This morning I woke up to my tearful daughter telling me about the ongoing bullying and slut shaming she is dealing with from a group of boys at her high school. She won't let me contact anyone at her school for fear of retaliation/making things worse. She won't let me contact any of the boys' parents for the same reasons. She tried to talk with them directly but apparently that made things worse. She tried to have a friend talk to them but that backfired. I don't know how to help her. To be perfectly honest, I'd like to go kick their asses myself but that probably wouldn't help the situation. So all I could do this morning was hold her, stroke her hair, and tell her that I love her. All I could come up with in terms of advice was that winter break has almost arrived. She just needs to get through finals and then she will have a nice, long break and hopefully it will be over. Kids sometimes have a short attention span. Maybe they will have moved on to someone or something else by the time January rolls around. But as I had all of this running through my mind, she said it first. She has just a week and a half left before winter break. Sadly, we both turned to an emotional break from the bullying and slut shaming. That is hardly a solution. I would like to think that we can do better than that.
Logically, I know it has to start with teaching our boys, but I really would have thought that they'd know better by now. (For the record, my own son knows better because I taught him myself, along with some help from his sister. I would be both shocked and devastated to learn anything different about him.) But I wondered to myself, when will all boys in this country learn that bullying and slut shaming girls is abusive and unacceptable? My daughter pulled herself together and left for school. As a matter of habit I turned on The Today Show to start my morning and as I did, I learned the answer to my own question.
Because today, President Trump has just bullied and slut shamed his colleague, Kirsten Gillibrand, a female United States Senator, on Twitter. It went like this,
"Donald J. TrumpVerified account @realDonaldTrump
Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!"
Politics aside for a minute please. How can we possibly teach our boys not to belittle, disrespect, bully, and/or slut shame girls if the leader of the United States of America is doing it without consequence (to him) in a public forum? How can we teach our girls that they are deserving of respect when they see the President of the United States being so disrespectful to a female colleague who had the audacity [courage] to speak out against him? Several male senators, by the way, also spoke out on the same subject and Donald Trump made no sexually suggestive and repulsive public comments about them.
He saved that for the woman.
Who spoke up about charges against him for sexual harassment/assault.
So, it turns out, today will not be the day that we collectively teach our children that women and girls deserve respect. Instead, today boys learned that if a girl makes you mad for any reason, you should throw out some public comments that makes people think she is stupid, incompetent, and a slut. That'll teach 'em. And today girls learned that if you use your voice to raise a concern against someone in power, be prepared to be called names and have your sexual propriety threatened publicly.
Today, this is the teacher we have on display in this great country of ours. This is the man who reaches billions of ears and minds with 140 characters. This is the voice for the people of the United States of America. This is a serious problem that cannot be ignored.
As women, we are experiencing this great and long overdue #metoo movement. Women and girls (and boys and men) are feeling empowered to speak out about abuse, harassment, and injustice perpetrated by those in positions of authority. The list is long and it is being read slowly, out loud, for the world to hear. So far, it has caused some pretty big heads to roll.
(Photo credit to Glamour)
But the biggest voice in our country continues to deny, lie, bully, threaten, shame and harass with absolutely no consequence to him. How can there be no consequences for public, irresponsible, harassing, and sexist comments, regardless of who made them? I would expect any employee of any company would be fired for tweeting such disrespectful comments to a colleague. Is there not a higher standard for the President of the United States? Is that the line we choose to draw in the sand? That you can treat women with total disrespect and sexism if, and only if, you are the most powerful man in the country? Only then do we let it slide. There is no he said/she said with a tweet. It isn't fake news. Tweets cannot be disputed. They are happening in real time and in this case, with zero consequence to the hateful and sexist perpetrator.
But rest assured there will be consequences - there is a price to be paid. The price for our president's reckless tweeting will be paid by women in the workplace and on the street, by girls in school like my daughter, by every girl and every woman in this country and beyond, as we move forward in our lives and are continually subjected to harassment, bullying, and sexist comments. Donald Trump is normalizing this kind of hate-filled, sexist behavior and by doing nothing about it, we as a country are saying it is ok. I would have hoped we could do better than that.
But it happened. Today, the President of the United States bullied, harassed, and attempted to slut shame a female colleague on Twitter for the world to see.
Clearly today is not the day we will collectively teach our children about respect for women. Today is not the day that our boys will come to understand that bullying and slut shaming girls is unacceptable and damaging behavior.
Today is not the day that the President of the United States will use his voice to teach young high school boys to respect women.
Today is not the day that our lawmakers in Washington put a stop to the harmful voice of Donald J. Trump, teach our boys respect for women, or protect our girls.
When will that day come? I honestly don't know if it will. But it breaks my heart to know that it is most definitely Not Today. And tomorrow doesn't look good either.
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photo credit: GIF and Glamour