In the immortal words of Pearl Jam:
“Don’t call me daughter, not fit to”
If you still have any stomach for the US Presidential election, since Friday you may have heard (ad nauseam) the 2005 tape revealing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Access Hollywood host Billy Bush having a lewd, offensive and borderline criminal conversation about using one’s star power to assault women.
Not only did Trump brag that he often “just starts kissing” women, and that he is able to “grab them by the p***y”, but after ogling her legs and exclaiming about her attractiveness we also saw Billy Bush bully a female Access Hollywood on-air personality into hugging Trump and himself. The woman complied, but any woman watching this unfold could relate to the discomfort she obviously felt in being pressured into acquiescing to the intimate physical contact with a man she had just met.
The fallout from this revelation was immediate and harsh, and Trump has rightly been widely condemned. But there’s an undertone to some of the condemnation that perhaps underscores the attitudes that contribute to Trump’s vulgarity.
Now, I believe that Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are well-intentioned, as are the many others who used this language to condemn Trump. But this kind of response grates at me. Why are you only offended as “the father of a daughter” or the “grandfather of two girls”? If you only had sons, would Billy Bush and Donald Trump’s behavior not bother you? If you didn’t have female grandchildren would this episode be inconsequential?
This type of language harkens back to the age-old belief that a woman’s value exists only inasmuch as she is related to a man. This language positions women as the property of her husband, brother, father; her female ‘virtue’ must be preserved because it is reflective of her worth to the man in charge. This language is best left in the quaint literature of Jane Austin, not a serious discussion of sexual politics in 2016.
So while I think Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney and others are well-intentioned, they need to consider the impact and meaning of their words. It’s telling that Romney’s first criticism was that Trump admitted to “hitting on a married woman”. Because there would be no husband to be offended by Trump’s lecherous advances towards non-married woman?
These men should be offended by Trump and Billy Bush’s comments simply because they are offensive. They are offensive to both men and women because they imply an appalling lack of personal respect for the individual dignity of another person. They imply an abuse of power which is unacceptable in any gender. Grabbing a woman by the genitals is sexual assault, regardless if that woman has a husband or a father to protect her or to be scandalized by the imposition on her virtue.
As a woman, I would prefer that you not hide behind my status as your daughter, wife, sister or friend – all of these things are about YOU, not me. If you’re not offended simply because of our shared humanity, then don’t call me daughter, you’re not fit to.