What Trump’s Misogyny Really Says

This is long so I apologize for that.  It’s also a post that I hesitated to write because I’m very private person, and I’m telling you a lot about myself.  But I think this election is just that important that I’m willing to open up.  So here goes —

I’m younger than Secretary Clinton, but I want to give you a look at how the world appeared and still often appears to a woman.  Especially a woman who is driven, ambitious, smart and educated.  I’ve talked about being a child and my frustration over adults constantly telling me what I couldn’t be because I was a girl — astronaut, jockey, President of the United States.

Let’s move forward a few years.  I’m 17 and I’ve just started college.  I enrolled in a geology class.  There weren’t a lot of women in that introductory course, but I found it fascinating.  Seated behind me was a very cute boy.  We began chatting and he proposed a contest.  Which one of us would get the best grade.  The loser buys coffee or lunch.  After all these years I don’t remember the exact terms of the bet.  I’m sure he thought he had a sucker’s bet.  I was a girl how could I possibly do well in a science class?  Clearly I was in college to earn my MRS. 

I might not remember the stakes, but I clearly remember what happened next.  First exam I had the highest test score in the very large class — A+ 100%.  I show my grade to the cute boy, and begin teasing him — I think he pulled a “C”.  I remember his eyes narrowing into slits and the words.  “Shut up you fucking cunt!” spewing from his mouth.  I was shattered and shaken.  I moved to a distant part of the lecture hall after that.

I loved geology so much that I talked to my advisor about making it my major.  The man dismissed the idea out of hand.  I didn’t want to do that, he said with a head shake.  That’s not the right thing for a woman to study.  Maybe English or get a teaching degree until I got married.  The sad thing is — I listened to him.

In due course and after a side trip to Austria to study opera I went on to graduate with a major in history, Magna cum laude, and a minor in music.  I enter law school.  I was part of the first really large wave of women entering law school and in the first week the male students made it very clear that they expected the women to type their papers for them.  Some of us refused.  Others didn’t, they knuckled under maybe to avoid being called fucking cunts.  The dean found out and to his credit it put a stop to that nonsense.

At the end of three years I graduate in the top 10% of my class, pass the bar and go looking for a job.  Eventually I end up in a corporate law firm.  Literally the first day I’m at work I’m in my small office in the back when I hear loud male voices in the outer office.  “I hear Charlie went and hired himself a girl!”  “Lets go see the girl.”   And then standing in the door of my office are six or seven men all staring at me.  I had that sick feeling I’d experienced back in college, but I was older and tougher so I made Oook oook noises and pretended to scratch under my arm like a chimpanzee in the zoo.  They got the message and vanished out of my doorway.

In that office working on a brief in the library late one night the son-in-law of the owner of the firm tells me to get him a cup of coffee.  I told him I liked mine with a lot of milk.  We never got along very well after that.

I quit practicing law and become a science fiction writer.  Overall I found the community to be welcoming and encouraging.  I only had one editor indicate that a visit to his hotel room at world con might land me a book contract.  I declined his offer.

Then I hit Hollywood.  It was here that I discovered that apparently for creepers and gropers grabbing a woman by the pussy is a thing with them.  I had already endured “notes” meetings with a particular boss that started at nine at night after all of the staff had gone home and the notes were frequently interspersed with sexually explicit comments.  I tried to avoid him, but at one meeting he made me sit beside him.  There were over 20 people in this meeting, and I had this man’s hand reaching under my skirt to grab…. well you know the rest.  I sat there schooling my face to impassivity and weighing my job against the pleasure of hitting him.  I also knew if I reacted the humiliation I was already feeling would only be amplified by making a scene in front of so many other people.

