Many words have been spilled in the wake of “pussygate” and I will not speak about Mr. Trump and his comments here. The idea that anyone was surprised by the “revelations” seems absurd to me. Instead I want to meditate on why this feels like an unprecedented, seminal moment for U.S. women: we are finally seeing our “respectable” male leaders for the privileged, patriarchal shams they really are.
American women just witnessed many of their respected elected officials insisting that Trump’s comments weren’t a big deal and/or that the behavior he bragged about doesn’t constitute sexual assault. Such views, uttered by public figures, are horrifying, not just for their content but also for their audacity. To pronounce them repeatedly and without shame is to demonstrate just how little our leaders understand the female experience and their utter disinterest in learning more. The privilege is staggering and unmistakable.
But I think the men disavowing Trump have shown their true nature in a way we haven’t seen since the Civil Rights era. Once sentence in particular reveals a devastating truth:
As the backlash increases over a recording of Donald J. Trump speaking of women in vulgar sexual terms, some have said the fury may be particularly intense because Mr. Trump, who has previously offended a number of minorities, is now being perceived as demeaning a target historically more valued in American society: white women. –– Yamiche Alcindor, Level of Outrage Over Donald Trump Tape Is Linked to Another Issue: Race October 9, 2016. NYTimes
This sentence is so damning. Not only does it highlight how our leaders did nothing while so many other groups were humiliated, but it reveals their shallow motivations.
I am reminded of events back during the Republican primaries when Ted Cruz supporters circulated an unflattering meme featuring a nude photo of Melania Trump and Trump supporters responded by circulating an unflattering meme featuring a photo of Heidi Cruz. Both men went into indignant huffs that left me strangely unsatisfied. I couldn’t quite figure out why.
Now I see it very clearly.
Cruz and Trump weren’t indignant because they understood their wives’s pain as the public equated their worth with their physical appearances. No, it wasn’t about the women’s experiences. It was about each man crushing a perceived threat to his manhood. Two public primates claiming to represent the American people performed dueling dominance displays as they trespassed on each other’s breeding territories.
This past weekend, many high-profile males suddenly recognized how the large aggressive male might trespass on their females (!). How many referenced their wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers without indicating in any way that they understood the female experience? Which of them expressed a new understanding of or appreciation for women’s fears and aspirations? The silence on this point is deafening and we hear it. We are left without any doubt that the men we’ve trusted to represent us are only interested in preserving their own dominance.
How dare they?! Oh yeah . . . male privilege.
We see it now and we will not let it stand.
And, if we don’t laugh we’ll cry. Here’s South Park demonstrating this dynamic better than I possibly could: Going Ape for Bebe (start around 0:48).