Monday, October 10, 2016

On The Trump Video

Dahlia Lithwick's initial reaction to the recent Trump video was the same as mine:

After months of controversies over Trump’s personal attacks on women, his racist talk about an American judge of Mexican heritage, his casual slurs of immigrants and a Muslim American Gold Star family, and countless other controversies, it seemed as though the folks who were determined to back Trump saw and understood perfectly well who he was and had accepted it. More maddening, it seemed they just didn’t care.
That’s why, when the story broke on Friday that Donald Trump was caught on a live mic bragging about how he could kiss women—and grab their genitals—without their consent because he was famous, I initially wondered what the news was. Was there anyone alive surprised here? Voters have watched Trump joyfully trash and objectify women for more than a year. Republicans and their leaders have been offered evidence of Trump as an unrepentant pig since the primaries began.

It seemed obvious to her (and to me) that Trump would behave the way the video proves that he behaves, and it still seems obvious to me.

But it clearly wasn't obvious to everyone, including to many Republican politicians who suddenly came out condemning Trump.  Perhaps their different reactions were based on the argument Lithwick makes, that the new furor is about realizing that the "real" Trump was the same as the "performing" Trump?  Or perhaps it is simply because the video gives no slithering room for those who wish to defend Trump?  He said what he said and he was recorded saying it.

Then there was my initial reaction to how many Washington Post headlines* call the Trump video "lewd."  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word like this:

  1. 2 a :  sexually unchaste or licentious b :  obscene, vulgar

I also read the words "crude" and "vulgar" in other contexts, as references to the Trump video, and to his early interview statements about women.  But those words don't quite capture the worst of his opinions, which is the way he appears to describe sexual assaults or at least sexual harassment when referring to what he views as his sexual conquests.

I could write a lewd post without that lack of consent being a part of the story.  That Trump assumes consent, what with being a star whom he assumes no-one can resist,  is not the same as actual consent.  And for anyone who has been sexually assaulted or harassed, often out of the blue, that video is very painful watching.

And right in the middle of writing this post, I see that readers of the New York Times have had similar concerns.

I've seen a lot written about how Trump has normalized utterances in the political discourse of this country which earlier were regarded as being beyond the pale.  That is what makes me worried:  the idea that he might normalize sexual harassment or even sexual assaults.


* This one, this one and this one, at least.