Donald Trump, the Infuriating Exception
I would like to imagine that what we’ve been seeing in the aftermath of the big Harvey Weinstein scandal is a dramatic and permanent shift in the way sexual harassment and sexual assault are treated by the media, the legal system and society as a whole. I hope that Weinstein’s very public downfall, and the scandals surrounding figures like James Toback, Louis CK, Harry Knowles and Kevin Spacey will bring sexual harassment and assault out into the open like never before.
I hope that Weinstein’s downfall will empower women and men in the future to speak out about sexual harassment. Sexual assault and harassment thrive in darkness. They thrive in secrecy. They thrive in closed, authoritarian systems where people are afraid to speak up and speak out for fear of repercussions.
I hope that all of these agonizing personal anecdotes of betrayal and abuse will lead to people understanding the complexities and contradictions of these issues like never before. I hope that questions like, “Why didn’t she go to the police immediately?”, “Why didn’t she press charges?”, “How could she have been friendly with him socially after the alleged abuse occurred?” and “Why did it take this long to go forward?” are being answered in the minds of the skeptical in ways that do not promote victim-blaming or rape culture.
One question on a lot of people’s minds that has not been answered, and that may never be answered satisfactorily, is this: How the hell did Donald Trump get away with it? How can we live in a society where strong allegations of sexual harassment and assault can seemingly destroy a thriving, multi-faceted career in an instant, as in the case of Louis CK, who was one of the hottest comedians and comic auteurs alive just a few weeks ago, but do almost nothing to the person elected to be the leader of the United States?
It can be hard to live in a country that elected Donald Trump President. No, scratch that. It is hard to live in a country that elected Donald Trump President, especially if you’re a woman or an immigrant, LGTBQ or a POC. It’s hard living with cognitive dissonance engendered by seeing famous, powerful men brought down low almost instantly by accusations while a man with over a dozen sexual harassment allegations on the books is in seemingly no danger of losing his job as the most powerful man in the world.
Trump’s place in the White House sends a message to American women they’ve been hearing all their lives from all sorts of powerful people. It tells them that they don’t matter. It tells them that their stories don’t matter. It tells them that their voices don’t matter because there will always be powerful men talking louder and more forcefully, even if they’re incapable of speaking truth. Trump’s place in the White House sends the message that progress can be temporary, and reversible, and that every Obama can be followed by a Trump.
For all of the progress we’ve made in terms of dealing seriously with allegations of sexual impropriety, it still sends an awful, dispiriting message when we punish many famous men for these transgressions instantly and dramatically yet reward the poster boy for getting away with sexual harassment with a place in the White House and a horrifying amount of power, much of it over women.
In a short amount of time, we’ve made a great leap forward in how we address sexual harassment and assault, but just by having Trump in office, we’re taking a massive step backwards.
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