No, Donald, they're not just words: Why Trump's comments matter
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The morning after the release of the now-infamous video featuring Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump pushes back on recent polling data, says internal numbers are 'strongest we've had so far' Illinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE, a guy on my Facebook page posted: “If you all think this is bad, you should hear how your fathers/brothers/sons/boyfriends talk when they’re in a room with other men. This is nothing. I’d love to have Donald as a wingman.” It was accompanied by a few laughing emojis for good measure.

Later, I saw female friends suggesting that this wasn’t even a big deal — a mere distraction from the problems gnawing away at our country’s ability to thrive.

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I’m a 23-year-old girl, a young professional trying to launch a career, a young woman attempting to be taken seriously in a world quick to tell me that isn’t possible — or even noble. I’m a girl who wants a great job and a great relationship, and too often, it is reinforced that only having one of the two is possible. Mostly, I am one person in the scheme of so many women who have experienced harassment.

Here is why Donald Trump’s comments matter:

They matter, because last year, at my first “adult” job, I was in charge of managing a production that involved renting a space and, apparently, enduring the sly remarks of that space’s manager. “How’s your day going?” he’d ask. “Just fine,” I’d say. “How are you?”

Always trying to force politeness. “Great, now that I’ve seen you and that smile.” He followed me around the dark backstage of a facility, making quips about my hair, my legs, why I wouldn’t talk to him. I told him it was unprofessional. The comments didn’t stop until I tracked down a higher up — coincidentally, an older man — to tell him to knock it off.

It matters because my then-13-year-old sister sobbed in a mall after two much-older guys made a pass at her. It matters because I’ve been followed to my car, cat-called on the street, told by a boss I should consider wearing more dresses, and cornered in a frat house with a guy so drunk he couldn’t pronounce my name.

It matters because I was scared to speak up in a meeting when an older man called me eye candy, because I didn’t want to be unprofessional. It matters because I’m hesitant to ever complain about how a date treats me, because I never want to be considered a man-hater. It matters because an acquaintance was raped by her husband and no one would call it rape. It matters because my friend was drugged at a party, and people blamed the result on her for drinking.

It matters because I’m caught between feeling terrified and paranoid, like so many women are. It matters because there’s no winning for women: You’re either a prude or a slut, a feminist man-hater or a Stepford wife, with no grey area, with an entire world — and now, a presidential candidate — whispering that the most you will ever be is a womb or a pair of tits and legs.

These anecdotes are minuscule in the grand scheme of things, and I really can’t stress that enough. The stories I have heard from friends, and the stories I have read from other women, involve violation of the highest order: sexual assault, rape, harassment, post-traumatic stress disorder. That’s the problem. These daily grievances are just that: daily, as in, we’ve normalized them. 

From the time we’re little, girls are told if a boy likes you, he pulls your hair or steals your toy on the playground. Later, we’re told that if a guy is polite and opens your door, it is the pinnacle of good-personhood, rather than just basic manners. We’re told that caring about how we’re treated is an overreaction.

I am a daughter of a great man, and a sister to two of the most respectful men I’ve ever met. I have guy friends, including Republican ones, who condemn Trump’s remarks not just because they have mothers and sisters but because they value basic human decency. I’m not the “all men!” kind of girl. But I am the kind who thinks she deserves respect.

I want a president who thinks so, too.

Rainesford Stauffer is a student, writer and education activist. She has been published by The Huffington Post and Forbes, and currently studies at The New School.


 

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