For feminists of every fold, Donald Trump’s public statements about women cause pause. Let’s recap a few.
“I do cherish, I love women… I will take care of women, and I have great respect for women. I do cherish women. And I will take care of women.”
“You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals,” (Megyn Kelly) “Only Rosie O’Donnell” (Donald Trump)
“Fox viewers give low marks to bimbo @megynkelly will consider other programs!” (Donald Trump)
While @BetteMidler is an extremely unattractive woman, I refuse to say that because I always insist on being politically correct.
“A person who is very flat-chested is very hard to be a 10.”
“Heidi Klum. Sadly, she’s no longer a 10.”
There’s so much WRONG with these publicly delivered statements about women, which provide recurring text for the now regular headlining of “Trump’s Misogyny.” Trump’s crude, curdling language leaves many feminists – old style, New Feminists, pro-life feminists, current wave feminists – near breathless with frustration and anger and incomprehension. It’s all so inappropriate in this day of equality, cleansed speech and avoidance of any reference to gender differences.
So why, then, does this seemingly alarming candidate continue to receive significant support from women? How can any woman, much less the prevailing demographic of women without college degrees, vote for a man who publicly says such inappropriate things about women? Are Trump’s female supporters simply radical wackos who are giving him a “pass” on his misogyny – the way Gloria Steinem and radical feminists have given Bill Clinton a “pass” on his predatory behaviors against women?
I suspect this is actually opposite of reality.
I suspect that Trump’s female supporters are not forgiving his offensive language; they are not, in fact, offended.
Like so much of what Trump seems to unleash, there’s a surprise in the detail. For many of us – I include myself – Trump reminds us of our husbands, fathers, uncles and sons whose “guy” talk has been shushed, shamed and ejected from the public forum because it’s “offensive” to women – a complaint formulated and fomented by a small contingent of activist women.
This contingent constantly insists that all women loathe any reference to gender or gender differences. This contingent wields considerable influence and power in the public forum, often responsible for targeting and shaming even other women who breach protocol.
This loud, retributive group has 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. As Elizabeth Fox-Genovese brilliantly observed, this small group of radicals have never reflected most women’s reality – a reality filled with great love for and attachment to men.
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.
My husband is working class by background – his father was a chief in the Navy. My husband’s claim to teenage fame was the number of times he was picked up by Tucson police for drag racing. Yet, my spouse outpaced his Dad in short order with both a college degree and a successful business career. He reads and discusses the most complicated of topics and he follows politics like some people follow the lottery. Many who know him think this: he’s incredibly well educated and well read – dazzlingly smart and successful. A long list of women with whom he has worked over decades call him friend and mentor.
What many don’t know about him is this: he hosts Steak Night for the “boys” once a week in our home – a raucous evening of beef, beer, red wine, cigars, pool and gales of gross male teasing and guffaws and loud proclamations for fixing the world. The “boys” cross party lines and vary in marital status, as well as their taste for alcohol, tobacco and lewdness. But they are all the same in a very guy way.
I usually linger to make sure that they are not using my Riedel wine glasses or any serving dishes I really hope still to have the next day. Inevitably, I hear one of them come up short, “Ooops. Marjorie is still here” and a round of snickering follows. I roll my eyes and tell them to behave. Then, I retire upstairs and, when it’s a full moon and their blood is thick, I put in earplugs.
I love the fun they have – the energy, the boasting, the roughness in the air. But I love it most when I don’t have to listen to it for long and when, the next morning, they have done a surprisingly good job of cleaning up the kitchen, dumping their empty bottles and hiding whatever they broke. Then, I get to hug to my macho husband and express my admiration for him and his pals.
It’s a lovely ritual.
“I cannot stand that sort of man,” my mother once said to me, as she walked away from my grinning, cigar-mouthing husband.
And this is true. Many women have suffered at the hands of loud, gross males who know no boundaries, think empathy is Greek and refuse to learn even for love. I understand this. Patrimony, where the male dominants by unrestrained habit and demand, has dealt horrible cruelty across the ages. It’s very nearly in our female genes to fear the male.
But I married one, one who by force of socialization and purpose and religious faith strives for virtue in his maleness: loyalty, provision, protection, restraint, reason, justice, leadership and occasional mercy. But he’s no saint. He’s a guy. This husband would say, “I love women. Women are beautiful.” He would say, “I love going to PT. All the therapists are 10s.” My husband would say, “Women get medical stuff I don’t know about and someone should take care of that. We have to make that happen.” Too, he uses words like “pussification” and “neutered” and “loser” when commenting on other men’s decisions.
He thinks he is funny.
I’m not saying my husband is right or wrong. I am saying that he would say everything Trump has said. He would say it at Steak Night, he would say it to me and in our home and in conversation with friends.
But he would never dare say it publicly.
Trump does dare to say all this, and more, publicly – as if he were in his home, on Steak Night, with Melania shaking her head and saying “Oh, for gosh sake, Donald” as she walks upstairs to find her earplugs.
Trump has reunited the public and private for a swath of society which, of late, seemed to be living underground, secretly but happily indulging civilized gender differences, interacting with each other in a loving ritual of difference, disapproval and endearment.
I understand why Trump the Guy scares women who have suffered at the will and whim of males. But I also understand why so many women embrace Trump the Guy whose awkward and politically incorrect commentary seems oh so familiar, even comforting. We hear everyday our husbands, fathers, uncles and sons bluster and boast and crudely joke. They think they are funny.
To us, we know this guy Trump. And he’s not scary. No, not at all.