While it’s impossible for any relatively sentient person not to realize that one candidate lacks even the most basic knowledge of civics necessary to run a government, it’s similarly hard to ignore that his opponent openly proclaims herself to be a supporter of women, children and minorities. She said so in the debate, and there’s no reason to doubt her on this. Expressio unius est exclusio alterius.
That would be fine, if that’s what you support in your enlightened self-interest. Maybe some guy in Kentucky who is unable to feed his family takes issue with this, but then, maybe the sad feelings of women who are exhausted by enduring men saying hello to them on the street matter more to you. You’re allowed to decide what values matter most to you.
But there is a flip side to this that is being promoted in the backpages of section one of the New York Times that should also be factored into the calculus. It’s not merely a matter of helping some groups more than others, perhaps because they need it more under a certain value system or perhaps because they feel that historical deprivation of rights compels a change.
There is a concomitant assault on the unmentionables, the deplorables. Some may be racist and sexist, by the traditional definitions rather than the fluid ones used to denigrate anyone who does not pray at the progressive altar. But most are just rather ordinary people. Regular guys. The new contention is that men are the villains of the new society.
The leaked footage of Donald J. Trump boasting of sexually harassing and assaulting women is just one particularly notable example of an all-too-common phenomenon: Far too many men treat women’s bodies as if they are fair game for anyone who happens to encounter them.
This kind of behavior isn’t just offensive; it also imposes real costs on women. The burden of avoiding and enduring sexual harassment and assault results, over time, in lost opportunities and less favorable outcomes for girls and women. It is effectively a sort of gender-specific tax that many women have no choice but to pay.
There wasn’t just one baseless leap, but two. The first logical failure was fairly obvious, that Trump was Everyman, and his conduct was an “all-too-common phenomenon.” Trump claimed fame allowed him to engage in criminal sexual conduct. “Far too many men” aren’t famous. Trump was an example of the obvious, that regular guys could never do such things. More importantly, would never do such things. What follows is an empty feminist trope that men think women’s bodies belong to them.
The second logical failure has even less connection to anything beyond fantasy. That “this kind of behavior…imposed real costs on women.” A “gender-specific tax,” if you will, that “women have no choice but to pay.” What are these “real costs”?
“I really do think of it as a tax on opportunity,” said Nancy Leong, a law professor at the University of Denver who researches civil rights and identity issues. “On workplace opportunity, on opportunity at school.”
This is the “I strenuously object” school of thinking, beyond which there is nothing but empty rhetoric. Not a “real cost” in the bunch, but heart-rending vagaries. And what does this compel women to endure at the hands of these Trumpian Everymen?
Schools, parents and society at large tell women to take “personal responsibility” for their safety, even if that means limiting their own freedom.
Kinda like everyone else in society. Lock your car door. Take the keys. Don’t say stupid stuff on twitter if you don’t want people to call you stupid, and never send guys you don’t know naked pictures. All because ordinary guys are exacting this opportunity cost on women because Trump is famous and thinks he can grab women’s genitals.
But that’s only stage one of the assault on regular guys. The Times’ next thrust goes for the jugular, Donald Trump’s Toxic Masculinity.
Growing up in a factory family in small-town Indiana, I led an uncertain life with only a few constants: fear of losing it all, frustration with a world out of our control and the ever-present need to “be a man,” a phrase that always carried with it an air of responsibility and torment. To be a man was to maintain the appearance of toughness, to never let on that you were weak or in pain.
It was a command I heard repeatedly at home and around town, handed down by my stepfather and role models. My stepdad was fond of saying, “Boys don’t cry — crying’s for women.” One of my high school football coaches gave injured players this choice: “You a football player or are you a little girl?”
You might notice there’s nothing in there about Trump. Rather, the writer, Jared Yates Sexton, an assistant professor of creative writing at Georgia Southern University, apparently has daddy issues and has finally found an outlet for his angst.
Sexton uses the Trump tie-in, without which the important part of his op-ed would have no news hook, to make Trump his Everyman as well.
Donald J. Trump, especially the Donald J. Trump we heard last week on tape, is nothing new to me. His macho-isms, his penchant for dividing the world into losers and winners, his lack of empathy for anyone but himself — it all reminds me of home, and the sense I had, even as a boy, of a system of privilege that has ailed this country since its beginnings, but now seems to be, and sees itself, fading away.
So what if it’s beyond tenuous. All he needs is “it all reminds me of home” to connect the dots, and Trump is the poster boy for all men who make Sexton cry.
Taking refuge in traditional masculinity is a coping mechanism that works only so much as it deadens a man and his emotions. In its most pure state, masculinity is a hardening shell meant to protect men from the disappointments and travails of life, a self-delusion that preserves them from feeling overwhelmed by the odds against them.
If Sexton wants to wear a dress, go for it. Makes no difference to me. But I like being a man. I like manly stuff.* My son does too. We had Pretty Pretty Princess in the house when he was a kid, and he chose not to play with it. We had it because my daughter, whom we bought an Erector Set that didn’t interest her at all, demanded it. Nobody forced either into role stereotypes, but that was what they chose.
Criticize Trump all you want for what he said and did. He deserves it. But he’s no regular guy, and opportunistically using him as the poster boy to eradicate “toxic masculinity,” as has been one of the goals of progressives for a while now, and has seized control of college life and young, impressionable minds, already, is an intolerable step beyond the pale.
It’s not just that Hillary Clinton wants to champion the causes of women, children and minorities, but she wants to do so by making it wrong, evil, to be masculine. Trump doesn’t suggest he will regulate conduct compelling men to grab women’s genitalia. If the New York Times gets its way, will Clinton outlaw the feminist vision of “toxic masculinity” because of the gender tax it places on women? After all, she will be the president for all of America, except men.
*Just last night, I kissed my wife without affirmative consent. She liked it. Then she did the same to me. I liked it too.