At some point in every woman’s life (and almost assuredly more than once), you get that unsettling feeling about a man. He’s too clingy, attentive, aggressive, weird, or 500 other adjectives you employ to mean – he’s just plain creepy. Maybe he pays too much attention to your children or makes inappropriate comments on Facebook or maybe he just straight-up beats you. Whatever the behavior or the form it takes, it really boils down to one meaning: you’re something to possess and something to control. Whether it’s blatant or insidious, the message is that you are the lesser; you’re an object to own.
Because you’re a woman, you’ve been raised to be polite and accommodating and give everyone (except yourself) the benefit of the doubt. So you make excuses for him. You question how blunt you should be in responses. You wonder if you’re overreacting, so you soften your words. You keep your mouth shut at times when all you want to do is rage. You don’t want to be rude after all. God forbid a woman be rude.
The insidious ones are the worst, because they’re harder to define and harder to fight. Hell, we can’t even agree on who our monsters are. You’d be hard-pressed to find a defender of Bill Cosby these days, but for a good deal of time, some of his biggest defenders were women. (Goldberg has since “kinda” reversed her stance.) And the public peanut gallery (myself included) will likely forever debate the sins of Eminem, Woody Allen, Dr. Dre, Christian Bale, etc etc ad infinitum.
So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the blatant misogyny and disdain for women pervading our political landscape isn’t generating more outrage. As a matter of fact, it’s become the core of a movement.
The blatant offender is easy to identify. At a recent fundraising event, Donald Trump stated that women shouldn’t be trusted with national security secrets because they’re incapable of keeping anything from their husbands. And please don’t blow that off. Trump is no longer a reality star or a sideshow; he’s the leading Republican candidate for the President of the United States. Jeb Bush is right:
“Look, this guy’s the front-runner,” Mr. Bush said last week at a town-hall-style meeting in Norfolk, Va. “He should be treated like a front-runner, not like some kind of alternative universe to the political system.”
The fact that a good portion of our nation’s voters don’t care that their candidate of choice is a bona-fide misogynist is baffling and frustrating, to be sure. What is much more bothersome is that they’re building an ethos around it. And it’s catching on.
“Real.” “Unvarnished.” “Telling it like it is.” All phrases applied to Trump time after time by voters. Americans tired of the bullshit are grateful for honesty from a candidate. They’re so tired, in fact, that the actual words being spoken by that candidate are beside the point. I get it. I am as sick of politically smooth stump speeches as the rest of you. For god’s sake, I just launched a website centered around being “tired of the Supposed To.” I really do get it, okay?
What is being lost in this search for political honesty is the weight of words. Particularly when spoken on a national stage, words can have very real consequences, sometimes blatant and sometimes insidious. Trump’s virulent anti-immigration statements resulted in the beating of a Hispanic man in Boston—an obviously blatant result. But the consequences of his and countless others’ sexist language are of the insidious variety and just like an insidious perpetrator, much harder to identify. Therefore, their consequences can be more far-reaching.
Which leads me to Planned Parenthood. Wait. Please don’t leave. I don’t want to talk about abortion, I promise. What I want to talk about is the vociferous call among many men (because it’s overwhelmingly men) to remove the ability for women to be healthy and disease-free. I don’t think this point has been emphasized enough so I’m going to do it here again, in obnoxious bold letters: It is illegal for an abortion to be paid for with federal funds. So when you advocate for Planned Parenthood to lose its funding, you are not making a stand against abortion. You are advocating for women to get sick. Further, you’re advocating for low-income women to get sick. You are making a conscious decision to say, “Women’s health? I don’t give a shit.”
Am I being harsh? Rude? Making you uncomfortable? Too bad. I’m furious that society has allowed us to get to this place. That religious extremists have taken an issue that actually merits educated and reasonable debate (as I think abortion very much does) and twisted it into an insidious attack on the basic health of women. Louisiana, for example, has some of the highest STD rates in the country: first for gonorrhea, second for chlamydia, and third for syphilis and HIV. Yet, it currently has a grand total of two Planned Parenthood clinics to treat an entire states’ worth of patients. And Bobby Jindal is trying his damndest to shut them down. No, Planned Parenthood is not the only option to treat those who are ill. You could always go to the ER, I suppose— an extremely welcoming place for a terrified, low-income teenager.
Recently, a friend of mine posted an impassioned plea on Facebook asking people not to stand idly by while Trump built a presidential platform based on racism. He was right, but I want to take it one step further: stop accepting misogyny and sexism as a method of governance. The blatant form is easy to reject, and Trump’s getting called on some of it. But the insidious moves are slipping right by us – and we’re letting them.
Male lawmakers in this country are abusing women on a daily basis. How much longer are we going to pretend it’s not happening?