I have certainly heard the reprehensible attitudes expressed by Donald Trump and Billy Bush in their taped 2005 conversation.
But not in any “locker room.”
Mr. Trump and Mr. Bush echo the misogynistic mindset of many sexual offenders I dealt with when I was a probation officer. Inherent in the recorded dialogue is the idea that women really want men to assault them – to kiss them and grab them without consent – as well as the entitlement to women’s bodies fundamental to a male superiority mentality.
As a Christian and a pastor, my first response is repentance. I repent not because I have or have ever subscribed to an ethos that encourages or excuses such violent words and actions toward women, but because the church of which I am a part has actively and implicitly been a party to the minimization and marginalization of women’s roles and capabilities. Much of the church is still mired in chauvinistic belief, using bits and pieces of Scripture to justify patriarchal systems.
It is a short step from declaring that even God believes men are the superior sex to entitled enactment of that supposed superiority in word and deed.
Perhaps that is why it has been so easy for media savvy “Christian leaders” to brush off Trump’s misogynistic ramblings and proclaim their continued support for his campaign. Jesus in the wilderness was able to resist the temptation to bow down to evil in exchange for earthly power; would that these “leaders” would do the same. I am not even talking about their support for Mr. Trump’s campaign in general, but simply calling for an unqualified disavowal of the misogyny so plainly on display in the taped conversation.
Especially disappointing is someone like James Dobson, who has spoken out forcefully against the scourge of pornography, emphasizing (correctly, I believe) its objectification of women. Certainly that same depersonalization is unmistakably expressed in Mr. Trump’s conversation.
In their “yes . . . but” reactions to Mr. Trump’s conversation with Mr. Bush, these very public Christian leaders are not only affirming Christian men (and sadly, women) who believe the Bible gives them license to lord themselves over women, but also confirming the belief of many outside the church that Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites.
The misogynistic mindset expressed in the conversation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Bush must be called out by Christian leaders – and all men – without qualifying the condemnation with “everyone else does it” or “someone else did it worse.”
It has been distressing to read the enabling responses to the conversation. Representative is the reaction of the Chairman of the Virginia Republican Party, Corey Stewart. Mr. Stewart said Mr. Trump “acted like a frat boy, as a lot of guys do.” Setting aside the reality that Mr. Trump is no “frat boy” (he was 58 at the time of the recording), that Mr. Stewart believes “a lot of guys” not only subscribe to those opinions but act on them is cause for concern. It is even more worrisome if Mr. Stewart is right, but I do not believe he is. Perhaps in Mr. Stewart’s circles these statements and actions are held by “a lot of guys,” but that is hopefully more indicative of his choice of associates than of reality.
But, whether it is a majority or “a lot” or even a few men, we cannot implicitly condone these attitudes and actions by positing that they are widespread. That is reason for action, not approval.
Even some of those who have condemned Mr. Trump’s remarks have evidenced a foundation of male superiority. Senator Paul Ryan said he was “sickened” by the recording, and that women should be “celebrated and revered.” I hope what Mr. Ryan meant was that women should be respected and valued in the same ways as men.
Even more distressing has been the reaction of women who countenance Mr. Trump’s behavior. In surveying comments on articles, posts, and tweets, I have seen too many women react with, “All the men I know talk/feel like that. What’s the big deal?” I can only imagine what has transpired in the lives of those women to crush their self-worth. I can only imagine the effect of the misogynistic men in their lives.
That is why men especially have the responsibility to say “Enough! This is NOT how we are going to treat women and we are not going to tolerate men who do.” To excuse these statements and attitudes in any way only serves not only to further the marginalization and objectification of women but especially to normalize sexual assault and rape culture.
When I wrote about Brock Turner and indicted rape culture, one of the reactions I received was, “What rape culture? I don’t see any rape culture.”
Well, here it is . . . embodied in Billy Bush. His approving, snickering, encouragement of Mr. Trump’s misogyny is rape culture incarnate. “I didn’t say/do those things to/about women, so my hands are clean.”
As “clean” as Pilate’s.
To stay silent about the content and underlying ethos of Mr. Trump’s recorded remarks leaves one’s hands similarly “clean.”