When confronted with a 2005 tape of Trump bragging about committing sexual assault, Mitt Romney declared that “such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters.” I am tired of talking about wives and daughters. We need to start talking about husbands and sons. Many people have responded to Trump’s comments by claiming that this is how all men talk about women in private. Trump himself said it was standard locker room talk. Who are these husbands and sons, who talk about women as though they were objects or property? Who are these husbands and sons, these sexual predators bragging about their exploits and searching for victims?
Every man who cracks a rape joke is someone’s husband and son. Every man who gropes a woman is someone’s husband or son. Every man who catcalls a woman walking down the sidewalk is someone’s husband or son. Every man who rapes and murders a woman is someone’s husband or son. Every man who refuses to stop when his date says “no” is someone’s husband or son. Every man who gets a girl drunk so that he can sexually assault her while she’s unconscious is someone’s wife and son. It’s time we asked a question: Why do so many husbands and sons believe it is acceptable to treat women like this, to act in this manner?
None of this is inevitable. I have a son; he’ll be starting elementary school next year. I am teaching him to respect women and engage with them as his equals. I would never in a million years allow my son to talk about women the way Trump has. I have a husband. His parents taught him to respect women and to engage with them as his equals. I would never in a million years have married him if he spoke about women the way Trump does. There are steps we can take to ensure that our husbands and sons do not treat women like bags of flesh, objects designed to give them pleasure.
Why, then, do so many of our husbands and sons behave like this? There are, of course, many reasons. Some have been raised with a sense of entitlement to women’s bodies. Some have been encouraged to see women as foreign entities rather than as human beings just like them. Some have become immersed in friend groups where showing dominance over women is treated as a sign of status. Some have been taught in their houses of worship that women belong to men. We have to tackle all of these problems. We must demand better from our husbands and sons. We must refuse to turn a blind eye to this behavior. We must call to task those who would say “boys will be boys.” We must not enable bad behavior from our husbands and sons.We live in a society where men earn more than women; a society where women frequently give up their careers to stay home with their children, becoming dependent upon their husbands; a society where male stars are paid more than female stars; a society where men control the vast, vast majority of the nation’s companies; a society where only 20% of our Representatives and Senators are women. We live in a society where men have outsized power and influence, outsized control and ability to dominate. All of this should make us more concerned about husbands and sons across the country who display a willingness to treat women as property, as pieces of flesh. All of this makes it more important to nip in the bud any such “locker room banter.”
If Trump is elected president, what message would that send to our husbands and sons? Already we live in a society that too often condones male misbehavior. If we elect Trump, with his history of treating women as objects that exist for his pleasure, we will further normalize this behavior for our husbands and sons—and our fathers and nephews and grandsons. We must not tolerate this. We must consider what this election means for our husbands and sons. We cannot afford to stand by and allow this presidential contest give our husbands and sons the message that it is okay to call women “bitch” or “piece of ass” or to boast about grabbing them by the p****.
I fear for my son under a Trump presidency. As he grows, he will face enough pressure to be “macho” and to talk about women as objects without Trump further normalizing these influences. This election, we need to think of our husbands and sons.
Note: In case you’re wondering, yes, I wrote this post as a parody of the ever-present focus on “our wives and daughters.” As a good friend of mine noted in response to Romney’s comments, “I don’t have a wife or a daughter, but you can talk directly to me.” And so, I wondered, why doesn’t anyone talk about husbands and sons? With this in mind, I started writing. It turns out I actually had a lot to say!
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