Last week, Donald Trump was caught bragging in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation caught on tape by The Washington Post. In the tape, Trump is heard talking with Billy Bush, host of the nationally syndicated radio show, “The Billy Bush Show,” about a married woman he made moves on, saying that he “tried to f— her” and that, as a celebrity, he could go up to women and “grab them by the p—y.”
In reference to Trump’s 2005 “hot mic” comments: This is not a Trump problem. This is a masculinity problem. The very fact that he could blow this off as “locker room talk” shows that comments and behavior like these are actively and tacitly accepted and encouraged by men on a regular basis.
The fact that Billy Bush is heard laughing with him in the background and making his own misogynistic comments, all while not being called out on it, means that it’s okay for men to hear this stuff and not speak up. The fact that Republicans, many of whom support or propose anti-abortion legislation that makes life actively harder for women and other people with vaginas, are “outraged” over these comments means that they don’t truly understand or care about misogyny. They care about losing women voters.
The fact that the media and politicians are focusing on these admittedly despicable comments and not on the several women who have accused Trump of assault, including a 13 year old child who claims Trump raped her, makes it clear that they don’t really care about women or dismantling the systems that made Trump feel comfortable enough to say and do these things without retribution. And yes, I am saying and will continue to say men and masculinity, because it really does not matter whether 100 percent of men or 75 percent of men or 12 percent of men take part in these behaviors. Some men is still too many. But it is more than some. It is enough men that it is commonplace.
Enough that male-dominated institutions like sports, policing and the military are predicated on violence, domination and entitlement. That men hear their brothers, friends, classmates, teammates, etc. say degrading things about women, about sex and about rape every day and laugh along and do nothing about it.
Enough that almost every single one of my friends who are women, who are femmes or who have vaginas have a story (or multiple stories) about an assault. Some don’t even realize what they experienced was an assault. If it isn’t rape, they’ve been told what happened to them isn’t serious, it isn’t that bad, it isn’t important. If it is rape; they are to blame in some way.
So, no. This isn’t a problem with Trump. This is a problem with the society that let Trump turn into Trump unchecked. This is a problem with a society that will still give Roman Polanski an Oscar and pay for a ticket to Nate Parker’s “Birth of a Nation.” Until there is a generation of women, girls and femmes that do not know what male entitlement is, who have not been blamed for their own assault, who do not have to think about what they are wearing when they walk down the street so that they don’t feel responsible when a man catcalls them or, better yet, when there is a generation of men who know it is unequivocally wrong to make misogynistic jokes, catcall, grope, flash and rape and that it is equally wrong to stand by and let other men do these things – then I will proudly declare not all men.
Until then: Trump is just a symptom. Toxic masculinity is the disease.