Author: Kali Halloway
There is perhaps no one in recent American political history who has outdone expectations as drastically as Donald Trump.
I do not mean this as a compliment. What I mean is that even as we have come to expect Donald Trump to say and be the absolute worst—to burrow beneath what previously seemed to be the garbage-strewn bottom—he continues to unashamedly dive to once unthinkable depths, outdistancing even the scavengers and bottom-feeders who preceded him.
An example of this occurred on Wednesday, when Trump stated that as president he would seek not only to ban abortions, but also to ensure that women who illegally obtained them would have to face “some kind of punishment.” Perhaps because the notion of criminalizing abortion and then exacting some kind of twisted revenge on women goes beyond even the rhetoric of the far-right anti-choice crowd, interviewer Chris Matthews gave Trump a chance to clarify his remarks.
“For the woman?” Matthews asked, being nothing if not specific.
“Yeah. There has to be some form [of punishment],” Trump replied.
This is a man who has built his political—and if we go back even further, his public—brand on sexualizing, degrading, insulting and vocally and enthusiastically hating women. He makes jokes about newswomen being on their periods, about a fellow candidate’s wife being ugly. He has said countless terrible things about many, many prominent women. And in kind, his supporters dedicate time at rallies to violently shoving teenage girls; to allegedly groping and macing them in the face. Even his campaign manager allegedly physically attacked a woman reporter for doing her job.
And yet, Trump still finds a way to be worse, to keep digging beyond this.
A few days ago, one of Trump’s key advisers—a woman named Stephanie Cegielski—resigned. On her way out, she penned an open letter that essentially accused Trump of being a know-nothing, power-hungry blowhard (I’m paraphrasing), whose entire persona may be contrived. Maybe that means that Trump is not the misogynist (racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, nativist, transphobe) he plays on TV—or on the campaign trail. Maybe it’s all just talk to win hardened, bitter hearts and minds, which he only wants because his lust for power can never be quenched.
Yeah, maybe. I honestly don’t know if Trump hates women, and frankly, at this point, I don’t care. None of us, at this point, should give a shit about Trump’s personal psychology. That’s a problem for his shrink, who can never be paid enough.
What’s more important is the fact that Trump either believes or plays to the most misogynist elements of this country, the consequences of which are very real. When asked about issues of importance—from women’s reproductive rights to whether he’s down with the KKK—he says yes and later sort of says no, a way of cynically and calculatedly playing both sides of the fence to be sure he doesn’t alienate those who see themselves in the mirror of his terribleness. (Case in point: His backpedalling on Wednesday’s remarks.) He stokes anger and hatred toward women and then stands back and watches as his crowd—who were pretty hateful to being with—has their worst ideas of women confirmed and even applauded. He revels in their bile and ignorance, offering a safe space to be a woman-hating asshole whose every problem would be solved if only feminism and Black Lives Matter would go away.
With these latest remarks, Trump is advocating for an America where women have no agency around their bodies, dangerous back alley abortions are the norm, and the health of women—especially those who have had the gall to have sex—is inconsequential. A United States where women are mostly seen—maybe, if they are pretty—but only heard when they’re saying what men want to hear. Poor women, women of color, LGBT women—these women in particular would be even more disenfranchised and invisible. Trump is helping guide us toward being a country where violence against women is okay, in both word and deed. It’s disgusting and frightening. And it’s not that far from being a reality.
Donald Trump stopped being funny a long time ago, but the Woman Hater’s Club he’s built will, I’m certain, find all new ways to be horrible. Be outraged, be angry, make fun of Trump’s supporters, but know that won’t stop him. We’re long past that point. Don’t just stand on the sidelines and ridicule him. Trump’s medieval America is too dangerous and backwards to just watch happen.