There’s a lot that I could say about the words that Donald Trump used in that Access Hollywood bus with Billy Bush. But I’ll refrain. Instead, I’d like to talk about how those words impact our children and reflect on us, as men, husbands and fathers.
I’ve been in locker rooms throughout my life. Suffice it to say, though, based on the words he used I haven’t been in the same locker rooms as Mr. Trump. The idea of grabbing a woman by a body part and making them acquiesce because of our status is simply unacceptable and criminal. However, I have been in situations with guys who like to talk about sex, sexual conquests and sexual activity and I’ve contributed to those conversations. That kind of talk is widely accepted by men as part of being a guy, especially when we are in our late teens and 20’s, often living a frat life lifestyle. The excuse is that we’re sowing our oats and we’re not mature enough to understand the harmful nature of our words. But that’s bunk.
My family is filled with women and I was raised with an ingrained and deep respect for women. My words may not have been nearly as ribald and vulgar as Mr. Trump’s, but they are not words that I would want my grandmother, mother or sister to hear emanate from my mouth. And that is the lesson that I’m taking away from Mr. Trump’s overt comments — how do I need to change my comments regarding women? And what can we teach our children about those comments and how to avoid them in the future?
These things are often said in a bar or at a ballgame; in a man cave or at a men-only meeting. In other words, the words are a spoken at a time when guys feel emboldened to be outspoken and free to express their innermost thoughts without fear of judgment. There is usually a lot of bold, blustery talk that is said merely to try and impress friends or acquaintances. In other words, the words are as meaningful and trustworthy as a campaign promise.
But even though those discussions happen every day all over the world, does that make it right? Is that how we should discuss women by verbally ogling them? In an ideal world we’d be talking about how smart or genuine, caring or generous a woman is but we’re simply not smart enough for that. So here’s what I’m resolving to do for my sons. I’m resolving to tell them the following, when they’re old enough to understand and evaluate it:
* It’s ok to find a woman attractive. That’s normal and healthy. But it’s not ok to be demeaning in the way that we discuss that woman. That’s objectification.
* If you’re around a bunch of guys discussing the physical assets of a woman and talking in lurid, disgusting terms about her, it’s ok to have the courage to say to your friends that that kind of talk is not acceptable.
* Don’t kiss and tell. It’s rude. It reflects poorly on you for talking about your sexual activity and it demeans the woman, who does not expect you to boast or brag to your boys. Grow up. Keep your private life, private.
I don’t have daughters but if I did I’d tell them the following:
* Never, ever let anyone determine anything about your character or self-worth from what you look like. Your value lies in your heart and what you bring to the world.
* Be discreet. Men talk. Women talk. It happens. But if you try to be discerning in your relationships and share those parts of your life with trusted individuals, you will greatly minimize the ability of others to hurt you.
* You are more than a body. The world is judgmental and for eons women have suffered from the stigma of being judged by what they look like and how their physical characteristics measure up against other women. Just look at a beauty pageant. But you are more than a collection of body parts and you can help combat this stigma by making your mind your most attractive body part.
It’s not just our children who need to learn right from wrong from this situation. It’s us — dads & husbands. We need to ask ourselves, Does this type of talk lift up our wives, mothers, aunts, daughters and female friends? Does it showcase their best attributes or does it sink deep into the dirtiest, raunchiest aspects of human behavior?
Look, we cannot deny that we see sex everywhere — on television, in advertisements and all over social media. In this day and age, there is no such thing as subtlety. But at some point don’t we owe it to ourselves and our children to TRY and improve the discourse? If we don’t at least make the effort aren’t we passively and tacitly approving of this type of Trump talk? Would you want a room full of guys to sit around and judge or discuss your wife’s or daughter’s body? I don’t think so.
It’s an enormous challenge. As men we’re prone to see many things in a sexual light and there are many men who struggle with an addiction to pornography or who allow their base urges to get them into all sorts of trouble. You’ve heard it said many times that men are pigs. Only we can change that. Donald Trump held up a mirror to the worst images of what men can be so I resolve that we should work together to make our words about women be positive. If our kids hear that instead of words seemingly out of a skin magazine, we’ll take baby steps towards changing our culture.
(Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Foter.com / CC BY-SA)