In light of the shitstorm these presidential debates have brought, I just need to take a minute to say a few things. It won’t be pretty and I’m sure some people won’t like it, but I need to get some things off my chest.
First, sexual assault isn’t cool. It’s not something that should be dealt with lightly. Mr. Trump’s recent remarks about the entitlement he thinks he has towards women and their bodies is disgusting and are not something to be dismissed as “locker room talk” or normalized as something that guys just do. (They also have not, in fact, been debunked as our charming GOP candidate so assuredly claimed.)
But the problem is not Donald Trump. The problem is our culture.
It’s our culture that has allowed A CANDIDATE FOR THE NATIONAL PRESIDENCY to make those statements and STILL BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY. It’s our culture that makes it possible for not just one but SEVERAL young, white, affluent men to take advantage of women, receive a less-than-minimal sentencing, and serve barely half of it. It is our very culture that let a boy at my middle school think it was okay to grab my breast when I was reading at a table in our friggin’ library. It’s our culture that allowed my 6th grade language arts teacher to look me in the eye and tell me she would tell our principle about that boy’s misdeeds knowing deep down such a report would never occur.
It is our very culture that made me think that a boy touching me without my consent is something that happens sometimes but is never really reprimanded or punished, so I should just learn to accept it and deal with it on my own.
Unfortunately, the truth in the first half of my last sentence is something our culture has failed to fully recognize.
No, I don’t think the problem with recent events is Donald Trump.
The problem – to get into a bit of my women’s and gender studies – is the culture of toxic masculinity in which he was raised and expected to thrive.
The problem is the culture that tells women and girls that they are less valuable but more vulnerable than their male counterparts.
The problem is the culture that allows people to ignore or minimize instances when women talk about issues that are not, in fact, limited to their gender, like rape, sexual assault, wage inequality – the effect of sexism runs all too deep and wide.
If Donald Trump is elected, however, this culture of misogyny and inequality will continue to flourish instead of adapting to one that, to borrow a line from one of my favorite musical soundtracks, includes women in the sequel. I fear we will be transported back in time 30, 40, even 50 years to when women (along with a number of other minorities) did not have access to appropriate healthcare, economic opportunity, or even some of the most basic human rights (read: refusing sex to a spouse, opening a credit card, reporting cases of sexual harassment, among others).
We have come a long way since then, but we still have a long way to go. And as a young woman who has the power to affect what my future looks like, I cannot fathom enabling a man like Donald Trump gain more momentum than he already has.