There are simply too many thoughts and feelings to express in regards to the recently released 2005 video of Trump and Billy Bush sexually harassing and hideously objectifying women. I frankly need to vent for a few more hours in private before I can offer something helpful to the conversation. But here is one aspect of the commentary about it that I want to address right now.
It is time that people stop saying, in regards to a woman being sexually victimized in any way, that she is deserving of protection because she is someone’s daughter, mother, sister, wife. Really? Really???!!! How about because she is a human being?! How about she is deserving of respect and personal rights by virtue of her existence?
This statement comes out so commonly after public instances of sexual abuse that we really need to finally call it out. If this is the best you can do in finding a reason to support women’s rights to personal safety, you are part of the problem. (To see what I am referring to watch the wonderful John Oliver’s monologue on this common response).
We need to acknowledge that the foundation of this statement is the fact that women were for centuries considered property of their fathers, husbands, or in some cases, brothers – MEN who were, by virtue of being male, deserving of respect. So to call out the relatives of a women as the reason we should protect her is drawing on the historic stance that women, on their own, do not have rights. “Don’t be upset for the pain and humiliation this caused the woman herself, but think about the pain it caused her respectable relatives”. We need to surround the woman with non-sexualized family members to consider her with compassion.
And let’s break that down, shall we? The underlying stance in this is that a sexual woman is not, on her own, deserving of protection or respect. We need to see her through the non-sexualizing eyes of her relatives to see her as worthy of human decency. If a woman is seen as sexual, we can’t expect men to control themselves around her - there she is with her attractive legs, ass, breasts, right there for us to see. Maybe if we can mask her sexuality in our minds by relating her to a non-sexual role (daughter, mother, sister), then we can see her as something other than an object of sexual desire. Because if we perceive her as an object of sexual desire then we automatically erase some of her personal rights to respect and safety. Do you see how messed up this is?!!
This system that has established a woman’s sexuality as an excuse to violate her rights is harmful to all of us. It continues to reverberate throughout our culture in many ways. Here it is in front of our faces, yet again. What will we all choose to do about it? When will we finally understand that women’s sexuality is not bad, immoral, an open invitation, a joke, a tease, a deficit, a manipulation, a sin, a toy, a taunt, a sign of weakness, a red mark, an embarrassment, a target, or a prize – a woman’s sexuality is a natural, healthy part of who she is and is hers to express or not.
Don’t protect me from sexual assault or harassment because you think my father or mother don’t deserve to have their daughter violated. Protect me from sexual assault because you respect me and believe I am deserving of protection. Because I am a human being.
…Oh, and if you are really truly shocked that men like Trump and Bush are out there acting like this with very few consequences, you haven’t been listening to women. But that is another post.