Before the chaos of his cabinet gets going too far, it’s necessary to reflect on the meaning of the 2016 Presidential election outcome. In contrast to the plethora of scapegoating as to why he got elected that is occurring within much of the media, I want to unpack what it means. Specifically, it’s necessary to talk about misogyny because as I’ll argue below, the disguising and dismissing of it is exactly why it persists. As a model for other persevering types of hatred, this argument is applicable to racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, et al. And because the presidential outcome is already off to a good start with protests, riots, concerns for whom to blame, how to get Democrats back on track, the missed misogyny may be too easily sidelined.
Implicit in the feeling of devastation of young voters who supported Clinton is the meaning of the election for them. The primary topic is the various forms of hatred the President-elect embraces, specifically misogyny and racism. Misogyny is evidenced in Trump’s recorded conversation about the power he has due to his wealth, which results in women allowing him to grab their genitals without their permission. In addition to that statement, there are a number of women who are filing sexual harassment suits against him. On one hand what he so crudely stated was something that, as a society we mostly already knew, i.e. that litigation against the wealthy is (increasingly) unbalanced, mostly due to the financial burden of bringing a lawsuit in the first place. That is, wealthy, powerful men can sexually harass women, even though it’s against the law. But on the other hand the misogynistic element of his statement and how it functions is two fold: firstly, there is the overt misogyny that he is propounding–the action or statement–but secondly–and this is the insidious nature of hatred more generally–there is his supporters who choose an explanatory narrative which takes his statement outside of the realm of misogyny and illegality. His supporters, many whom are women, created or accepted ad hoc explanations as to why they wouldn’t interpret what he said as misogyny. Specifically, Trump invented the explanation that it was, “Locker room talk,” which is a version of “boys will be boys” but for grown up men. Rationally, there are a number of problems with his and his supporters’ perspective, but the most readily available is simply ‘delusion.’ I mean delusion in the most simplistic sense: that events or characteristics are repeatedly viewed from a single scope. There is no positive here or negative to weigh, there is no variable to consider, there simply a single constant. There are no anomalies, no aberrations, no deviations. In an analogy with buying a classic car the importance of the car as part of a collection or object owned outweighs the fact that parts may not be available, that it could be difficult to maintain, or that it doesn’t really function like vehicle intended for transportation but rather a big toy that may move around.
The sexual harassment suits are intended to remove the theoretical aspect of Trump’s statement and root it in fact. They are intended to undo the ad hoc explanation of “locker room talk.” The quantity (the last count was at 12) of suits is intended to make his actions appear not only habitual, but enforce the verity of each plaintiff’s claim. The difficult I can foresee in each of these cases is not only the ephemeral nature of proof in a crime that may have manifested in touching, speaking or writing but linking that proof–which may only be a statement or message written–with the criminal intention. Coincidentally, this is the same difficulty in prosecuting for hate crimes, which Trump supporters who attack immigrants or Muslims should face. For Trump, it will be doubly difficult to prosecute because of another truth that exists in our society: people in position of political power are often immune to litigation.
In the next post I will write about Donald Trump’s first day as President agenda.