Maureen Dowd: Swaggering Trump offends even in his defence

The Donald dismisses the women accusing him as not attractive enough to assault

Michelle Obama: The first lady says the stories about Trump remind women “of stories we heard from our mothers and grandmothers about how, back in their day, the boss could say and do whatever he pleased to the women in the office.” Photograph: EPA/CJ Gunther

Michelle Obama: The first lady says the stories about Trump remind women “of stories we heard from our mothers and grandmothers about how, back in their day, the boss could say and do whatever he pleased to the women in the office.” Photograph: EPA/CJ Gunther

 

Anita Hill lost her fight. The creepy guy who acted pervy toward her won.

The issue of sexual harassment burst onto the national scene 25 years ago, exploding in the male dominion of Congress in the shadow of that macho symbol, the Washington Monument. Such vulgarities and sexually explicit language had never been heard before in the political arena.

It was like a jackhammer drilling down into the most sensitive parts of the American psyche. That traumatic week in 1991 was considered an important tutorial in sexual harassment. Except that, in the end, droit du seigneur was ratified. Clarence Thomas was rewarded by the cowed Senate judiciary committee and ended up with a lifetime appointment to the supreme court.

No women voted against Thomas because no women were on the committee. Just middle-aged white men, many of whom left the chamber believing that there had been some sort of consensual relationship between Hill and Thomas. Why else did she wait so many years to tell her story? Why else would she not have quit when Thomas was so prurient, or at least not have followed him to another government office?

Women’s reaction

Male entitlement could fathom male entitlement, but not the myriad ways women continue to be treated as property, and the myriad ways women react to that shameful treatment, suppressing it or working around it.

Now we have been slimed with another week of unprecedented vulgarities and sexually explicit language in the political arena. A cascade of women are stepping up to the microphone to describe a creepy guy acting pervy toward them. This time, though, women get to vote. Thomas may have won his fight for a bigger job, but Donald Trump will lose.

Trump’s alleged transgressions have energised women to support Hillary Clinton in a way she could not with her own campaign. Hillary is in an awkward spot on the subject of licentious behaviour by men. But Michelle Obama stepped in as the avenging angel Anita Hill never had.

At a rally for Clinton on Thursday, her voice trembling with disgust, the first lady explained why the “cruel” and “frightening” actions of Trump – whom she did not deign to name – could not be written off as “locker-room talk” or “a bad dream”.

“It’s that feeling of terror and violation that too many women have felt when someone has grabbed them, or forced himself on them and they’ve said no but he didn’t listen,” she said. “It reminds us of stories we heard from our mothers and grandmothers about how, back in their day, the boss could say and do whatever he pleased to the women in the office.”

That made me think of my mom, who said that when she worked at a bond company in Washington in her 20s, the executives routinely pulled the young women onto their laps at the Christmas party.

It was clear that the Trump family understanding of sexual harassment might be wanting when Don Jr said in a 2013 radio interview on the topic: “If you can’t handle some of the basic stuff that’s become a problem in the workforce today, then you don’t belong in the workforce.” He also tweeted: “Lesson for the night if you look like @mark_mcgrath you too can sexually harass the hell out of anyone. HR rules don’t apply ;) hahahaha.”

The 70-year-old swaggering Republican nominee always seemed like he was caught in a 1959 time warp, bragging to Sinatra in a Vegas steam room about “broads” and “skirts”. But the raft of accusations of sexual assault, trespass kissing, surprising disrobed women and teenagers in changing rooms, and agreeing with Howard Stern that his own 23-year-old daughter Ivanka was “a piece of ass” have added a sicker aspect to the caveman image.

Trump doesn’t get the contradiction of bringing Bill’s accusers to the second debate and saying Hillary should be blamed for “viciously” trying to destroy their credibility, even as he viciously tries to destroy the credibility of his own accusers.

Disintegrating like a mad king locked away in his Fifth Avenue castle, ranting about a global cabal of corporate and media elites conspiring against him (yes, a swastika sign popped up at a West Palm Beach rally), Trump can’t see how offensive his defence is: that the women accusing him were not attractive enough to assault.

About Natasha Stoynoff, the writer from People who claims Trump forced himself on her at Mar-a-Lago while she was there doing a anniversary story about Trump and the pregnant Melania, the mogul told the West Palm Beach crowd: “Take a look. You take a look. Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so.”

My first choice

GreensboroNorth CarolinaJessica LeedsNew York Times

At that rally, he also crudely disparaged Hillary Clinton: “I’m standing at my podium and she walks in front of me, right. She walks in front of me, and when she walked in front of me, believe me, I wasn’t impressed.”

Trump did not seem aware, when he had his lawyer write to the New York Times threatening to sue over a story about two women accusing him of assault, that he had pre-confessed.

As the estimable Times lawyer David McCraw wrote back: “Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.”

– (New York Times New Service)

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