Thankfully I haven’t faced anything that overt in the years since.  Getting older and meaner — or being a nasty woman as Mr. Trump would phrase it has some benefits.  If you’re wondering why I made this walk down memory lane it’s to say that, yeah, I think that sexism is at the base of a lot of the crap that gets thrown at Secretary Clinton.  How dare a woman be ambitious, driven, intelligent, well educated, older and no longer meeting the standards of beauty that society forces on women?  Here’s a link to an article about the correlation between supporting Mr. Trump and hostility toward woman. The Correlation between Trump Support & Sexism.

Which brings me to the campaign.  I’ve seen all the ads that show us Donald Trump in his own words.  Particularly the words he has directed at women.  The usual summation is that Donald Trump doesn’t “respect” women. Paul Ryan even said that “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified.”  Which is itself a demeaning of women implying that we are fragile, weak and must be protected by men instead of accepting us as equals and fully realized human beings.

But I think that analysis is too simplistic.  All the experiences I described and the attitudes displayed by Mr. Trump aren’t about sex, or sexual harassment, or respecting women.  This is about power and the exercise of power over others.  Remember, rape isn’t a sexual act — it’s a violent assault.  And the same goes for sexual harassment — it is also about power, putting women in their place.  When you realized that what drives Mr. Trump is his almost pathological need to dominate other then the dangers of a Trump presidency become horribly clear.

There are many things that frighten me about the Trump candidacy — the racism, the lies, the threats to jail a political opponent, the lack of understanding of the most basic fundamentals of our democratic republic — but it is his glib discussion of sexual assault, the fact that many woman have come forward to attest to this behavior on the part of Mr. Trump that show me who who he is.  To touch a person without their consent is less about an out of control libido than it is  about raw power, an attempt to dominate and exert control.  How Mr. Trump behaves toward women gives me a chilling picture of how he might behave should he have the powers of the Executive Branch of government under his control. 

Just think of the power and dominance he could exert over anyone who has slighted or challenged him.  The I.R.S. could be used against businessmen who mocked him or even declined to support him.  The freedom of the press could be curtailed by the loosening of libel laws.  Investigation could be launched against citizens using the F.B.I.  People will be profiled based on their ethnic backgrounds or their religious beliefs.  We’re already seeing glimmers of this future in the behavior of the F.B.I. in these final days of the election.  And once an investigation, justified or not, is begun a President Trump could have his hand picked Attorney General bring charges through the Department of Justice.

I understand it’s probably easier to make the ads about respect for women, but again, I think that is too simple.  Because it isn’t about sex, it’s about power.

23 Responses to What Trump’s Misogyny Really Says

  • Bill Maness says:

    From your fingers, to the electorate’s ears. And ballots.

  • Stephanie Hamilton says:

    Oh, Melinda, you hit this SO spot on! Very well said. I wish this was on the front page of every newspaper in the country.

  • Laurie Mann says:

    Excellent essay. I haven’t had quite the same kind of experiences as you have had, but I know that that kind of crap happened.

  • Patricia Schaffhouser says:

    So very well said. Congratulations on your evolution to “nasty woman”, but it shouldn’t have to be necessary to become one to survive. I will vote so that we no longer have to be nasty to thrive against bullies and their power. Tuesday is our day.

  • Steven Lopata says:

    Your remarks remind me of Fran’s experiences in university. True, in 1960, many women entering the engineering department were looking for husbands, but certainly not all. Her degree in chemical physics was hard earned. Working as a product developer in the ammunition industry also exposed her to some “discussion”. My opinion is that if a man had grabbed her crotch, he would have gone home minus several teeth. The saddest was when she was working on her PhD and one of the professors made it clear that a woman would not pass a dissertation defense if he was on the panel. That was 1991!
    I have not responded to any of the alumni requests from that university since.
    Sammi, another family member you never met, was exposed to geology in graduate school. She confided to me that if she had taken the course as an undergrad, she would not have become a chemical engineer. Fran and I are both rock hounds. Must be something in the water.

