decency.
Instead, we got fed a ho-hum apology and Trump, almost dismissive of his comments, constantly referring to them as "locker room talk."
In a vacuum, Trump is right. The things he has said fit well in your typical locker room, where young men (boys really) will talk about things that would likely be offensive to young women. The comparison of how one female looks to another, the laughter over some cruel remarks comparing a girl's physical appearance to an animal, and the winks and nods over vague assumptions of various sexual conquests among one another. Locker room talk is gross for sure, and should never be excused. But let it also be recognized that locker room talk tends to take place among adolescent boys who are just learning how to deal with their sexuality and many are still socially immature, ignorant as to how to treat females.
In other words, locker room talk shouldn't be a regular component of life as a 59-year-old man, especially a married man, which is what Trump was at the time of the tape.
Ordinarily, this type of video would be damning enough to ruin the career of a CEO or businessman, and would certainly destroy a coach or teacher at a school. But since it happened with a man running for the presidency, the remarks in this video are getting swept under the proverbial rug, shrugged off with that safe term: "locker room talk", as if that were passable for even a grown man, married with sons and daughters, to participate in.
Locker Room Talk = Rape Culture
What gets lost (somehow) in all this conversation about "locker room talk" is how the comments from Trump's video landed on the ears and hearts of women in America. As a 35-year-old man, even I cringed at the remarks Trump made. How do the women in America, who statistics show 1 in every 3 will face some form of sexual assault in their lifetime, feel about "locker room talk"?
Social media master Kelly Oxford found out just how much the Trump comments affected women. On Friday night, she tweeted out to her 700,000 plus followers requesting them to share their assault stories if they felt so inclined. Little did she know the stories would pour in by the hundreds. If nothing else, Kelly Oxford's request proved just how widespread the issue of sexual assault is across the nation. And should further induce discomfort and straight out anger among those for and against Trump for brushing off his comments as something said between bros in a private setting, and not a bigger deal than that.
The accounts of sexual assault that were shared on Twitter with the hashtag #notokay are alarming for several reasons: 1) the sheer number of them. Oxford said she was receiving as many as 50 responses per minute. 2) the fact that many assaults happened when women were young teens, if not children, and 3) that many women had more than just one story to share. Here are just a few that have been shared. You should know that they're graphic in nature:
"I was 10. he was 20. he took me on the ferris wheel and fingered me, then bought me cotton candy. his name was buddy."
"At 13, a guy exposed himself to me and forcibly put my hand on his penis. I had to scream for him to let me go."
"Assaulted by 6 high school boys at age 11 (police said too young to testify)"
"10, pinned and groped by 2 boys on school bus. When I reported it principal said it was probably just an accident."
"when I was 11yo neighbor dad took me on a scooter ride and molested me"
"Really, not the 1st. 1st: boys slapping my ass and snapping my bra strap in 5th grade, calling me "big tits" and "fat ass"
"11 yrs old. In a public park. 18 yr old boy pinned me against the railing of a bridge. Penetrated me with his fingers"
Those stories, just snippets of thousands of stories shared (not to mention the thousands more that are never shared), should make us cringe. They're disturbing and heartbreaking, and in the mildest way to describe them, are uncomfortable. There are allegations that Trump has sexually assaulted women in his past, and whether or not those accusations are found to be true, the fact that the man is even making a joke out of assaulting women and passing it off as just something that guys talk about should concern every American voter.
The rape culture perpetrated by Trump's remarks serve to exemplify just how dangerous the problem is. When a man running for president can make comments about women as if they were some type of sexual object to be owned and face zero consequence, what value do we show young women in America that they have? The stories above are horrifying, but so is a culture that essentially blames rape victims for the crimes committed against them because, you know, they should've dressed differently, or they shouldn't have had so much to drink, or they shouldn't have given the wrong signals, or...hey, it's no big deal, just guys being guys. Just locker room stuff.
