Donald Trump has said repugnant, insulting things about women—over and over and over again—for as long as he’s been in the public eye. He has called various women crazy, flat-chested, pigs. He refers to them as “pieces of ass.” He said pumping breast milk was “disgusting.”
“Women,” he told New York magazine in 1992. “You have to treat them like shit.”
Trump’s misogyny is shocking because it’s so brazen, but it’s infuriating because it’s so familiar. Chances are, if you’re a woman in 2016, you’ve heard it all before.
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The first time you meet Donald Trump, he’s an older male relative who smells like cigarettes and asks when you are going to lose that weight. You’re 9 years old. Your parents have to go out and buy a bottle of vodka for him before he arrives. His name is Dick. No, really, it is. At dinner one night, he explains to you that black people are dangerous. “If you turn around, they’ll put a knife in your back.” Except Bill Cosby. “He’s one of the good ones.” Turns out he’s wrong about Cosby and everything else, but the statute of limitations on Dick’s existence on Earth will run out before that information is widely available.
The next time you meet Donald Trump you’re in high school. You’re on the Academic Decathlon team because those are the kinds of extracurriculars a nerd like you gets down with. Model U.N., Thespians, Scholar Quiz, getting those good report cards with no boyfriends anywhere, girl! The teacher who’s volunteered to cover the Lit portion of the Decathlon is also the tennis coach, and he’s going over Ezra Pound’s poem, “Portrait d’une Femme,” with you and your teammates. He’s the first person who looks at you a certain way that will happen again and again for the rest of your life, as if he simultaneously can’t see you and would like to kill you. He tells you the woman in the poem is “clearly a prostitute,” which is very, very wrong. You explain to him that this part …
Your mind and you are our Sargasso Sea,
London has swept about you this score years
And bright ships left you this or that in fee:
Ideas, old gossip, oddments of all things,
Strange spars of knowledge and dimmed wares of price.
… doesn’t mean that men literally pay her. Sure, she’s someone stuck in a time when she can have nothing of her own; someone who assembles her life from the odd bits she collects from others, choosing a catch-all existence over a suffocating marriage—made second-rate perhaps by her time, not by her self—but the “fee” doesn’t mean she is being paid for sex. He tells you that you just don’t get it. What he doesn’t get is that she’s a person. He is aging and bald and enjoys saying “whore” to a roomful of children. A few years later, he gets fired for having sex with a student. Him? Him. Of course, him.
The next time you meet Donald Trump, he’s your boss. Well, he’s your boss’s boss. A vice president in marketing who seemingly, literally, cannot stop talking. He’s on his third wife, and that’ll be over in a few years. He can’t believe your mother is his age. He thinks you are friends. He asks you if you’ve changed your hair every time he sees you. Sometimes during meetings he’ll turn away and open a magazine while someone is presenting. One time he comes to a halt in the middle of his own sentence to stare at a woman’s boobs for somewhere from seven to 27 uncomfortable seconds. (It’s hard to gauge time accurately during a truly aggressive boob-stare.) When he finally gets fired years later, his HR file as fat as a pig knuckle; the rumor is he’s caught stealing his own office furniture on the weekend. They don’t even stop him. They just let him go. It’s like the building itself sighs with relief.
And then you get out of your more corporate job and become a television comedy writer on a good show, a show that keeps going. You go from staff writer to producer to co-executive producer in the space of seven years. You work with your sister, which is like a dream, and your co-workers are cool, and your boss is very, very cool. It’s almost as if the fact that you’re a woman doesn’t matter at all. At all. It’s like you finally escaped.
The Trumps are vanquished. They’re dead, or arrested, or fired, sobbing quietly into their stolen office furniture, wondering where it all went.
But then, it starts happening. The actual Trump—the real Donald Trump—starts making a bunch of noise about the birth certificate of a black man. It’s racist. It’s so racist. But it’s just background noise. Then he starts winning in the primaries. You say “no fucking way,” under your breath a lot when you read the headlines.
There he is, implying that people of color are dangerous, that women are whores, that you just don’t get it, opening a magazine while someone else is talking. There he is, all the worst people you ever had to meet, and tolerate, and fight, or at least ignore. There is the villain at the end of the horror movie rising up again with his knife and you are like: “This motherfucker again? No way, I’m tired.”
And it makes you deranged, like almost actually deranged. You engage his followers on Twitter for a while and then decide to just tweet fart sounds at them because arguing with them is pointless. They think there is actually a discussion to be had about whether racism is okay.
You can’t believe these people and you can’t believe this guy, Donald Trump. It makes you insane to look at him, to see that look on his face that you’ve seen before when he talks about women who aren’t supermodels. When he talks about black people, or Mexicans, like he simultaneously can’t see them and wants to kill them.
And then you write a tweet about how Donald Trump is making you a loon because you’ve had to deal with him over and over again in your life, and someone from The Atlantic asks you to write a personal essay about it. You don’t write essays, you write fart jokes, but you give it a try. You write it in second person, which is a kind of writing that you are pretty sure people look down on, but screw it, you’re old now, and you’ve got money in the bank and kids and you are too tired to care what anybody thinks about your second-person narrative voice. “Who cares what readers of The Atlantic think about my second-person narrative voice?” you whisper to your cats, while secretly deeply caring.
Screw it because you aren’t that lady in that poem whom Ezra Pound can only see as a collecting bin for dribs and drabs left by men. You’ve got money and a job. You made yourself. All those other Trumps are dead, or fired, or pleaded no contest to the charge of sex with a minor, or all of the above. Because they are disasters. (Hell, even Ezra Pound wound up in an open-air cage because he was an anti-Semite and fascist sympathizer.)
Hillary’s still ahead in the polls and she looks like a comer. You bought a house in the Valley with your own dough where you found the exoskeleton of a praying mantis in the yard this morning and placed it in a Tupperware for safekeeping. An artifact, an old skin.
“There’s no one like him,” people say. “He’s unprecedented.” Maybe so, but I swear I’ve been dealing with this douchebag all my life, and let me tell you something: It doesn’t end well for him.
Because black people aren’t dangerous, and because their lives matter; because not every woman is a prostitute, and honestly because that furniture just isn’t yours, dude. The world is always watching, and you can’t get away with it forever. Go ahead and slip out of your skin into a different form. We’ll fight you again, then. Go ahead.
And by the way, Dick, if you’re reading this from Ghostville, I never lost that weight, Bill Cosby is an alleged serial rapist, and Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States.
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