  • Gloria Benson says:

    Thank you. I can empathize. In high school my math teacher asked me what I was doing in his clSs. When I told him I was planning on taking trig, he proceeded to tell me to go to the back of the room with my makeup. Girls were no good at trig! The workplace was also difficult. I try to instill in Seven and her friends that this election is so crucial! Again, thank you for sharing.

  • Elaine Brennan says:

    All so true.

    And one of the things we don’t talk about much in our society is the danger posed by “power over” and those who use that as their driving motivation. We talk around it.

    Of course, we also don’t even mention that there are any other ways to approach power, or even contemplate what a society /government based in a more cooperative, power-with model might be able to accomplish.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      A successful negotiation whether it’s in business or politics or personal relationships is that the win/win is far more stable and profitable for all parties concerned. We seem to have lost sight of that.

  • Donna ( Snodgrass ) Murray says:

    Thank you for sharing your personal experiences. You brought back many uncomfortable memories. One that happened frequently in my office was the “reach across” for something while grazing the front of the blouse. Trying to avoid this by leaning back would result in your coming into contact with the front of their pants. Many times I wanted to bring my elbow back sharply into that area, “Ooooops, I’m so sorry!”
    Bring on the election and we’ll see where the power really is.

  • Morgan Sheridan says:

    This is among the many reasons I voted early and voted for Hillary. Life for American women during a Trump presidency, and for years after, would be a living hell.

  • Jennifer says:

    Yes, this, 1,000 times this. All along, it is this dynamic that has been eating at me. The respect thing has never felt like the biggest issue. It is the raw power and his need to mainline it, whatever the means, whatever the cost.

  • Irv says:

    Well done, Melinda.
    Congratulations

  • What could possibly be the thought process for any woman to vote for Trump… The only thing I can think of is that it must be someone who has fully bought into the idea of second class citizenship for females.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      Some of it is probably anger against the system and there are still religious organizations that actively preach that woman have no place in the world. Their place is in the home. Some women probably believe that. They just shouldn’t make that decision for the rest of us.

  • Robert Henderson says:

    Margaret Atwood gave us fair warning in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” I have to admit that I haven’t read it, but the movie version was scary enough. . .

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      The book is amazing and terrifying. I wrote an essay about what makes women dangerous. It’s the fact we can now control our reproduction which allows us to enter the workplace. It’s why I think there are so many efforts to curtail access to contraception.

    • rand says:

      Which is why Hulu is adapting it into a series. It’s very relevant to today’s GOP mindset.

  • Mac says:

    I can’t tell you how important your story is to everyone. The courage it takes to put what happened to you, repeatedly, into the ether is noble and inspiring. My work gives me a window into how that urge for power so often decompensates into violence against women. But the everyday attacks in the workplace and in ‘polite’ society are even more damaging, justifying the behavior in the absence of people standing up for what’s right. Thanks for speaking out, Melinda.

  • Steve Halter says:

    Great post. Hopefully we’ll see our first female president this Tuesday night.

  • Brad Filippone says:

    You wrote my favorite Star Trek novel, and so I certainly respect you as a science fiction writer. In this day and age, I don’t know why science fiction should still be considered a “written by men only” thing, but I’ve encountered some men who certainly think that way even today. Personally, I think that attitude should have changed when Ursula K. Le Guin published her first novel, if not earlier!
    But on the topic of the rampant sexism of the past: This past weekend I attended a science fiction convention that included Gates McFadden among others. During her Q&A session she told us a story about how when she was a young girl, she visited her mother who was working in a bank. She witnessed one of her mother’s male co-workers step behind her, suddenly pull the zipper of her dress down, and announce in a loud voice, “She’s wearing a red one today!” There were loud gasps from everyone in the audience, including the men. It shows how far the world has come since–though we still have a ways to go.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      Wow, what a thing for a young girl to see. Amazing story. Thank you for passing that along. Yes, things are better, but we have to keep working hard to reach equality and the hopeful world that Star Trek presented to us.

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