A few days ago, a Trump supporter told Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence that she’s “ready for a revolution” if Hillary Clinton wins the election. Well, guess what lady? I’m ready for a revolution too, just not the one you mean. She probably meant the forcible overthrow of a government. However, the revolution I’m envisioning is the forcible overthrow of a social order in favor of a new system. It’s one that might even come to pass and, for that, we have Donald Trump to thank (sort of).
As every single person knows by now, Trump has said and done some reprehensible things about and to women. Most people have rightfully focused their disgust on his description of sexual assault. However, there is one sentence in the infamous 2005 Access Hollywood tape that has been accepted as a given. But it isn’t and it’s a pretty important point.
In the video, Trump said, “I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything…” and it went on from there. I emphasize that one sentence because that’s where he’s factually wrong. Donald Trump didn’t get away with sexual assault because he’s famous or even because he’s wealthy (sorry Don, you’re just not that special). No, he got away with it because he’s a man. I know this for a fact and not just because I’ve spent my life working on women’s issues. I also know it because of what happened after the tape became public: women started talking.
Women are talking to their friends, to their loved ones, in posts on Twitter and Facebook, in essays on blogs and to reporters. They’re telling stories about the times in which they’ve been grabbed, kissed, stalked, assaulted and raped. They’re disclosing situations in which they’ve been made uncomfortable by stares, leers, catcalls, comments about our bodies and the implied threats of unwelcome sexual contact. To many, the sheer volume of the accounts was a surprise. Not to those of us who work with women, of course, but it did come as a shock to those who hadn’t ever thought about it before (mostly men) or to those who believed they were alone in their experiences (mostly women).
And guess what? In the lion’s share of those stories, the women never told a soul what happened. They were silent not because their perpetrators were wealthy, famous men who would make their lives miserable if they did but because their attackers were simply men. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, the social order in which we live is one that prioritizes men. As such, men are protected and any attack on them – especially by women – is met with suspicion and hostility.
Women know this. We recognize that our words will be doubted and our experiences dismissed because we see it happen. Repeatedly. We all know women who’ve reported their assaults to campus security, police, judges, juries, male friends and family members, and sometimes other women who just didn’t believe them. Or, if they did, diminished the impact of what happened. We all read the news stories about women whose rapists either get off or spend minimal time in prison (Brock Turner, the Steubenville rapists). We realize that most men have a vested interest in keeping the social order as it is.
Many men want to be able to engage in vile “locker room talk” and have women’s bodies easily accessible to them whether it’s through patronizing breastaurants, making lewd comments (such as ranking women on a scale of 1 to 10 or labeling them as MILFs), catcalling, fondling women in public, and/or having sexual interactions for which they haven’t gotten consent. Respecting the sanctity of women’s bodies and treating women as fellow human beings would spoil the party. And most women have gone along with it because, until now, we’ve had to. We’ve swallowed our anger, hurt and disgust because we knew that no good would come of causing a fuss. But maybe that’s about to change.
If, as it seems, women are tired of being quiet and accepting as inevitable men behaving badly, then perhaps the social order can be transformed. If we decide to stick together and say enough, we can forcibly call a halt to the “boys will be boys” mentality that has, for far too long, allowed men to get away with disrespecting women and treating our bodies as playthings. I’m not saying that it will be easy, revolution never is. However, if we raise our voices, work our connections, and support each other, then an overthrow is in the making. And, of all things, we would have Donald Trump to “thank” for it. If that truly happens, if we have a revolution in which the status of women – all women – is raised, then his candidacy will almost have been worth it. Almost.
And to the woman in Iowa who’s ready for a revolution: come join ours! I promise it will be worth it. We even already have a theme song: One Girl Revolution by Superchick. Instead of guns, we’ll use words. Instead of hate, we’ll spread love. And the best part is that we all win. The party will be different but, with everyone invited and welcome, it will be even more fun. So let’s get started! The revolution is calling.