The Body Politic: The conundrum of Republican women in light of the Trump video leak

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by Eleanor Larsen, Contributing Writer

The video-leak of Donald Trump’s vulgar comments towards women has been plastered all over the internet, mainstream news and social media. His so-called “locker room talk” includes him saying “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything…grab them by the p***y…” as well as making comments targeting anchor Nancy O’Dell and actress Arianne Zucker. These comments, which normalize sexual assault and are blatantly disrespectful of women, provoked serious backlash and outcry from men, women and politicians alike.

In response to this lewd behavior, many Republican politicians have pulled their support for Trump, including numerous women. Alaskan Senator, Lisa Murkowski, describes his comments as forfeiting “the right to be our party’s nominee” and has rescinded her support. Alabama Republican House Representative, Martha Roby, dropped her support and demanded for him to step down. Many other women have gone further and have called for Pence to replace Trump or expressed that they will be writing in Pence on November 8th.

This is really no improvement over a Trump presidency when it comes to women’s empowerment. Since Pence became governor of Indiana four years ago, he has signed eight anti-abortion bills, told the Indianapolis Star that working mothers stunt their children’s emotional growth and signed a “religious freedom” law that allows businesses to discriminate against people in the LGBTQ community. Mike Pence’s record on women’s rights is horrendous, and if he were to become president, would only be exacerbated. This list of pro-Pence Republican women includes New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, Virginia Representative Barbara Comstock, Missouri Representative Ann Wagner, Nebraska Senator Deb Fisher, as well as former Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, who said “Donald Trump does not represent me or my party.”

It’s commendable of these women to speak out against the misogyny they experience in politics, however their actions are overwhelmingly underwhelming. Fiorina’s speech, for example, upon ending her campaign feels particularly poignant now. In it, she said “Feminism doesn’t shut down conversations or threaten women. It is not about ideology. It is not a weapon to wield against your political opponent. A feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses and uses all her God-given gifts.” Despite the fact that Fiorina and other Republicans espouse this definition of feminism, their reactions to Trump in light of his recent disrespect towards women reveal that they don’t truly follow and embody this definition.

Choosing to drop their support only after a fellow white woman, O’Dell, has been targeted by Trump’s remarks is indicative of “white feminism,” meaning that they seek to empower women without acknowledging their own white privilege or the distinct problems that women of color face.  Real feminism is intersectional, recognizing that not all women are the same and that all their distinct problems need to be equally represented through feminism. This requires the inclusion of women of color and all self-identifying women in the LGBTQ community.

The fact that these GOP women didn’t rescind their support earlier in this campaign means that they failed to acknowledge the privilege they receive as white women and ultimately, whether consciously or unconsciously, don’t view the problems—many of which are exacerbated by Donald Trump’s comments—that women of color and those in the LGBTQ community face as legitimate. When Donald Trump called Alicia Machado, Miss Universe 1996, “Miss Housekeeping,” he perpetuated harmful racial stereotypes targeting Latina women. When he attacked Ghazala Khan after her husband’s speech at the DNC, he promoted the stereotype that Middle Eastern women aren’t allowed to have opinions. For Republican women like Fiorina to only speak up now, when white women are the target of Trump’s vitriolic misogyny, signals that they are not concerned when it comes to women of color.

It’s impossible to separate one’s race from gender in regards to identity; the problems women of color face as women are inherently connected to their race, and deserve to be respected and deemed valid. When Donald Trump spews hurtful rhetoric towards women of color, he promotes prejudice and judgment that don’t align with the utopian view of feminism that Carly Fiorina describes. It’s pleasing to see GOP women finally calling for action against Donald Trump, however their questionable and self-serving reasoning is a major disappointment to women everywhere. In addition to these women, many GOP men have rescinded their support of Trump in light of his comments. What does this support really mean if it only is empowering white women? Why have they only come out against Trump after these comments, as opposed to when he called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “criminals” or mocked a disabled reporter? The backlash Trump received for this video leakage outshines any outrage he has received for past discrepancies. The fact that it took him directly stating that he would sexually assault women for members of the GOP to come out against Trump en masse, despite his brazen disrespect towards the black community, the LGBTQ community, veterans and many others, hints to a much larger problem within the GOP that can and needs to be changed.

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

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