Home > Uncategorized > Normalizing Sexism – posted 7/6/2019 and published in the Concord Monitor on 7/25/2019

Normalizing Sexism – posted 7/6/2019 and published in the Concord Monitor on 7/25/2019

For the last 50 years or so, many American women have challenged their second class status and have fought for gender equity. On different fronts, women have pushed back against institutional discrimination, sexual objectification, and patriarchal control.

On the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and reproductive rights, women have confronted and rejected traditional sexist views. Progress may have been halting but the movement was forward.

That was true until the presidency of Donald Trump. Now we are turning back the clock. Under Trump, sexual politics have regressed. As is the case with racism, where pro-Trump white supremacists have come out from under the rocks where they were previously hiding, Trump has given sexists and misogynists a new lease on life.

Let’s begin with the example of the President himself. At least 22 women have accused him of sexual misconduct since the 1970’s. The latest was Elle Magazine advice columnist E. Jean Carroll who recently accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the 1990’s.

Trump has denied all the allegations against him and has called all the women “liars”. About Carroll, he wrote, “I’ve never met this person in my life” even though New York magazine printed a photo of them together. Then Trump said, “Number one, she’s not my type”.

So does that mean Trump might rape someone who was his type? He has had other disturbing responses to allegations of his sexual misconduct. After businesswoman Jessica Leeds accused him of groping her, Trump said, “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you”.

I guess Trump’s victims have to be “10’s” to get a shot at being assaulted.

You have to ask: how does this guy get a pass on all the accusations? Doesn’t every woman who has made an accusation deserve a fair hearing on the merits? Trump may not be approaching Harvey Weinstein-type numbers but when you are over 20 allegations that shocks the conscience.

I thought the federal government had a vigorous policy against sexual harassment. I guess it is two-tiered: one tier for Trump and one for everyone else. If the same accusations had been lodged against President Obama, Obama would have been impeached.

It would appear that Trump is above the law. His behavior is beyond reckoning and a double standard is at play. Whatever electoral calculations the House Democrats are making, their response to these accusations has been weak and overly accommodating.

What is going on is a throwback to a former era when men unambiguously ruled. It was not A Handmaid’s Tale but in pre-1960’s America, powerful men were dominant and women were under their thumb. Male chauvinism was the norm. Sex was a private matter outside public scrutiny. If a man wanted to assault or batter his wife or girl friend, it was nobody else’s business.

Men had the prerogative to behave badly and complaining women were “hysterical”, not to be believed. Religion often provided cover since patriarchal religion taught that men were the head of the household and women were to obey.

It is easy to see why women have been reluctant to come forward and report sexual assault allegations. They get harassed and threatened. After Carroll made her allegations, Trump encouraged his supporters to harass her. Trump said Carroll’s allegations put her in “dangerous territory”, whatever that means.

I think Trump’s behavior has very bad implications for domestic violence victims. As a national role model, he is saying complaining women are not to be believed. The example Trump sets is one that every abuser emulates. The strategy is what University of Oregon psychology professor Jennifer Freyd calls DARVO: Deny, Attack and Reverse Victim and Offender. Freyd says perpetrators of violence often use this strategy to silence victims and to force retreat.

Backwards views of domestic violence are also reflected in Trump Administration public policy. The Trump Department of Justice revised its definition of domestic violence to only consider physical harm – not psychological and emotional abuse. This is a major step backward, contrary to modern understandings of domestic violence. Also, the Trump Administration, through former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, ruled that domestic violence cannot be a basis for an asylum claim unless very extraordinary conditions are met. The new standard was designed to foil the great majority of domestic violence-based asylum claims. It downgrades and minimizes the crime of domestic violence.

The new sexism is also reflected in reproductive and abortion rights policy. Before our very eyes, abortion rights are disappearing. The right to choose is being rendered a nullity. Trump, his largely male minions and male-dominated state legislatures are denying women their right to choose, even in cases of rape and incest.

Not surprisingly, just as the Trump Administration emboldened a new generation of white supremacists, they have also emboldened a new generation of hateful male supremacists who see feminism as responsible for the decline of Western civilization. Red Pill, incels, and Milo Yiannopoulos come to mind.

We are witnessing an effort to bring back and normalize sexism. In her book, No Visible Bruises, Rachel Snyder quotes a domestic violence activist and survivor, Kit Gruelle:

“We are leaping backwards at an obscene pace.”

I think that sums it up well.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Pat Dawson
    July 6, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    It’s incredibly frustrating to see the ground we are losing.

    • July 6, 2019 at 4:06 pm

      All we can hope is that this reactionary wave will provoke a powerful response. I think it will.

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