Contributed by Leah Jacobson
Recently I was asked to comment, as a New Feminist, on my friend Marjorie Campbell’s post “Trump the Guy”. As someone who has strong opinions on the type of leader I feel America needs right now, I agreed to read and see how one of my colleagues in the New Feminist movement might feel about the leader of the GOP hunt for the party nomination. As I read her post I’ll admit I was honestly surprised to see Campbell attempt to personalize a man who she herself outs in her first few paragraphs as someone who is capable of making obscene and degrading comments about women.
How can someone who openly admits that a candidate has publicly berated women based solely on their appearance find enough redeeming qualities to give what appears to be support for them as a candidate? Well, honestly, I don’t think she was able to do that.
When I began reading Campbell’s post, I expected it to evolve into a strong rallying cry for New Feminists to unite and teach our daughters to expect more from their male counterparts. I expected an honest assessment of why this man might appear appealing initially to some women, but then a firm reminder that we – as supporters of complementarianism – expect a level of respect and equal dignity to be given to the opposite sex at all times.
Campbell took a strange and unexpected turn however when she calls attention to the fact that Trump is enjoying a lot of support from women, particularly women with little education. To me it would go without much investigation that his female supporters would be poorly educated, as women with higher levels of learning tend to have higher self-confidence and higher expectations of men.
In a Gallup poll released in December, Trump had the lowest net favorable rating out of all the candidates among college-educated Republican women. In that same poll it was summed up that “Trump is not that popular in general among Republicans, but has a particular image problem among women and those with college and postgraduate degrees. Looking at this from a different angle, Trump clearly has his greatest appeal to Republican men — and, in particular, to Republican men without a college degree.”
It would seem that the poorly educated women are likely voting alongside their poorly educated men. Instead of acknowledging the limitations that can come along with lack of education, Campbell focuses on this demographic of uneducated women and uses them as representative of the majority of women. She states that the “small contingent of activist women” who are offended by the type of “guy talk” that is typical of Trump have “always been a minority, [however.]… many of these women don’t like men. They don’t live with men; much less love a man as a primary component of their lives.” I couldn’t disagree more strongly with this as my own experience, and the experiences of most women I spoke with about this, confirmed that we happily married heterosexual women expect a far higher level of behavior from our men, and that we are deeply offended by Trump’s comments. And I certainly do not think we are the minority contingent Campbell is referring to.
Campbell posits that the majority of women are not offended by what Donald Trump is saying and then goes on to say the reason is because of cultural white washing on gender differentiation. “For many of us men-loving females, especially those of us who live with working class and alpha males, Trump’s language is more than familiar; it is even intimate. We understand it, because we understand guy talk. It does not scare us.” And that right there scares the hell outta me! If the majority of American women are OK with being rated on their looks, with being disrespected as wives, as employees, and as professionals then I am afraid that the New Feminist movement has a lot more work to do than I initially realized.
This has nothing to do with men attempting to assert masculinity in a culture that has moved toward gender-neutral status (that is another topic completely that I would be happy to continue discussing), but it does have everything to do with a narcissistic man playing on the insecurities in the average person for his own gain. Campbell attempts to humanize Donald Trump by using a “guys will be guys” sort of approach and says that Americans are not turned off by his often-crass comments because we are familiar with the type of man that Trump is. She says that many of our fathers, brothers, and husbands act just like him in the privacy of their homes and she puts forward that most Americans are not offended by this sort of man because we know them to be good natured underneath their obviously crusty exteriors.
So because the average man has not lived up to the calling of authentic masculinity, we are supposed to embrace a man that epitomizes all the familiar bad qualities of the broken men we love?
Donald Trump is not merely just a guy who likes to kick back with his friends and embrace his “masculinity”. He doesn’t just like to have a beer and talk a little trashy with his buddies and rate a pretty girl that happens to walk by on Guys Night (which I would argue has nothing to do with authentic masculinity). No, his misogyny is a much higher level of degradation of women. And if we can’t see the difference between his actions and the smutty words of the men in our own lives, then we have drunk the Kool-Aid called Self-Denial, America.
What was not mentioned in “Trump the Guy” is that Trump’s misogynistic tendencies go much further than his foul mouth and personal life. Along with his dirty comments on Howard Stern and his divorces due to self-admitted extramarital affairs, Trump actually has several business ventures that speak to his willingness to objectify women and profit off them.
In August of 2013, Trump’s Taj Mahal casino became the first casino in Atlantic City, N.J., to have an in-house strip club. Until this past month, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had a 10-percent ownership stake in that same Atlantic City casino and hotel, which also hosted a convention dedicated to the production, sale and promotion of hardcore pornography. The eXXXotica Expo occurred at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino & Resort in both April 2014 and April 2013. It doesn’t take a genius to see the connections between the underworld of strip clubs, sex trafficking, pornography, and prostitution. It is a world that Trump is comfortable in and knows how to navigate. In March 1990 he even posed for the cover of Playboy magazine—next to a model wearing only his tuxedo jacket.
Bottom line: Donald Trump has profited directly from the exploitation of women. I don’t think many of us would think of our hardworking fathers, brothers, and husbands when we think about a billionaire profiting off the sale of women’s bodies through the sex industry.
But he does. Donald Trump is nothing like the hardworking blue-collar men that many of us are acquainted with, and to think otherwise is to fall victim to the fabulous marketing his campaign managers have used to endear him to frustrated voters. Perhaps some voters are drawn to his candid, crass talk because they are tired of the political correctness that is required of presidential candidates. And maybe they do find some sanity in his noting differences between the sexes. I can understand how the effects of feminism’s obsession with gender neutrality has gotten under their skin and they might just appreciate someone calling a woman beautiful, but what Trump is doing is NOT an effective response to the white washing of gender difference that is currently in vogue. He is not calling women beautiful as his equal counter-part, but rather as a sign of his power.
What Campbell fails to call forward is that all gender differentiation should be done with respect for the beautiful strengths of the opposite sex. What Trump does repeatedly in his public comments, business decisions, and personal life is reduce the beauty of women’s contributions to the world down to their physical appearance. When he speaks of a woman of class like Princess Diana, he has to degrade her memory by saying she was “hot” and that he “could have slept with her.” A man with any sense of the equal worth of woman to him could not say such a callous stupid thing when looking at the accomplishments of the late Princess of Whales.
And so I disagree with my colleague. I do not know or recognize any of the men in my life when I see Donald Trump. He is not endearing, or clever, or innocently awkward. He is a dangerous misogynist who knows how to arouse a frustrated electorate. He is a businessman who looks out for Number 1. He uses and exploits people for profit. He is NOT the model for the type of man who respects women or truly cares about our rights as mothers, as daughters, as sisters, as wives. A vote for Donald Trump is a backwards vote for the progress of New Feminists everywhere.