By Everett Secor
I’m not mad at Trump.
Sure, the things he’s revealed to have said during a 2005 taping of Access Hollywood are beyond repugnant. More than the blatant objectification of women, they describe harassment and sexual assault with a sense of pride and bravado.
But it feels a little silly to feel sudden anger towards someone for once again genuinely displaying who we already knew they are.
Trump’s history of misogyny steeped in sexual objectification, body shaming, and toxic masculinity is well documented.
The recent revelation of how he described Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado as “Miss Piggy” and an “eating machine”, forcing her to embarrassingly exercise in front of a horde of news crews, resulted in his bizarre response of feigning disgust at her involvement in a non-existent sex tape to discredit her.
This comes from a man who has proudly been featured giving intros in multiple exploitive Playboy films.
We all knew who he was.
Which is why, when the recordings were released two weeks ago, my shock was not at all at their content, but at the reaction to them.
What I saw as run-of-the-mill behavior for this man was finally drawing harsh rebuke from his political supporters.
Multiple Republican politicians who have either endorsed Trump, or stated they’re voting for him, have since withdrawn their support.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan disinvited Trump from a speaking engagement in Wisconsin.
Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence said, “I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them.”
None of these objections were more shocking than when they came from one of the most steadfast strongholds of republican power: Alabama.
If there’s a place that will bend before it breaks blue, it’s the land that proudly pronounces “we dare defend our rights.”
And yet, United States Representatives Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, and Bradley Byrne, R-Mobile, both made announcements denouncing Trump.
They were joined by none other than Robert Bentley, Alabama’s own sex-scandal plagued governor who was elected twice in landslide elections on sentiments of Christian family values and integrity and is now facing impeachment.
Even AL.com, Alabama’s #1 online media site and the state wide web presence of the Birmingham News offered up their endorsement to Clinton.
Alabamians are no strangers to making excuses and seeking reconciliation for impropriety, but it seemed this time, Trump’s actions were beyond absolution.
At least for some.
Rather than rebuke Trump, unendorse him, renounce his words, denounce his behavior, or share any sentiment that women should be treated better than this, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions decided the best response to Trump’s comments that his power and influence allowed him to grope women without consequence was to say “I don’t characterize that as sexual assault.”
As one of Trump’s most vocal supporters who reportedly helped him prep for the second Presidential debate, it seems Sessions has strapped himself to the Trump Rocket and is prepared to go wherever it takes him.
But as this shock wave of disgust spreads through the rest of the GOP, the question is:
Why, after all Trump has said about women, are they suddenly surprised and offended?
Even outside the realm of misogyny, why did his disparaging marks about Latinos, Muslims, and African Americans not disqualify him from being the party’s standard bearer long ago?
That he has consistently been giving the benefit of the doubt again and again, to the extent that his VP pick just flatly denies his words ever happened, proves how acceptable these attitudes are to the Republican party until they’re staring the worst manifestation of them squarely in the face.
Take out the private microphone conversation on the bus in the leaked tape.
Watch only the video of Donald Trump and self described “apolitical” Presidential nephew/cousin and Ryan Lochte apologist Billy Bush walking with Arianne Zucker onto the set of Days of Our Lives.
Their immediate focus on her physical appearance and jockeying for opportunities for her embrace is a pathetic and disgusting spectacle on its own.
But without the preceding conversation on the bus, this tape wouldn’t raise an eyebrow among Trump’s prior supporters.
The fact is that this treatment of women as an inferior gender whose primary purpose is to serve the sexual appetites of men is central tenant to the Alabama Republican party.
Beyond the typical hyper-masculine attitude associated with American conservatism, the religious right’s war on sexual education has done nothing but perpetuate these attitudes in the name of “family values”.
The sort of abstinence-only sex education taught in Alabama refuses to teach our kids about the nature of consent, instead treating sex like a shameful act in which young women, trained frequently on how to say no, are the responsible gatekeepers while young men, rarely taught how to take no for an answer, are the hapless victims of their own hormonal urges.
