Image: A rally for Donald Trump in Prescott Valley, Arizona / Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons
By now, the fact that Donald Trump has behaved like a monster is well-known to all but his most ardent (and, let’s be honest here, terribly misguided) supporters. The number of women who have bravely stepped forward to share stories of sexual harassment and abuse has now reached the double digits, and there’s little doubt more women will step forward, and further tapes exposing his horrific misogyny, racism, and other repugnant views will be released. Let’s be honest about another thing: at this point, his chances of being elected President of the United States and beating Hillary Clinton are remote now at best (or so we hope, given that the alternative would be far more frightening than almost anything bar the fiery apocalypse).
But behind the gaffe machine that is Donald J. Trump there is something far more sinister, and so we need to ask ourselves: what led us to this point? What made Donald Trump the way he is?
The uncomfortable answer? He’s but the latest product of an entitlement culture that denigrates, objectifies and infantilises women.
The sad reality is, there have been men who have abused women since almost time immemorial – and men who have been getting away with it for equally as long. Even among US presidential candidates, such behaviour is far from abnormal. For instance, Thomas Jefferson fathered several children by raping a slave he owned. He was still elected as the third US president (and re-elected to a second term, too). As deified as he is, John F. Kennedy was also a serial womaniser. And about a decade after Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, secret recordings of then-president Richard Nixon revealed him to say things about women that can only be described as fucking disgusting.
The problem is that all this has led to a cascade effect, which has given us the Republican Party presidential candidate we have now. He’s the latest result of a culture that has told cisgender white men they can do anything without consequence, that women are accessories to be acquired and discarded, and that anyone who is not exactly like them is not to be trusted or treated as an equal.
It’s a culture that preaches that women’s most important quality is their physical appearance – and even then the ultimate judges of that are cis men. It’s a culture of online trolls, that viciously attacks any woman who expresses her opinion – or anyone else not exactly like them who expresses their opinion. And it’s not a culture limited exclusively to the United States – just read any of the headlines here in Aotearoa recently about rugby players running afoul of the law and engaged in other misconduct.
We need to treat the disease, not just the symptoms. The cis entitlement culture is unmistakably a cancerous one, and to be frank, it will probably take a while to change it for the better.
But it’s not impossible.
It’s something we all can do, by taking simple but courageous steps like telling someone it’s not OK when they denigrate women or make rape jokes. It’s as simple as offering support to people who are victimised, and promoting positivity and tolerance and love wherever we go and whoever we interact with. And it’s as simple as not stereotyping people and not subscribing to outdated notions of beauty and gender roles.
And let’s not kid ourselves here: a vote for Trump is a vote for rape culture.
Women are not sex objects. Women are not “lesser” than men. And no one is “entitled” to anyone else. Ever.
One thing’s for sure. Whatever we do, we need to take all the steps we can to ensure that there’s never again another Donald Trump.
Wouldn’t that be a relief?