Nicole Kellett, University of Maine at Farmington. Originally published in Bangor Daily News July 4, 2017.
Arguably, the most economically, militarily and politically powerful country in the world is being led by a man who views more than half of the world’s population — women — as pieces of ass. In 1991, Trump discussed the media with Esquire magazine claiming, “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [they] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”
Trump’s outrageously sexist comments, wherein he values women merely on the basis of their looks (including his own daughter and wife), jokes about dating minors, and holds “fat pictures” against women to humiliate and control them, continued throughout his campaign for the White House to today. Most recently, our supposed public servant Trump claimed, via a series of Twitter posts, that Mika Brzezinski co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” had been “bleeding badly from a face-lift.”
Trump’s anti-women and otherwise offensive statements ignited a worldwide protest, with 673 marches taking place on all seven continents.
Yet, some people continue to view Trump’s rhetoric as merely harmless “locker room” talk, which serves to not only justify and excuse, but more dangerously, normalize misogyny. It is not just talk.
Is it a coincidence that the signing of the Mexico City Policy, or “global gag rule,” which cuts funding to hundreds of organizations worldwide preventing them from providing primary health services to women, took place at a table surrounded by white men? It has been argued that the continued positioning of white men and absence of women or minorities at high-profile public events in the current administration is not accidental.
In a New York Times column, Jill Filipovic questions to what degree these photo opportunities are politically staged to appeal to the white male voter who longs to make “America great again” through their ultimate return to economic and political power.
But it is more than a staged mirage. We cannot have women in photo ops when there are so few women in positions of power. Trump’s administration has rolled back previous headway in the representation of women in senior political positions. An estimated 27 percent of appointed roles are held by women under Trump, compared with 43 percent under President Barack Obama. In certain departments such as Commerce, Treasury and Energy, about 15 percent of appointees are women. The highest rates of female representation — about half — are in the State and Health and Human Services departments, both of which are slated for major funding cuts under Trump’s proposed budget.
With a majority of men at the helm, policies are being drafted and implemented that actively disempower women. Trump recently signed a bill to overturn Obama-era protections for Title X grantees, which provide critical reproductive, educational and counseling services related to family planning and contraception to 4 million people annually.
Contrary to promises to do so, Trump has made no advancement on equal pay or paid family and medical leave. While only one in six eligible children have child care assistance, Trump’s budget calls for severe reductions. Trump’s budget eliminates $1.2 billion for programs that provide before and after-school care for 1.6 million children so their parents can work.
There are cuts proposed to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which could leave approximately 200,000 calls unanswered. Reductions are slated for the Justice Department that could negatively impact the Violence Against Women Act, and Trump has considered eliminating the Office of Violence Against Women entirely.
Some people still argue that Trump has our country’s best interests at heart. How can we make such an argument, when the current GOP health care bill, written by 13 white men, would cut coverage to 22 million Americans?
This is not a mirage and this is not just “locker room” talk. The current administration is actively undermining the rights of women through policies, tax codes, and budgets that erode family security, put women, children, and minorities at risk, attack reproductive rights, unequally benefit the wealthy, and undermine women’s leadership and legal rights.
All citizens, regardless of political affiliation, need to keep Trump and his administration accountable to enact policies that directly work to close the ever-widening income gap and protect the rights of all Americans — including women.
Nicole Coffey Kellett is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Maine at Farmington. Her specialization is women, development and Latin America. She is a member of the Maine chapter of the national Scholars Strategy Network, which brings together scholars across the country to address public challenges and their policy implications. Members’ columns appear in the BDN every other week.