Millions of people have seen the leaked 2005 video of presidential candidate Donald Trump bragging to TV host Billy Bush about his attempted and past exploits, or what many are calling assaults, of women. The comments were vulgar, disgusting and embarrassing to watch. Trump has since apologized (but only for being caught) and dismissed the conversation in the video as simple “locker-room talk.”
That is a dangerous lie.
I wrestled in high school and spent hours in the locker room of a traditionally macho and masculine sport. It is true that locker rooms, in my experience, are full of men talking about women. They talk about women they like, women they think are attractive, and women they, to be absolutely honest, want to have sex with.
Trump’s comments were not like any of those common conversations, but were of a different nature entirely. He apologized for the words he said, but failed to acknowledge their particular crudeness. He was distinctly bragging about how his status as a “star” gives him the right to sexually assault women. Consent, to Trump, consists only of his desire. The disgusting defense of “locker-room talk” is the equivalent of “boys will be boys,” a denial of any wrongdoing.
These phrases, and the underlying philosophy behind them, perpetuate the blatant lie that sexual harassment and assault are innate, unavoidable male tendencies. This notion strips all responsibility from the male aggressors and promotes the sort of violence that occurs far too often.
Words matter. Trump joking and bragging about sexual assault sends a message that these violent acts are acceptable to him. The more people view assault as a joke and not a serious ocean of red flags, the more acceptable it becomes. It is way past time to stop viewing Trump’s rhetoric as humorous and start viewing it as the divisive, violent, hate speech that it is.
For a moment let’s forget about everything else Trump has said and done, and let’s just focus on the tape. Imagine if President Barack Obama had been taped saying these things. He would have been absolutely eviscerated by conservatives and liberals alike. His political career would have been over in a flash, and his comments undoubtedly would have been used to undermine black men in politics for years to come.
Trump can walk this scandal off because he, as a wealthy white man, can play the ignorant boy, where another would have to take responsibility as a violent man. It is the deliberate exploitation of the innate advantages he was born with and the promotion of the idea that these advantages to the few are good.
It is not okay. It is a double standard. It is disgusting.
Conner Barrett is a sophomore majoring in political science.
Featured image courtesy Flickr user Mari Gildea