I have been upset and emotional this past week about Donald Trump’s candidacy. You are probably confused as to why I have become so emotional about this. For the past few months, we have all been subjected to Trump’s highly inflammatory comments constantly; we have become inured to Trump’s racist, sexist, hetero-normative, and patriarchal rhetoric due to the frequency with which we have heard the same appalling language.
There has been a massive outcry only now, after the Access Hollywood video came out, which depicts our society’s inclination to hold different groups to different standards. It is only when the white woman has become the target of Trump’s hate speech that the world has taken notice. Where was this same fervor when Trump coolly denigrated Muslim Americans, black Americans, Mexican Americans, to name just a few minority groups?
Living on a college campus, surrounded by like-minded others, I have had the immense privilege to learn, grow and attempt to be the best ally and activist for issues that I believe in. I think that’s why it hurt me so much to hear some of you as well as Trump himself sweep away the negative impact of his words.
Trump’s video showed him laughing about sexually assaulting a woman. That it was mere “locker room talk” was trotted out as justification for his behavior. This excuse is fundamentally flawed. In a society that has already allowed sexual assault to go largely unnoticed (especially on college campuses), we see Trump condoning this behavior and even bragging about it.
This man is a role model of sorts, our maybe future president. Excusing Trump’s unkind words about women has a corrosive effect. It attempts to normalize destructive rhetoric and its ensuing pain. Justifying Trump’s words implies that it is fine for men to sexually and verbally assault women because it has been done in the past. Not only did Trump justify his own behavior, he bragged and joked about it. He belittled millions of victims’ pain by dismissing the harm done with his “men will be men” attitude. He obviously does not realize that words matter
During Brock Turner’s case, his father argued that a few seconds of action should not lead to his son spending years in jail. His argument overlooks the fact that a few seconds of action are equivalent to years of pain, therapy and emotional torment for the victims. This is a male-focused view. Both Trump and Turner are straight, white males. They have never been the brunt of somebody’s sexist, violent, racist jokes.
This is an issue that I care about deeply. I have seen the aftermath of sexual violence. I have closely interacted with those who have been assaulted. I feel their pain. The only way in which we can move forward and become a better society is if we choose to address the pain of our victims, and not that of the perpetrators.
I was deeply saddened by Trump’s apology. You tried to convince me that we must get past Trump’s words, which carry the terrible burden of past non-consensual actions, because he apologized. Apologies, while necessary, must have the purpose of addressing the moral and ethical implications of a heinous wrong. An apology has no meaning if it merely seeks to advance “locker room” leniency.
I hate to bring up gender divisions, but many of you men have never had to experience what it is like to have someone who is physically stronger than you call you names or sexually harass you or put your life in danger. Many, if not all, adult women have, at some point in their lives, experienced sexism. I have.
You ask me why I am emotional about this? I ask you why you are NOT emotional about this. There is a man out there who could take away my rights and my voice. He could silence my thoughts and opinions and beliefs because of my body and my gender and my race. He does not believe that I am his equal.This is personal. This is my life.
I will continue to be upset—not at you, but at our society and our political system. Trump’s rise in power has pushed us back. I feel immense anxiety and sadness that a man who has no respect for others’ lives has come so close to becoming President of the United States. Hopefully he never attains that office.
If you have any questions or comments, I want to hear them, I truly do. I do not promise to be unemotional, however. I will feel passionate and I will feel angry. But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect your opinion. We have had different life experiences and I want to understand where you’re coming from.
Kavya Padmanabhan is a junior at Wesleyan University.