Trump & Misogyny

Watching Trump is rather like an observing a submarine test: you wonder how low it can sink. Like an amazing sub, Trump keeps reaching new depths. An old recording of Trump was recently released which features the Republican candidate saying rather awful things. This has cost him the endorsement of some Republicans, but he still seems to be incredibly resistant to damage: he had managed to spew forth a stream of awful things such that any one of which would have been a career ending injury for almost anyone else.

While there have been some calls for Trump to leave the race, Trump has so far decided that he is staying in. As should be expected, Trump has presented a reply to the situation that includes his usual tactics.  While most would not consider Trump philosophical, he does say things that are certainly interesting to discus in this context.

Trump begins his response by pointing out that the recording is from 2005 and he asserts that he has changed since then. As such, he should not be criticized now for what he did then. This defense potentially has merit: if he has reformed, then while the recording shows that Trump was awful, that was then and this is now. From a moral standpoint, the main concern is whether or not Trump is still the same sort of person he was in 2005. Interestingly, Trump’s initial defense did not include claims that his remarks were out of character; presumably he accepts that this behavior was in accord with his character in 2005.

While there are no known recent remarks about women by Trump that exactly match his 2005 remarks, he does not seem to have reformed in any morally meaningful way. He casually and routinely engages in misogyny and sexism and this gives lie to his defense. As such, the 2005 remarks do reflect both who he was and who he is. If Trump had shown signs of moral growth, then this defense could have merit—there are certainly cases of people who redeem themselves and become better. Unfortunately, there seems to be no evidence of this in Trump’s case.

Trump also endeavored to use a red herring (a rhetorical device in which someone attempts to divert attention from the original issue) to switch attention from his remarks. Rather, he hoped to get people to ignore them and focus instead on his assertions that “We are losing our jobs, we are less safe than we were eight years ago and Washington is totally broken.”

It could be countered that this is not a red herring because the character of a president does not matter in the face of such alleged problems. This approach does have potential merit and will be addressed in the context of Bill Clinton, who seems to have been used in another Trump red herring.

In his response, Trump also asserted that “Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course.” This could also be regarded as a red herring—the matter of whether Bill has said worse things or not is a different issue from the matter of Trump’s remarks. Even if Bill has said worse things, this proves nothing about Trump’s remarks.

As mentioned before, perhaps Trump’s defenders could make the case that Bill Clinton was an excellent president despite the things he allegedly said. Given that many successful leaders have had awful moralities in regards to their views of women, a case could be made here arguing that a leader who will do the job well should not be assessed based on such alleged failings. Put crudely, it does not matter what the leader wants to grab, because “it’s the economy, stupid.” While this does have some appeal, Bill’s behavior did have damaging consequences for him and the country, so there is clearly a downside to this quality in a leader. There is also the moral question of whether or not the tradeoff would be worth it, especially if a good leader could be found who was not a misogynist.

If Bill were running against Trump, then showing that Bill is just as bad would be a relevant response. This is because if Trump and Bill were equally awful in this regard, then Trump’s awfulness would not disadvantage him relative to Bill—at least under a rational assessment. To use an analogy, if a HP laptop and an Asus laptop had equally short battery life, then battery life would not serve as a reason to pick one over the other. But, of course, Trump is not running against Bill. He is running against Hillary. As such, it is no surprise that he also attacked Hillary by saying, “Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed, and intimidated his victims.”

While attacking Hillary can also be regarded as a red herring in that it proves nothing about the matter involving Trump, it is certainly relevant in assessing the two candidates against each other. Trump is, in effect, trying to establish that Hillary is just as bad (or worse) than he is in regards to treatment of women. Trump does have some ammunition here—he can point to Hillary’s alleged role in the handling of the “bimbo eruptions” that plagued Bill in the 1990s.

