My phone buzzed with yet another New York Times update containing the words “Donald Trump.” I swiped left to dismiss it, figuring it was just another story about his taxes, his late night tweeting, or predictions for the impending debate. It was not until a few hours later, while I was browsing Twitter and kept reading phrases such as “Donald Trump” “lewd comments” “sexual harassment” and that disgusting phrase “smack her right in the ****y” that I realized something much bigger than tax evasion was going on. I scrolled back through my Gmail and found the NYT article, anxious and slightly scared to learn what our Republican presidential candidate had said now. Through shock and horror, I read the comments he made while talking with Billy Bush on Access Hollywood. I watched the video showing the camaraderie and light-hearted nature between Trump and Bush as they discussed how frustrating it is when a married woman turns someone as “famous” as Trump down. I read the thousands of stories being tweeted every minute to Kelly Oxford, a Canadian woman living and working in L.A., who shared her own story of sexual harassment growing up with the hashtag #notokay. Then, I heard Trump’s remarks in regards to the leak of this video, which had conveniently been kept hidden for the past 11 years. My blood boiled over as I read Trump call this nothing short of “locker room talk,” essentially saying “boys will be boys.”
I have four brothers, all of whom have spent a great deal of time “hanging with the guys,” whether that be in the locker room after practice, playing video games or poker on a Saturday night, or sitting around in a friend’s basement watching a basketball game and eating wings. I have no doubt they have spent their fair share of time talking about new crushes and former flames, gently ribbing one another about potential interests, and seeking advice when it comes to relationships. Friends are the people we lean on for things such as this and it is only natural that they might feel more comfortable going to a friend rather than a parent. I pray, however, that my brothers have never spoken about a girl in terms as demoralizing, degrading, and harassing as those used by Donald Trump. I pray that, before saying something like that, they would think about what would happen if they heard someone talking about me, their only sister, like that. I pray that they have the strength and courage to stand up to those who speak in such ways about women.
Calling such language “locker room talk” is like calling an addiction, “a really strong habit.” Changing the wording does not take away the root of the issue; the actions themselves. Claiming that this is just how some people talk does not change the fact that it is wrong on every level. There is no excuse for language like this.
And yet, so many people in today’s society do this. Women are demoralized, objectified, stripped of all assets that cannot be measured in terms of letters and numbers. They become nothing more than their bodies; as if their true value and worth lies in whether they have a “nice rack” or a “juicy butt.” If a woman is not pretty by society’s standards it is often said, “well at least she’s [smart, rich, nice, funny]. Society consistently places beauty on a pedestal.
And it is not just men speaking about women like this. Women are guilty of it as well. We constantly judge and scrutinize other women. If there is a woman that we are not fond of, we instantly say “oh, she’s a bitch.” When we go for the jugular, we immediately think to criticize looks. “Ugh, look at how ugly her haircut is.” “Oh wow, she’s definitely gained weight.” Sometimes, it is done unintentionally as well. We as a society have been so conditioned that a person’s worth lies in their looks. We have been taught to value beauty before all else; to look at a person’s appearance before their personality.
While Donald Trump’s disgusting comments do not deserve an excuse of any kind, they are not quite an exception. They are a magnified example of the concepts that we as a society discuss quite frequently. We can, however, make these lewd remarks the exception in the future. We can teach our children, our little siblings, the future of our world, to treat one another with kindness. We can teach our girls to see their beauty and worth in their minds and hearts, rather than their looks and the way they dress. We can teach our boys to not objectify women; to stick up for them when their peers criticize and critique them, and to view women as their equals, no less. In the future, we can ensure that locker room talk is no longer synonymous with the objectification and sexualizing of our peers.
I don’t know what is going to happen in this election. I don’t know who is going to end up in the White House, come January 2017. I don’t know what the future holds for our country, our economy, or our world. I do know, however, that we have a long way to go in regards to our language about women. It won’t be easy, but I am confident that we can make it happen.