Content warning: sexual assault.
Let’s begin with a story.
In early spring of my freshman year, I went to a party to celebrate a political group on campus. I felt powerful and unstoppable, convinced I was doing big things and making meaningful change for my fellow students (I wasn’t really, but that’s okay). I was threading my way across a crowded living room to find my friends when something stopped me in my tracks.
More specifically, a large hand swiped its way between my legs and held on for dear life while I stood, briefly paralyzed and a little bemused. Then I shifted my hips to extract myself from this strange man’s grip and continued on my way.
Although what happened to me at that party can certainly be called sexual assault, it didn’t really bother me going forward; I genuinely laughed it off later that night, and I can’t remember if I even told my friends about it. Three years later, I had mostly forgotten it happened. (For anyone reading this and wondering, this isn’t because I’m an unthinkably callous or remarkably “strong” woman, it’s because things like this happen to every woman I know, literally every weekend. Disgusting as it is, this sort of unwanted physical attention from strangers is basically part of the deal for female college students. Maybe the prominent Republicans now scrambling to react to their ring leader’s language should be talking about that instead.)In 2005, when the man who groped me at that party was probably 12, Donald Trump was caught on a live mic bragging about the fact that being a celebrity allowed him to sexually assault anyone he wanted. His exact words were, “I don’t even wait… When you’re a star they let you do it… You can do anything.” Sorry, Donald, could you say it louder? What exactly can you do?
“Grab them by the pussy,” the future nominee of the Republican party advised.
It took me two hours of gleefully scanning feminist twitter on the day his comments went viral before I even remembered that three years ago some guy had done to me exactly what Trump advised off-camera in 2005.
And my first reaction when I did remember this quick humiliation was to giggle. Now, just as the bile rises in my throat when I watch Trump speak on TV, his former supporters are rising around him in confused anger. In the growing takedown of Donald Trump, I feel a quiet sense of personal vindication.
At long, long last, Trump is officially a pig and everyone is talking about it. I have seen the word pussy (a word that I don’t believe I’ve ever said out loud) in print in every one of the news sources I read daily.
This from a man and a political party who habitually recoil from the word vagina. Think of Trump’s famous comments about Megyn Kelly and the “blood coming out of her wherever.” Remember the Michigan lawmaker who was banned from speaking on the state house floor because she mentioned her vagina during discussion of a transvaginal ultrasound bill. When she wanted to continue arguing against the legislation of her body, the higher-ups recommended she use something less controversial, like lady parts.
It almost feels unnecessary to point out the extreme hypocrisy in place here. Vagina has been made into a dirty word, transformed into something vile to be regulated and controlled. The people seeking to exert this control, who claim a right over vaginas by passing archaic laws, are the same men who vilify the very word vagina. It is either glanced over or vulgarified by a nominee who once argued for “punishment” for women who get abortions. It seems as if many of the men objecting to Pussygate are as offended by the use of that word and the objectification of a married woman as by the pesky detail that Trump is bragging about assault.
Let’s also take a minute to discuss the patronizing reactions of Republican leaders who have finally decided to question the behavior of the wig-wearing traffic cone who currently heads their party. Speaker Ryan at last appears willing to fight off the chains of party loyalty and face whatever primeval beast Trump dragged back from the Stone Age to keep him captive.
“Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified,” Ryan says. So close, Paul! Try, women are people like you and me and should be treated exactly the same way. I don’t need you to champion or revere me, Mr. Speaker, unless it’s for my accomplishments or my cause. As the great Ainsley Hayes put it, “I am a citizen of this country. I am not a special subset in need of your protection.” (Ainsley, we disagree on the ERA, but you were an asset to the Bartlet administration).
In a polite and well-meaning tweet, polite and well-meaning man Jeb Bush rejected Trump’s apology “as the grandfather of two precious girls.” Jeb!, doubtless you’re an excellent grandfather (I’m sure you never have to ask your granddaughters to please clap when you read them a story) but for goodness sake, do it for the boys, too! Denounce Trump’s comments for every child in America who’s still learning how best to treat others. Maybe if someone had done so for your cousin back in the day, we could have avoided this whole mess.
It’s also a little off-putting that this has been the final straw. No one was concerned when Trump repeatedly expressed his desire to date his daughter? Or when that woman’s mother accused him of marital rape? Or when, earlier this year, an anonymous woman filed a lawsuit against Trump alleging he had raped her when she was 13? It’s great that Bush, Ryan, and others are finally coming out against Trump in full force, but you really have to wonder how it could possibly have taken them this long. You also have to wonder about the 74% of Republicans surveyed who want leaders to keep supporting him.
I still have no idea who groped me at that party three years ago. I hope wherever he is now, he’s watching the world unite in disgust of Donald Trump and remembering that crowded room. (Separately, I hope he sputtered through all of his consulting interviews, didn’t get any job offers, and found himself consigned to the dustbin of disappointing bros for years to come.) But mostly, I hope he’s had some experience that opened his eyes to the unacceptability of his behavior and is now an active advocate against sexual violence. Or if not, that he read about Trump’s comments this weekend, remembered that party, and heard the sound of glass breaking as he realized that in college he was no better than the paragon of vice who is now disturbingly close to becoming the leader of the free world.
I hope he and all the men like him are planning to vote for Hillary Clinton, vagina and all.
This post was written by a member of the H*yas for Choice leadership team.