In response to Trump’s most recently leaked lewd comments on a 2005 Access Hollywood bus, Dr. Gina Loudon, host of America Trends, was featured on a CNN panel regarding this topic, and defended Trump by saying “they are just words!”
In one sense, I have to agree with Dr. Gina. They are words. So why is it, that as a woman, I’m extremely bothered by something that didn’t physically hurt anyone?
When I posted about this on social media, a commenter asked a question that really got me thinking about the specifics of why his words mattered so much to me.
“What sexual assault happened?” The fact remains that we can’t answer that… yet. But that question alone had me doing a bit of self-reflecting. Was I being too sensitive?
At the end of the day, I can’t prove Donald Trump committed a crime. But is it even necessary to have proof of a sexual assault to have qualms with his words?
Are his words really that important? Should I just sweep this under the rug, and call it “boy talk” as Melania Trump did?
This immediately made me think of a personal story where there were only words said, yet I had this similar feeling.
Last weekend, I was standing in the self-checkout line at a local grocery store, and looked behind me because there were a few young men in line being loud and obnoxious. When I turned around to see what was going on, I just happened to look straight into the eyes of one of them. There were 3 of them, and all appeared to be in their mid 20’s. It was a Saturday night, so I just wrote it off as them just having a good time with one another; no big deal.
So I turned back around and went about my business. As I was scanning my items, their voices got much closer to me. They ended up at the register right next to mine. Again, not a big deal.
I tried not to pay any attention to them or their conversation, but it was super hard with as loud as they were. Their laughing echoed and their voices carried directly into my ear.
A few seconds later, one man changed his tone and projection, speaking in my direction.
“I think she made eye contact with you,” he said to his friend.
His friend responded, “I think she did.”
This was followed by a long pause.
I wasn’t interested in having a conversation with them. After all, I was only there to pick up a few items for my family who was back at home waiting for my return. I kept my mouth shut and continued checking out.
Their conversation continued… “I think she wants you.” “I think she does.”
“I’ll just take it. I’ll pull her hair back and take it.”
As uncomfortable as I felt in that moment, and as bad as I wanted to confront them, I still didn’t say anything. I kept my head down and tried to pick up my pace. The things that were coming out of their mouths were unacceptable and definitely unwarranted. They ended up finishing before I did, and headed out the door.
I hesitated leaving right behind them, because the parking lot was dark and I wasn’t really sure what they were capable of doing.
You may think this is silly. But I was afraid.
It was around midnight, pitch black outside, and I was alone. This man had just said he would “pull my hair and take it” and I don’t think he was talking about the eggs in my bag.
I was more afraid of the unknown than I was of him in particular. This is the unpredictable situation many women find themselves in, and don’t know what to do.
I had to ask myself a series of questions before I walked out of that grocery store, knowing those men were right outside. Questions that my husband admits he’s never had to consider.
Am I truly afraid for my safety? Were they just playing around? Am I overanalyzing the situation?
Should I be scared? Should I call my husband?
Do I really think they would actually do something to me? Probably not, but do I want to risk it by walking outside?
Are they waiting on me out there?
Should I call the police? I do feel threatened, but what would I even say? After all they were “just words.” I would probably sound ridiculous.
Is it that serious? They were only “talking” about the action, after all.
Women should never have to feel this way. Uncomfortable, with a side of self-doubt, topped with a fear of looking ridiculous. If a call for help could be humiliating, I can only imagine how it must feel to actually be taken advantage of. Sadly, many women don’t have to imagine it.
So yes, Dr. Gina, words can have real effects. Especially ones like: “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful women—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab them by the pussy.”
On that bus in 2005, Trump suggested that he has forced himself on women, and still operates that way at the time of the recording, and gets away with it because of his celebrity status.
But, you may still be asking yourself what the problem is with the above scenarios since they are both in fact “just words” with no action. I think that’s a fair challenge. So, let me ask you a few questions, Dr. Gina:
1) Why is it that we stop planes mid-flight over terroristic threats? After all they are “just words.”
2) Why do we evacuate schools for a bomb threat over the phone? “Just words,” right?
3) Why is stalking a crime in ALL 50 states? They didn’t actually “do anything.” So what’s the problem?
4) Most forms of sexual harassment are “just words.” So, why do we care?
5) Cyber Bullying. No imminent threat, and “just words,” right?
So, when you look at the fact that they are “words,” Dr. Gina is right. But they aren’t just words. It’s much more powerful than that.
Dr. Gina and many other Trump defenders are missing an important element.
Think about why we are so diligently trying to stop bullying. There is a direct connection from bullying to violence.
Words can lead to very serious actions, as we’ve seen with past Trump rallies.
Trump says “someone ought to punch that guy” (just words) and later, a protestor is punched as he’s being escorted out.
College fraternities are known for having signs up saying “No Means Yes,” (just words) yet 20% of female college students are sexually assaulted.
Since we know a connection exists between words and violence, it’s our obligation to mitigate violent actions by demanding that people be responsible with their words, especially those people who seek leadership.
With 9 out of 10 victims of rape being women, the White House released a statement that their goal is “eradicating sexual violence against women.” This means we all have an obligation to solve this problem, and since 98% of sexual assault perpetrators are male, it’s safe to say that men have an even higher duty to be careful with their words, which may perpetuate a rape culture.
According to the CDC, prevention is key. “Sexual Violence (SV) is a significant problem in the United States. SV refers to sexual activity when consent is not obtained or not given freely.” (Enter Donald Trump saying It’s like a magnet. I just kiss. I don’t even wait… when you’re a star, you can do anything… grab them by the pussy).
We don’t take a stand for women by voting for a man who doesn’t get this most basic concept. And Dr. Gina, you’re not doing society any favors by defending him. You’re part of the problem of perpetuating the stereotype that it’s “no big deal.”
In a document called Connecting the Dots: An Overview of the Links Among Multiple Forms of Violence, the CDC shows that risk factors such as things commonly referred to as “cultural norms” (i.e.: boy talk, locker room banter, or just words) has a direct correlation with perpetuating sexual violence.
Although Donald Trump didn’t commit sexual assault on that bus in 2005, he did talk about doing it in the past, and did so very braggingly, suggesting that this is the way he operates.
Defending him as being a man who “says what’s on his mind” does not justify the disgusting things that came out of his mouth that day, it only confirms that this is the way he thinks.
Texas Women’s University said it best: “Since we cannot know the mind of others, we must concentrate on removing opportunities for crime and changing the social climate that contributes to victimization.”
So, Dr. Gina, changing the social climate does not mean defending people who make comments which perpetuate a culture of sexual violence against women by classifying this as “just words.”
It means standing up for sexual assault victims everywhere by condemning these words.