By Mark Naison (October 9, 2016)
As some apologists for Donald Trump have suggested, the type of language Mr. Trump used in the “Access Hollywood” video just uncovered is hardly unique to him. Unfortunately, they are right about this. Not only did Bill Clinton use it through most of his political life-something I know from first hand testimony as well as rumor-it can be found in locker rooms and work places all over the country wherever men gather without women present, or in such numbers that women are too intimidated to protest. Many men still consider the use of such language a sacred right, which is why some country clubs still ban women from their bars at certain hours of the day.
However, this is something we as a society have been working very hard to overcome as women have moved into positions of influence in our economy and public life. From police stations and fire houses to television stations and the trading floor of investment banks, women have fought a lonely uphill battle to end the normalization of this demeaning intimidating language and the actions that follow it. I have story after story from former students who joined previously all male occupations about the struggle they waged for dignified treatment from men who thought talk about women’s private parts or their own sexual exploits was an integral part of the culture of their workplace. The most horrifying stories came in the 70’s and 80’s and 90’s when women first began to break into law enforcement and the financial sector. They have been significantly reduced in the last few years.
So the question I ask is- do we really want to elect a President who is an unapologetic representative of this culture and who has lived it for most of his adult life? I had hoped we were better than that. That we were moving away from the toxic male culture that so many women have had to fight at the workplace,and unfortunately in their personal lives
But this is not only an issue for women, there are men who find it objectionable as well.
I am one of those men. I spent much of my time in the 1970’s playing sandlot football and schoolyard basketball in parks and schoolyards and gyms around the city. On some of the teams I played on, sexual banter and comments about women’s anatomies were an integral part of the conversation among men, to the point where it became a form of bonding among men from different racial backgrounds. I still have vivid memories of Sunday morning football games where the main subject of conversation was who people f….d the night before. As someone who was dating and eventually married a feminist, and whose life was enriched by many strong women friends, I found this discourse offensive and deeply troubling. But I wanted so much to be part of this team that I never openly protested. My protest, pathetic as it might seem, was complete silence. I just went out on the field and hit people, devoutly hoping my teammates would JUST SHUT UP.
I am sure there were and still are many men like me who would feel liberated if this kind of talk were no longer welcome where powerful men gather.
I hope they join with me and women across the country in assuring that someone with Mr Trump’s values and persona never becomes President.