While there certainly seem to be some legitimate concerns about Hillary’s behavior, she can point to an otherwise solid record on women’s issue. Even if the claims about her misdeeds are true, she can certainly make a much stronger case than Trump that she has changed since the 1990s. After all, the recording of Trump is more recent than the 1990s and Trump relentlessly affirms his misogyny, thus showing that he has not changed significantly. As such, while Hillary can, perhaps, be justly criticized for her actions in the 1990s, it would be a false equivalence to say that she is as bad as Trump in this regard.

Some of Trump’s defenders have asserted that Trump did not say anything that other men do not regularly say. That is, what Trump did was not a problem because this sort of thing is a common practice. The easy reply to this defense is that an appeal to common practice is a fallacy: even if something is commonly done, it does not follow from this that it is good, justified or right. All that follows from something being commonly done is that it is, well, commonly done.

It could also be argued that it is hypocritical of men to criticize Trump because men have, no doubt, said or thought things equally as bad. While it is surely true that everyone has said or thought something awful, these tend to be anomalies for most men. Everyone has their awful moments and this should be taken into account when judging a person. If Trump had but this one blight on an otherwise decent character, then it would be reasonable to judge him by his consistent character rather than an inconsistent remark. However, these remarks are not an aberration for Trump—they are utterly consistent with his character.


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  1. The main fallacy with the argument that Trump and his supporters seem to keep making, that this was just normal guy talk, is that it would logically follow that no woman should ever vote for any man. If all men do, in fact, degrade and assault women whenever they can, then the only protection that women would have would be to deny men any power. Since women make up more than 50 percent of the voting age population, this would not work out very well for male candidates.

    While there may be some slim justification to say that if Bill Clinton mistreats women, electing Hillary Clinton would also put an abuser of women in the White House, being in the White House is not the same as being President of the US. As first husband, Bill Clinton would legally wield no more power than the family dog. Furthermore, while not believing a woman about the nature of her sexual interactions with one’s husband and attacking her character may be hurtful to her, that harm would not have occurred without the husband’s behavior. Trump’s daughter Ivanka has been a vocal defender of her father and has denied that he gropes women, something that his words give lie to. Certainly it must be hurtful to all of the women who have accused Donald Trump of such assaults to hear Ivanka deny their claims. However, if these claims are true, it would be a false equivalence to say that Ivanka is as a guilty of mistreating women as her father.

    Donald Trump’s defenses of himself on this issue merely highlight his misogyny. Bragging about assaulting women is, in his mind, just normal guy behavior and nothing to get upset about. Also, he considers that it is the wife’s fault if her husband acts in this way and she believes his denials.

  2. I do not know very much about American politics and what the approved and disapproved modes of behaviour are. However putting myself in Trump’s position I considered how I might reply, in the light of the recording of him, made some years ago. Firstly I would resolve not to bring up the matter of Bill Clinton’s bad behaviour with women over the years. Everybody would be expecting this, including Hilary, and somehow all the other, no mention of this could be taken as possibly, a gentlemanly act. I don’t know whether legal proceedings or official complaints have ever been taken against Trump in respect of his behaviour with women, but if they have not, then I would have thought he would have pointed this out. Another thing is what you say about, what you do, or have done, is very often not in agreement with reality. Many men think it is impressive to boast of affairs with women and often this is elaborated beyond the bounds of what actually happened, perhaps Trump could have mentioned this to his advantage. I was not able in UK, to watch the whole of Trump’s and Hilary’s clash, so possibly I have missed something. I can’t help thinking that Trump was badly advised concerning his reply to the bad behaviour, assuming he has advisers of course. Personally I would like to see Hilary get the job. Men have made a mess of this world currently. In UK we now have a lady Prime Minister, Germany is in a similar position with Mrs Merkel. A lady President of USA in addition, would form an interesting state of affairs. They would have to go to some lengths I think to outstrip the chaos which Blair and Bush together generated during their reign.

  3. I’m no Trump fan, but I doubt that there is any human being on this planet who has not said things in private conversations which shown world-wide on internet, would not make them ashamed.

    I appear to be a very nice person, but I’ve done and said many things that could produce universal outrage, because when people are looking for a pretext to be outraged (as is the case here), they will set upon the sinner caught in the act, with all the self-righteous fervor of the participants in the daily 2 minute hate in Orwell’s book, 1984.