You would think the numerous remarks (insults) Trump has made along the campaign trail would have some impact on how he's viewed. Somehow, everything he does gets swept under the rug, even when he makes crude remarks about his opponents. Making fun of people is pretty low, calling names is downright childish. When you laugh off what amounts to sexual harassmentif not assault, what word do we call that? What sitcom are we watching to where a man determined to be the leader of millions of people jokes about grabbing a woman's genitalia? But Trump will be Trump, and there's seemingly nothing that will stop him, no matter how many news outlets, bloggers, and esteemed columnists blast his consistent degradation of others.
The Waldo Effect
The British show Black Mirror, a near 45-minute thrill ride that is soon to enter its third season does a fantastic job or taking what seems often like harmless technology today and twisting it to show the ugly potential it has to utterly destroy lives. On one episode from season 2, the plot focuses on a parliament election taking place. Most of the candidates are what you'd expect, younger 40's, white, and well-spoken. One candidate, however, was nothing more than a digital blue bear named Waldo.
Waldo existed only on TV screens as part of a TV show, and eventually grew in popularity because of his constant brash takedowns of one of the candidates. Eventually, the creators of Waldo found a way to put him on a digital screen on the side of a massive truck and drive around town as the man at the controls of Waldo sputtered insults as pedestrians. Waldo is basically what you would expect a character from Southpark or Family Guy to be: crude, obscene in nature, and wildly immature. Of course, you'd expect this, because, after all, immaturity is a core marker for anyone who spends any amount of time belittling those they're against.
As the episode goes on, Waldo becomes a cult-like hero among the locals. This is not due to his substance, however. He is, after all, just a digitized cartoon bear who happens to have a quick-witted and foul-mouthed operator. But in a society where slick sound bites and punch lines outweigh substance and sincere policy, Waldo shot to the top of the polls.
Eventually, Waldo's operator begins to see how flawed the idea really is of a cartoon bear running for a legitimate government position, and has a meltdown during a debate (yes, they let the digital bear in on a debate). He begins to brashly insult the candidates to the point of becoming a mere loose cannon. Not long after, Waldo's operator truly realizes the dangers of this sham candidacy and begs the people (through Waldo's persona) not to vote for him. The man is quickly fired, and the owner/creator of Waldo takes over the controls, continuing the sham. Waldo goes on the finish second in the parliament race but acquires national fame for his rudeness and vile takedowns of others. The original operator of Waldo, meanwhile, goes on to become jobless and homeless.
Donald Trump is our Waldo. He is a caricature, a celebrity and reality star with no real ideas and no real substance. He shells out one-liners like Tic-Tacs, enticing and occasionally enraging a base of voters that simply want someone tho mirror their own anger. The deep-rooted problem with this is that because this base of voters is so entrenched in either Trump or the party he represents, they fail to truly realize the damaging words he speaks. A man swearing to protect the constitution doesn't even seem willing to protect the people that very constitution supports.
When Your Vote Doesn't Matter
The argument many Trump supporters make is based on the fear that Hillary Clinton will appoint liberal justices to the Supreme Court, while Trump would not. This may be true, but with the way Donald Trump has spoken and the way he has shifted on views, how can we rally be sure as to what he'll do? We have two deeply flawed candidates to choose from. The truth remains, however, that the lesser of two evils is still evil. And I'm not even sure who the "lesser" points to here.
As for me, I've decided to vote for a different candidate. I'm not sure right now who that will be, but I simply cannot vote for a man who makes such alarming comments about women, essentially advocating assault. I also will not vote for Hillary Clinton. I realize that not voting for Trump is seen by many as a throw-away vote, one that will just help Clinton be elected to office. That may or may not be the case, but I do know this: I cannot cast a vote for someone who opposes the values I have, who opposes the great value of women and opposes common decency and respect. A non-vote for Trump may essentially be a vote for Hillary, but it will not be a vote against my conscience. That matters to me more.