Uncomfortable Thoughts On Trump’s Women-Grabbing Comments

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 3.618% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

1) Over on Twitter, John Rogers has an excellent thread on what locker-room talk is and what it isn’t. He makes a clear delineation on why what Trump said, even allowing for how crude guys talk, is different. It’s good.

Go read it. Now. Because when I’m discussing “locker room talk” in the next sections, I’m not discussing grabbing women randomly – I’m discussing the objectification and rampant fantasy that often happens, and oh my God there is a distinction.

2) I’d like to tell you I’ve never said anything crude to other dudes like “God, I’d love to fuck that one.” And honestly? I don’t remember ever talking like that. I’m mostly demisexual – I like bodies but I need brains first, and I’ve long discussed my desire for a strip club where I sit down with a clothed woman and we talk about our mutual love for Terry Pratchett and oh my God have you seen the latest Steven Universe and THEN after fifteen minutes of discussion she goes “So you wanna see me naked?” and I’d be all like FUCK YEAH.

BUT….

I’ve probably exchanged locker-room talk with guys, crudely objectifying.

Because I’ve known guys who do talk like that. And at many points in my life, I really wanted to fit in, even with guys I actually kind of thought were dicks. And I don’t recall a moment where I went along with this shit, but I am not so stupid as to imagine that there wasn’t a time when I didn’t.

Furthermore, I got lucky in the sense that I never had to work with those guys, because then I’d have faced a real and very ugly choice in when to stand up and how.

Which is not to say that this kind of talk is acceptable. It isn’t. It’s just that an awful lot of people are VERY PROUD of themselves because they would NEVER EVER stand for that – and while there are very definitely laudable dudes like that, the insidious thing about locker room talk is that it’s always presented as something you can easily walk away from.

But I know folks who were working $5.50-an-hour jobs who had to decide whether to piss off their coworkers and their boss, potentially losing their salary because when they pay you $5.50 an hour, they’re not overly concerned about replacing some asshole who annoys them. I know folks for who the choice was “tolerate the locker room talk or have no friends at all,” which, again, comes down to “choose isolation or awful, awful tone-switching.”

And it’s always easy to say “I WOULD NEVER!” in a theoretical world. The reason this shit is so perpetuating is that you can often get rejected by support groups you really need for shouting this awful behavior down.

Even more toxic: If you go along with this shit, eventually it becomes normalized. You become the mask. You start slipping in terms of what you think is acceptable behavior, forgetting the whole reason you started talking like this was solely to be accepted, and you internalize it. And whoops, there goes the ball game.

I don’t talk locker room talk. I don’t think I’d tolerate it now. But I also don’t want to do the strong-guy alpha-nerd-male RAR of I WOULD NEVER AND I HAVE NEVER AND I WOULD INCINERATE ANYONE WHO EVER SPOKE THAT WAY WITHIN MY EARSHOT, because damn, guys, if we were to listen to every one of you then nobody ever got to speak like that, and yet somehow, a lot of people do get away with it.

And I don’t think you stop that behavior by trivializing the reasons that otherwise-opposing guys cave in. It’s not pleasant.

But it happens. And I’m probably culpable for at least some portion of it, even as I can’t point to a specific incident.

3) So. Bill Clinton, huh?

As far as I can tell, what he did to Monica Lewinsky was scummy but consensual, in the sense that there was a clear power differential but Monica also was attracted and willing.

There is a huge difference between “coming around to a voluntary seduction” and “grabbing women by the crotch and hoping they’re into it.”

So when conservatives bring up Monica, the easy out is for liberals to quote the playbook and say:

a) HILLARY IS NOT BILL
b) WHAT BILL DID IS ENTIRELY DIFFERENT

Which is…. only sorta true. At least when it comes to b.

Because that b), well, Bill Clinton’s been accused of rape, if never convicted. He’s been widely accused of unwanted groping. He’s exposed himself to Gennifer Flowers.

His career as a troublesome hero goes WAY beyond Monica, people.

