#NotAllMen is predictably solipsistic, dangerously abdicative and prevaricates the very crisis that drew out such a response in the first place, a crisis which is as much a social one as it is a law and order one.
In October, the Washington Post released a video of Donald Trump caught making lewd and vulgar comments about women and how he likes to “grab them in certain places”. The exact phrase itself, which I would prefer to omit, has become somewhat ‘legendary’ and, during his campaign run, was talked about more often than most of his policies, not that there were too many policies to talk of.
Trump released a statement the same day apologising for it. This was certainly uncharacteristic of the man, to admit to a mistake firstly and to apologise for one secondly. Perhaps, by then, he had realised that he stood a realistic shot at winning the elections and was advised to be a little less renegade with his rhetoric. Well, relatively.
In the course of his statement, however, Trump went on to reiterate many of the issues that the success of his run till then had been propelled by. He’d said that there were ‘real issues’ all around them; people losing their jobs, the incumbent government’s failings et al and that the video was just a ‘distraction’.
Admittedly, this bit really did surprise me. Unlike his incendiary live rhetoric, this was a calculated statement and a textbook exercise in crisis management for his team, if one could overlook the fact that his team was in fact managing a campaign for a walking, talking crisis.
This apart, to play down the issue and say that it wasn’t as important seemed to me a terrible recourse. Little did I know at the time that I would be watching interviews of Trump supporters, and even others, over the next few weeks, all doing the exact same thing.
His comments were justified as ‘locker-room talk’ that all men partook in. His comments were justified by women and men alike.
This was true, frightening as it was to admit. There are conversations, I’ve been part of, with men who would never say such things. And there are conversations where hearing someone say things of the sort is met with so much nonchalance that if the others involved seemed to have any inhibition at all in continuing, it was only because the person speaking came off as a braggart.
Of course, I can imagine what the others could be thinking. ‘It’s just talk. The person saying it would never actually do it’. But how could they know for sure?
Men sexualize women all the time. Women do it too. But men do it differently. Concepts of consent and choice are a lot more elusive when men do it, particularly when they talk about it.
When it’s considered socially appropriate, or at least not always inappropriate, to disregard consent whilst simultaneously associating the act with masculinity, and when such toxic conversation happens in places like schools and colleges when the most fragile ideas in our minds are still finding root, it is almost comical to imagine that these men wouldn’t then go out into the world and do the very things that have been aggrandized.
Trump was correct to apologise. He was wrong to relegate the issue as one that wasn’t as pertinent as others. When it comes to consent, it’s never just a matter of semantics.