    As Don Bird says, many men boast of sexual exploits which have little to do with reality and if another male says to me what Trump says in the video, I nod my head because it’s so common that’s not worth protesting about.

    Once again, there are many reasons why Trump should not be elected President, but the concentrated moral outrage against Trump’s sexist remarks seems exaggerated to me.

  4. Kevin Henderson

    What Trump said is not normal. Have I heard men speak like this before. Of course. A lot, especially in college. The (pejorative) fraternity culture is consistent with Trump’s behavior. But, in general, men do not say stuff like that. And certainly as men become married, that kind of talk falls off precipitously.

    Do Trump’s statement offend me? No. This man is beneath me. What’s striking to me is that if 53% of the population actually stood up for their rights we would not have this problem in the first place. I am looking at the X-chromosomes…vote and decide for yourselves where you would like Trump to sit next year.

  5. Doris Wrench Eisler

    All this would constitute valid reasoning – the inadequacy of comparisons on the same level – Trump’s misogyny vs Clinton’s excoriation of Bill Clinton’s sexual victims – as diversionary tactics. Were it the case that some level of misogyny in a presidential candidate is the very worst attribute
    he could have: but is it at this particular time in history?
    What about war-mongering? On that score Hillary Clinton is way ahead, and it’s a very bad thing.
    What has to be considered are the options, and they are very limited.
    Personally, I’d take a chance with Donald Trump and hope he has learned something. But there is no going back from total war.

  6. Excuse me Doris, but Donald Trump has vowed to “bomb the shit out of ISIS”, repeatedly questioned why, if the US has nuclear weapons, we do not just use them, and said that he would have ordered the US navy to fire on an Iranian boat whose men had supposedly made rude gestures at Americans. Donald Trump was in favor of the Iraq war until after it had gone badly, repeatedly urged more aggressive US military action in Libya, and continues to urge the idea the US seize Iraqi oil (against international law). How is that not warmongering?

  7. Re Karen Lankford
    Sounds like Trump is drunk with power even before hes got it.

  8. Doris Wrench Eisler,

    I know it’s part of the narrative, but what is the evidence that Clinton is any more war-monger-y than any other president or potential president? Sure, she voted for the Iraq invasion as Senator, but so did a majority of her colleagues and she has admitted that it was a mistake. I know people point to Libya and Honduras, but she was Secretary of State and answerable to Obama. She didn’t have the power to do anything without a directive from the White House and no one seems to think that Obama might take us into a nuclear holocaust. Even if she is a little more hawkish than Obama, that would make her a perfectly normal American president.

  9. Isn’t the Trump crisis of the moment nothing really to do with misogyny; Trump being revealed to be a misogynist being as shocking as the Pope turning out to be a Catholic.

    Isn’t it not, his moral transgression being in the use of a word. The actual transgression being more like the kind that earned Lisa Brown a suspension from the Michigan House of Representatives.

    Lisa’s statement: “Finally Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.'”

    The wonders of technology mean you can watch the video clip of Lisa’s performance over and over again, as I have, and find it no less amusing with repetition. The old men of the assembly visibly shudder when Lisa drops the V-bomb. What were the old men up to that provoked Lisa to protest; they were grabbing pussies.

  10. Having been born in South America and lived through many military dictatorships during my youth, Donal Trump is a terrible memory coming back to the present. As any strong man, he is narcissistic to the core, and as any narcissistic person he is at war with anyone who does not say or agrees with him. In his mind, he is the best of the world; he and only he can solve americans problems. He and only he knows the truth, facts are not relevant. He loves Putin (Putin is a very questionable leader, probably a warmongering dictator) because he said something nice about him and he hates any american, women, immigrants, veterans,who disagree with him. Having seen these personality types in action, my experience has been that they are incredible war mongers; they want to destroy morally and physically whoever is against them or challenges them or do not satisfy them. Usually it is very difficult to come back from people like Trump and the damage and wars, they bring to our lives.

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