Photo by Samantha Sophia
By Rob Okun
The white male bully temporarily occupying the White House represents the worst expression of manhood the U.S. has ever seen, but that dangerous truth is being obscured by so many of his other treacherous actions. Millions of words have been written excoriating the questionably elected president on a host of topics — from denying climate change to restricting minority voting rights; from sanctioning draconian drug laws to promoting harsh prison sentences for nonviolent offenders. Almost entirely absent in this blizzard of assaults on social progress is the predator-in-chief’s misogyny.
A virtual sea of pink pussy hats liberally dotted the heads of millions of women worldwide protesting Trump the day after the inauguration. Happily, plenty of men attended. But since then, as a gender, where have men been?
Before the election, a dozen women charged Trump with sexual misconduct. Trump pledged to sue them all after the election, a promise he has not kept.
Consider: In a sworn affidavit, his exwife Ivana accused him in 1991 of rape. In a subsequent divorce deposition—while still saying her husband had “raped” her—she said she didn’t want this to be interpreted in “a literal or criminal sense.” Nevertheless, she added, “As a woman, I felt violated.” She downplayed her charge to secure a divorce settlement of $14 million in cash. As for Trump? He’s on record admitting to sexually assaulting women on the infamous Hollywood Access tape.
A simple question —a challenge, actually— for men: Why are we not standing up and speaking out to the effect that as men—sons, brothers, uncles, husbands, fathers, grandfathers—we unequivocally reject Donald Trump’s denigrating behavior toward women? He is no role model for children or grandchildren. Those of us who are fathers or grandfathers—or mentors, coaches, clergy—need to explicitly reject his misogyny—which his administration’s policies and a Republican-majority Congress are promoting. Otherwise, by our silence, are we not normalizing his behavior? To advance women’s rights, men must join women on the front lines: for reproductive rights, for earning a hundred cents—not 79 cents—on the dollar, for childcare, family leave, nutrition assistance, for adding, not cutting, afterschool programs, among a myriad of programs in jeopardy.
We face many crises today—from the health of the climate to the health of the Constitution. When it comes to advancing gender equality and justice, men have a singular role to play: modeling a sensitive, aware manhood. Let’s start by asking women how we can support them—and really listening to what they have to say. Then, let’s talk with other men about how we want to get our voices heard. The renter in the White House is the most visible exemplar of men behaving atrociously; unfortunately, he is not alone. If we want to prevent his minions from feeling emboldened, it is up to men to say yes to a compassionate, nurturing expression of manhood. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.