Throughout the first presidential debate, I stayed quiet — mostly because I felt that everything I had to say had already been said. But this second debate was different. This time I watched not because I was enticed by the build up of media outlets, but because I felt obliged as a woman, as a human being, to see how Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, responded to his horrific bragging about sexually assaulting women.
Perhaps it was the presence of the citizen’s voice in the town hall format of the debate, or perhaps it was the coziness of the Sunday night before Columbus day, or perhaps it was just me, but this debate felt personal.
I watched because I needed to know how our potential future president would possibly explain why he still deserves our vote after explaining how he demonstrates his sexual prowess. And his big defense? It was “locker room talk”.
This almost disturbs me more than his initial remarks. It bothers me because he is sending the message that it is still OK to speak about women this way– as long as you are safe inside the sphere of an all male gym bathroom or the confines of the Access Hollywood bus. Talking this way anyplace perpetuates the notion that acting this way towards human beings is acceptable.
What does this mean for girls like me, about to enter the real world, out of the safe bubble of home?
It means we are alienated. It means we feel like people treat us differently simply because we lack a y chromosome. When individuals assume that women will “let you do …anything”, it sparks a spiral. If people see women as weak and susceptible sexually, not only is that itself a problem, but it sends a message about the character of all women in any situation: that we are at the beck and call of someone else. That we lack the bit of gumption it takes to stand up for ourselves, whether it be when someone tries to make a move on us or when we attempt to take any sort of leadership position.
Speaking about women — or any human being for that matter — with anything less than respect keeps females on the sidelines of business, politics, and any influential decision making. If people talk about women as beings who swoon and lose all judgement as soon as someone starts kissing them, how will we ever assume women have what it takes to make big decisions? How will we ever right the disturbing fact that that only 22 women are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, the fact that a mere 20% of senators and 19% of representatives are female?
For any group to be successful, we must address, or at least acknowledge, all perspectives, and by talking about and treating women as if they are anything less than human, we invalidate their opinions. We cut them off from having any meaningful say in our society. When ½ of the population is threatened or silenced by those in charge, how will our country ever live up to its promises of inclusivity and liberty?
Men and women alike can not look up to a person who regards 50% of the population as disposables, helpless beings who will go weak at the knees because he’s famous, and he’s chewing tic-tacs. This is someone who goes through wives as if they were cars — used and appreciated for a while until they get rusty, then time to exchange them for a newer model (pun mostly intended).
This moment in history carries dire consequences. On the one hand, never have we seen such inclusion and celebration of diversity — we have our first black president, our first female presidential nominee. And on the other, we hear some of the most graphic and harmful disenfranchisement of people in the modern day.
The choice lies in our hands: do we choose to elevate all American people by progressing and including, celebrating the diversity we hold? Or, do we wish to stall and prevent ourselves from moving forward from the days where women are confined to the home, gays are closeted, and blacks are abused?
I have never been afraid of being sexually assaulted. I am so lucky that I have grown up in a family and in a community where human respect comes first and foremost.
But Friday, I doubted that lack of fear for the first time in my life. As a 17-year old girl, how can I feel safe in a country where the president condones — or worse, boasts about– sexual assault?
— Olivia Gieger ’17, Editor-in- Chief