Выбор редакции

What Donald Trump Can Teach Progressive Men

I'm not here to write about the total corpus of Donald Trump's sexism. Certainly it is misogynistic to insinuate that a persistent female reporter is menstruating or insult a female lawyer who needs to pump breast milk by calling her "disgusting," but those remarks belong in a different category from the type of sexism I wish to discuss. Instead I turn to one of his chief underlying assumptions about women, a strain of sexism that I've noticed among the men in my day-to-day life more than any other. It can best be summed up as a pair of premises that the objectifying misogynist holds to be self-evident:

1. The belief that a woman's chief value to a man is her ability to increase his status.

2. The belief that a woman's status is determined by her sexual desirability (at least according to mainstream standards).

To be fair, Trump didn't develop these ideas in a vacuum. He was raised in a culture where men married trophy wives and squired models and starlets as a way of flaunting their wealth. In the 1980s, Trump became a celebrity within a media narrative in which women who aren't conventionally attractive are dismissed as invisible or singled out as punchlines. These attitudes aren't limited to the top echelons of society; they trickle down to the rest of us, who recognize the markers of status and shame regardless of whether we personally subscribe to their underlying philosophy. Indeed, Trump's pattern of behavior provides us with a pretty thorough guide into the various ways men tend to objectify women.

First, there is his knee-jerk assumption that insulting a woman's appearance can somehow invalidate her. "The face of a dog!" he wrote over a circled picture of New York Times columnist Gail Collins after she wrote an editorial criticizing him. When dismissing the business candidacy of Carly Fiorina (who happens to have far better business credentials than Trump himself), Trump declared, "Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?" He was more aggressive in his prolonged rivalry with Rosie O'Donnell, during which he infamously referred to the comedienne as a "fat pig," "dog," "slob," and "disgusting animal." Trump even uses the specter of female unattractiveness to invalidate other men. For instance, during his spat with Ted Cruz, Trump retweeted a meme that contrasted an unflattering picture of his former rival's wife with a sultry one of Trump's own significant other with the caption, "The images are worth a thousand words." More tellingly, when a reporter claimed that three people with direct knowledge of Trump's finances could confirm that he isn't a billionaire, Trump attacked them as "guys who have 400-pound wives at home who are jealous of me."

While it may be tempting to dismiss this as juvenile and cruel instead of outright sexist (a defense that I've actually heard from several Trump supporters), the multimillionaire's actions take on a more sinister appearance once you contextualize them. After all, he has spent his entire life believing that a man's success can be measured by the status of the women with whom he is involved. "Oftentimes when I was sleeping with one of the top women in the world I would say to myself, thinking about me as a boy from Queens, 'Can you believe what I am getting?'" " he mused in his book Think Big: Make it Happen in Business and Life. From this particular male perspective, attractive women are an asset to be acquired ('Can you believe what I am getting?') rather than equal human beings. "Love him or hate him, Trump is a man who is certain about what he wants, and sets out to get it, no holds barred," Trump once explained in an off-putting third person voice that, nevertheless, clearly established his view of women as things whose value fluctuates based on aesthetic criteria. Or as he succinctly stated with characteristic vulgarity in an interview with Esquire, "You know, it doesn't really matter what [the media] write as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass."

The problem with simply condemning Trump's sexism here is that, if you're a man, the chances are you've participated in the culture which breeds it. Sexual braggadocio, deconstructions of feminine attractiveness, and looks-based insults against women are staples of casual male conversation from the schoolyard through adulthood. Even if a man doesn't engage in these discussions himself, he has certainly overheard other men talking in this way, and on some level internalizes their attitudes even if he is intellectually and ideologically opposed to them. It is why we shower praise on a man whose girlfriend is "hot" and sneer at one whose significant other is "skanky," "ugly," or "fat," and why we laugh at jokes in which a woman's unattractiveness is a punchline (I'm looking at you, "Family Guy"). It is why women repeatedly claim that they are given preferential treatment by men when they're deemed attractive and treated as invisible when they're not. Beyond mere desire, male attitudes toward women explicitly associate beauty (or at least the mainstream version of it) as making a woman a "winner," and the lack thereof as making a woman a "loser."

This is the belief to which Trump subscribes when he objectifies women, and if progressive men want to fight Trumpism, it isn't enough to isolate his specific comments. We need to acknowledge that this brand of misogyny permeates our entire culture, from how we date and the jokes we laugh at to the way we talk about women in male-dominated environments. It is one thing to accept that heterosexual men are going to have strong physical inclinations toward certain types of women and lack those same drives for others; it is even okay to admit that there are certain preferences which are more common and others that are less so. What Trump and his ilk believe, though, is that a woman's attractiveness - both as deemed by themselves as individuals and the majority of men collectively - can be fairly used to pass value judgments about her. While we can't stop Trump for saying these things, progressive men can remain vigilant about curbing these impulses in their everyday lives. We don't have to remain silent when we hear other men objectify women, and we certainly should avoid any behaviors of our own that may do so. As a rule of thumb, think twice before talking about women in a way that you could see coming out of Trump's mouth.

It won't be easy to tackle these attitudes, but it morally behooves us to try. Trump may be unusually blatant about his objectification, but that doesn't mean he's deviating that sharply from cultural norms. In fact, if these prejudices hadn't already been popular, it is quite possible that Trump never would have appealed to them in the first place. The reason that he does so - and, moreover, seems to get away with it - is because he realizes that he is only articulating what countless men already believe. It is up to progressive men to change that.

Originally published on The Good Men Project.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.