This stigma is strong enough to drive young female victims of sexual assault to stay silent about their experiences, driven by a sense of shame and diminished self worth.
The state’s flagship college, The University of Alabama, is not immune from the sexual assault epidemic plaguing American universities, and recently announced the number of reported sexual assaults more than doubled from 2014 to 2015.
While an increase in reports could be indicative of better support programs to shed light on sexual assault rather than an increase in incidents, the school still has a long way to go.
Last month, Rebecca Walden, a woman who attended a UA football game, published a piece in the Huffington Post telling “young ladies of the SEC, cover it up!”.
She claimed female Alabama students they looked like they were at a “Victoria’s Secret fashion show” and that any sense of class they had was rendered “tasteless” by their attire.
Huffington Post has since deleted the controversial article, but not before RISE NEWS captured her indignant slut shaming that perpetuates the idea that women are not allowed to make decisions about their own sexuality.
There was no word from Ms. Walden what she thought about the young men who proudly go shirtless every game with letters painted on their chest.
“Boys will be boys” should just be a permanent item on the RNC Platform.
In fact, that’s essentially Donald Trump’s response in 2013 when facing the staggering rate of sexual assaults that occur in the US Military:
“26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?”
Men are left largely unaccountable for toxic behavior and women are left to deal with the consequences.
Forty-three years after the passage of Roe V. Wade, Alabama still isn’t sold on the notion that women have autonomy over their own bodies.
The abortion battle rages on, with new legislation constructed every year finding loopholes in the decision to combat a woman’s right to chose whether she serves a purpose beyond procreation.
Trump’s past comments that women seek abortions should be punished drew some ire, but this isn’t a far cry from the already established stance of the GOP.
Many lawmakers even believe in preventing abortions in rape cases, attempting to give the sort of legislative legitimacy to sexual assault that most infamously resulted in former Congressman Todd Akin’s comments that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
In Alabama, legislation signed this year blocks abortion clinics from being within 2,000 feet of public K-8 schools, or from performing a common method of second trimester abortions. While currently being considered by a federal judge who may block the statutes, the laws threaten the operation of the state’s four abortion clinics which serve over four million people.
This misogyny is present in stances all across the board of the Republican party:
Their anti-transgender laws, fueled by a notion that a transgendered woman who doesn’t fully conform to their notions of desired femininity doesn’t fulfill the value of a woman.
Their opposition to equal pay legislation.
Their opposition to paid maternity leave (something Trump is bizarrely progressive on by comparison.)
Their opposition to mandating employers allow contraception to be covered by health insurance.
Conservative have spent years decrying “political correctness”, but are now running for the hills when given an politically incorrect phrasing of their attitude towards women.
Make no mistake.
Sexual assault and mistreatment of women are by no means purely a conservative problem.
They exists in “progressive” realms of literature and academia.
Misogyny was seen too well by the often gendered vitriol thrown at Hillary Clinton and Debbie Wasserman Schultz by a certain sect of Bernie Sanders supporters during the Democratic primaries.
Heroes of the new atheist movement have expressed seriously disturbing attitudes towards women.
While it doesn’t serve as any sort of defense of Trump, try as me might to leverage it, former President Bill Clinton has his own troubling history with crass behavior and sexual assault allegations.
Additionally, conservatives certainly have their champions, too.
Governor Bentley’s deeply religious ex-wife, Dianne, endured her marriage well after clear evidence of infidelity by the governor to continue to push through her agenda giving stronger support to domestic violence victims in Alabama.
But despite the actions of these individuals, you’d be hard pressed to find an organization in America where misogyny such an unabashed, central theme as it is in the Republican party.
Barring the impossible, it seems Trump will lose in November. But that’s not enough to stem the right’s war on women, and all of those who have stood by him until now should not suddenly be able to jump ship without being taken down too.
Denouncing Trump is an absolute necessity, but it’s not enough to hide how they’ve enabled him until now, or to rescue the heart of dixie from its politicized misogyny.
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.
Cover Photo Credit: Vicky van Santen/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)