I’ve heard liberals furious because, you know, Trump is literally on trial for raping a thirteen-year-old girl, literally a hundred women have said “Trump tried to kiss me against my will,” and yet Trump’s allegations remained buried in the media until he actually admitted it, on tape.

“We don’t believe the testimony of women,” goes the line. And that’s true. It’s so sadly, fucking true.

But if you wanna listen to the testimony of women, you have to look at Bill Clinton’s past, too.

And for every Democrat screaming, “HOW CAN YOU SUPPORT THAT SONUVABITCH TRUMP?”, I remember a lot of very conflicted feminists sorting through Bill Clinton – certainly a serial cheater, certainly a man who disrespected women’s boundaries, quite possibly a rapist – and coming to the ugly conclusion that the laws he passed that protected them were a lot better than the laws the Republicans would pass.

And Republicans keep bringing up Bill Clinton because yeah, the GOP is supposed to be the party of family values, but the Democrats were supposed to be the party of feminism.

When it comes to politics, we routinely swallow the personal bile to choose someone who’ll actually get shit done – and I remember saying the same about Clinton in the late 90s.

Welcome to the current Republican choice.

…except I can’t respect anyone who votes for Trump, even on that awful axis of “I loathe the man personally but I think he’ll protect my rights better than his opponent.” Trump has flip-flopped so many times I don’t think he’d have the stamina to even pass the good laws by a conservative standard, or have the knowledge to get the Supreme Court justices that would be effective for the GOP in the long-term. Trump would be a disaster on every level.

If he was smart enough to listen to the advice of experts, maybe – Dubya was a nice, quiet puppet – but can you honestly look at everything that’s happened this election and tell me that Trump listens?

He’s a failed businessmen, a huckster, a fraud, and anyone supporting Trump because they think he’ll be a better Republican than Hillary is really baffling to me because the dude is a clear serial liar.

Now, I’m not saying that Trump is good. I’m saying that Clinton did a lot of bad shit, and he’s still someone Hillary feels comfortable parading around giving stump speeches because liberals still love Clinton despite his uncomfortable past.

And I do feel that weird frisson of people saying, “YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO THE ACCUSER!” when most of what I saw on Twitter from my liberal feed during the DNC was “BILL CLINTON’S SPEECH IS SO ON POINT I MISS BILL.” If I was to sample my liberal friends’ Bill Clinton Criticism, I’d say that criticism of Bill Clinton’s Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policies and his welfare policies and drug laws are like 95% of what I see, and 5% maybe “Well, what happened between he and Hillary was his business.”

And as a polyamorous dude, maybe Hillary and Bill had a “Don’t get caught” agreement, which Bill violated. I’m glad Hillary and Bill worked it out. They seem to have a pretty decent and supportive marriage now. Remember, you can have instances of cheating and emerge stronger.

But it’s not about just Hillary and Bill. It’s about the women involved who may not have wanted to be involved, who felt uncomfortable speaking up because holy shit, did you see what happened to Monica?  And Monica was willing.  Monica had the biggest courts in America trotting out evidence to prove what happened in closed quarters, and still she got dragged.

Hillary is not Bill. But the current polarization of America makes it seem like if you condemn Trump, you can excuse Bill – or if you demonize Bill’s personal life enough, Trump is somehow okay.

They were both kinda scumbags, personally speaking. And I wish that was more acceptable to say.

(And there is a minor difference in that Bill, at least, seems to have spent the last fifteen years reforming and rethinking, whereas I see no evidence that Trump has tried to do a turn-around. I actually believe people can evolve beyond their flaws; the fact that someone was a scumbag in the 1990s doesn’t necessarily mean they are one today. But that’s a sketchier argument because maaaaybe Bill’s just gotten better about hiding his flaws – a lot of feminist dudes do that – and “how one repents for past sins” is something that’s very personal, and everyone has a different measure on how (or if) that can be done.)

4) Lastly, on a lighter note:

There is nothing that demonstrates the incompetence of the Republican nominees more than the fact that they had almost a year to dig up dirt on Trump and found nothing.

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