It’s fine to insult anyone, as long as they aren’t white women.
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The Trump Tapes just showed America the hidden power of White Womanhood. It is a power so awesome, so terrifying, that it’s not only capable of making Republican leaders suddenly feel the need to publicly chastise their party’s presidential nominee, but has compelled Trump to ‘apologize’ not once, but twice, for insulting White Womanhood. Those white woman tears, man. They’re Republican holy water.
“I am sickened by what I heard today. Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified,” said House speaker Paul Ryan, responding to Trump’s gleeful descriptions of sexually assaulting women just because he could. (Did Ryan renounce his political support of Trump? No. But he uninvited him to a party. Snap!) “Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world,” opined Mitt Romney, whose “binders full of women” remark now seems as courteously veneered as the man himself. Romney’s brand of sexism informs cowboy movies and animated films where princes are dashing and princesses need rescuing and nobody stops to think that these stories are cultural exercises in class privilege, institutional whiteness, and political power.
But of course they are. These are powerful white men talking about “their” women, who are still being imagined (and objectified) as co-extensions of men, and unthinkable except in relationship to them. Hence to insult White Womanhood is to challenge white male authority, for the same reason that the marriage contract is a social good because it places constraints upon male violence. The contract works due to the necessary and willing support of women. But until gay marriage came along, “she’s my wife,” was a proprietary statement invoking institutionally sanctioned boundaries, enforced by church and state, that kept men from killing other men over sexual access to females.
So when the Trump Tapes recorded him admitting to trying to “fuck” a married woman by moving in on her “like a bitch”–and not, say, like a dog–he cast himself in an explicitly gendered role that no longer adhered to a heteronormative script, thereby crossing a particular line that violated everything principled conservatives (used to) stand for. Suddenly, the White Male Republican establishment realized, in a visceral, ding-ding-ding! way, that Trump will never respect their political seniority, their professional experience, or superior socio-econonimc position, precisely because he’s repeatedly shown that he can’t respect “their” women. On tape, Trump says he can’t help himself. He has to “kiss” them. Which is a polite way of saying “grab their pussy.” Or, you know, fuck them.
Okay, maybe sexism and misogyny, but why do the Trump Tapes also expose racism? Boys don’t cry but surely all women do! When Trump demeans one women, he demeans them all! Err, no. First, the problem is not Trump’s use of vulgar language. Please note that there is nothing wrong with the words he said. Grab. Tic tac. Pussy. Perfectly G-rated when said in this order: Grab a tic-tac, said the owl to the pussy cat. But Trump began his foray into presidential politics with the Obama birther nonsense, formally kicked off his campaign by accusing Mexicans of being “rapists,” has systematically demonized Muslims (a group that includes women and children), continues to insist on the guilt of the New York Five despite the fact that they were exonerated, and has so consistently raised the specter of brown bodies infiltrating “real” America that he’s become the candidate of choice for white supremacists and the new Alt-Right, who’ve gone as far as describing him as their “god.”
Yet for months, Republican leadership in general, including Evangelicals, have collectively shrugged and ignored his xenophobic and misogynistic views, suggesting that they either support white nationalism or don’t exactly object to it. Either way, both Republican leaders and great swaths of the mainstream media have shown little to no sign of caring when women of color are made to suffer due to punitive social, economic, or outright racist systems. (Check out the hashtag, #SayHerName.)
So why are Republican leaders suddenly shrieking in horror, as if they’ve suddenly realized that this man, this Trump, is well and truly their nominee? What’s different this time around? When Trump crapped all over White Womanhood on tape, making it nearly impossible to spin, he didn’t just demean white women but insulted his entire base. Because White Womanhood is not about women as autonomous and fully human beings, but the white institutions run by men invested in protecting the virtue of “their” women as the receptacles and gatekeepers of purest ideals and morals. Many white women are equally (if unselfconsciously) protective of those institutions for the social privileges it gives them.
As a result, you get interesting fireworks when a White Woman of the ‘hood faces down a woman of color who is sick and tired of gibberish passing for journalism. On CNN, Trump surrogate Scottie Neil Hughes (whose name is fascinating on its own), professed to being offended by Trump’s predatory attitudes towards women, but she was even more offended by Ana Navarro’s saying “pussy” when quoting Trump’s own words.
“Please stop saying that word, my daughter is listening,” Hughes huffed, yanking the white lady virtue chain in order to show that she was a delicate flower in need of rescuing from the mean brown person who refused to acquiesce to her orders.
Navarro was not having any of it. “Don’t act outraged and offended when I say the word, [pussy],” Navarro responded indignantly, pointing out that Hughes is a Trump surrogate who still supports the man who said it in first place.
In case it’s not obvious, Hughes’ rhetorical strategy attempted to project Trump’s failings onto Navarro, casting her as the repulsive vulgarian for refusing to whitewash the misogyny of Trump’s own words. Doubtless, Hughes’ feint worked on many home viewers. That Latina lady may have had a point, but did she have to be so mean? That’s the power of White Womanhood. That’s why the thing that gets not one but two ‘apologies’ out of Trump is the tears of white women,” author Heidi Heilig observed. Because Trump has well and truly shown that he obeys no authority but the impulses of his own ego, and exposed his entire party’s leadership as toothless opportunists.
The annals of history will record: “Grab them by the pussy” is this election year’s version of “binders full of women.” And so, here we are, the entire country wallowing in unprintable filth. O, how the mighty have fallen.
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