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the art of the feel

you knew i wasn't going to let this go without saying something [coincidentally, that's the line that donald trump uses to hit on women after he grabs them].

unlike a lot of people, i was actually kind of surprised by this one, not because he said what he said, of course, but that a man so accustomed to media culture would be so cavalier to say such things knowing he had a mic strapped to him. i'm not saying he knew the mic was live, but that's the thing about microphones- you don't know when the sound guy has turned them on, so it's best to assume they could be recording you at any moment. donald trump knows that. he was at least aware that it was a possibility that what he was saying was being recorded, and he didn't give a shit. because to him, what he was saying was no big deal. he knew that if it ever came out, he'd just shake it off as boys being boys, as locker room conversation or something. [in case anyone wondered why those quiet, thoughtful, intellectual boys from school hated to be in a locker room when they were forced to attend gym class...]

so when his tape came out yesterday, trump tossed out the exact response he'd had at the ready for ten years. hours later, he seemed impatient and irritated that he was being forced to say more. i don't know why that tone should have been surprising to anyone; trump was badgered into making an apology- an apology- for something he felt was no big deal, to appease the heads of a republican party he barely even pretends to like. that had to stick in the man's craw.

i find the spectacle of republicans, most of whom have gone to great lengths to regulate what women can do with their bodies and what they should pay [financially and otherwise] for their choices about their bodies, wailing about the necessity of respecting women to be every bit as repulsive as a presidential candidate talking pussy. take, for a moment, the case of vice presidential nominee mike pence, who has tried to force women seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound of their fetus before being allowed to go through with the procedure and who voted [as a congressman] against the act to make equal pay for equal work the law of the land. or looked at the poster boy for republican outrage paul ryan, who joined pence in trying to block the equal pay act, supported cutting off access to contraceptives and mammograms to women receiving social assistance, co-sponsored legislation to have a fertilized egg be declared a person, and voted for something known as the "let women die bill", allowing doctors to refuse to perform abortions when the life of the mother was at stake. and let's not forget mitch mcconnell, the first big republican gun [and, boy, do they have guns] to call on trump to step aside, but who voted against the equal pay act and refused to support the renewal of the prevention of violence against women act.

with that in mind, let's be honest what all this outrage is really about. let's acknowledge the problem that all these outraged republicans really take issue with:

"pussy"

that's it. it's the word. it's not the fact that he's boasting that he can grab women by the crotch because he's famous. it's that he used a word that's still considered pretty shocking [so few are] and not a damn thing more. one of the few solid blows i felt tim kaine landed at the odious vice presidential debate on tuesday was when he asked mike pence why he didn't trust women to make decisions about their own bodies. pence dodged answering, which was basically his technique for the night, but the question resonates, even more so today than at the time; men like mike pence, paul ryan and mitch mcconnell are offended by the use of language about women, because it exposes their own ugly attitudes towards them. trump is right when he implies that his language isn't outrageous, but if the republican party lets him get away with foul language, they open the door to the idea that his language isn't the real problem.

which it isn't.

i believe i've heard the word pussymore times in the last twenty-four hours than i had in my entire life before then, and i've loved cats and goldfinger for many years. #pussygate is trending all over social media. cnn are so riled up with it, they didn't even consider censoring the word until today [and legally speaking, i don't believe they have to, although they did broadcast other words that are verboten on the airwaves]. the entire internet is suffocating on pussy, but here's the thing: for once, the pussy is not important. why do you think i'm saying it so much? because i'm trying to numb you to the power of the pussy, because unless we all get over that, we're going to miss the real significance of what this man said. pussypussypussypussypussypussypussy. pussy.

all right? moving on...

there are a lot of things wrong with what trump said in that video. first and foremost, everyone seems to have missed the crack he makes about not being comfortable walking close to a man. this from the guy who stood up at the republican convention and said he'd support lgbtq rights and thanked the crowd for applauding that line. a lot of people have [rightly] jumped on hillary clinton's conveniently shifting views on this matter, so why should her opponent get away with it?

second, i think his fellow republicans need to answer the question: why this particular statement? why was saying that the mexican government was sending rapists and murderers across the border forgivable and this isn't? why is this worse? on the same day, trump was defending his call for the "central park five", young men bulldozed into confessions, to be executed, men who were later exonerated by dna evidence and a confession by the serial rapist and murderer who actually committed the crime. he is literally calling for innocent men- black and hispanic men- to be murdered by the state. again, i ask, how is that worse? the man has called for the armed forces to "take out" the family members of known terrorists and insists that the problems of the middle east could have been stemmed if america had "kept the oil" when leaving iraq, both of which are war crimes. what's on the tape releases yesterday is repulsive. but what makes it worse than any of the mudslide of verbal diarrhea we've endured from the republican nominee for president thus far?

well, there's a lot of racism at work there. but the most important thing, as far as the republicans are concerned, is much more cynical: blacks, latinos, muslims and human rights advocates don't vote republican. white, affluent women do. so this isn't just a case of white women being more important on the republican scale of "wrong" [although it is that], but of needing to deliver votes to get a republican in the white house.

third, and most important, there is the issue of virtually everything else that trump says in that video, the toxic wreath that encircles the pussy, if you will. upon seeing that the woman who is about to guide him to the studio he's visiting, he insists on taking some breath mints in case he "starts to kiss her". he says that when he sees a beautiful woman, he just starts kissing her, because he can't help himself. that's the logic that rapists and pedophiles use. they say that they're so compelled they can't resist. and no, i'm not saying that trump's behaviour is equivalent to rape or pedophilia, but it's on the same goddamned continuum. the other person in that equation, the woman, has no agency whatsoever. it is up to him whether she gets kissed or not. nothing for the beauty and all for the beast.

republicans can moan and flail all the want, but the idea that women should be subject to the decisions of men has been at the core of their policies for decades. which is why it's so hilariously, deliciously satisfying that the party is shackled to this sinking garbage barge, having no failsafe mechanism to remove him as the nominee. indeed, there is only one weapon left in their arsenal [probably obama's fault], which is to pull funding from his campaign. [no word of a lie, dom just called out for me to come into the room where the television and twitter have been running non-stop to say that they are doing exactly that.] does trump have enough money and enough backers to stumble through another month of a campaign to an election where his name is already on the ballots [a considerable number of which have already been cast]? you bet your ass [to be gender neutral] he does.

i'm typing furiously to finish this post, but i do want to make a caveat for two republicans who deserve credit: mitt romney and ana navarro.

romney is one of the only republicans who emerges from this debacle without a smear of a trump stain. yes, he sought and accepted his backing in 2012, but he's steadfastly refused to endorse him and has been at the forefront of trying to remove him. he's one of the few republicans whose outrage on this issue rings true to me, because this wasn't a line in the sand for him. he's been saying all along that trump's statements were... deplorable.

and ana navarro... she's a staunch republican. she's been an authoritative commentator for the party on cnn for years, but she has refused to conscience any of what trump has brought up. when he finally won the nomination, she cautiously said that she would give him the opportunity to walk back a lot of his bullshit, and show he was a different person, but i think it took her less than a week to go back to her previous position, stating that hillary clinton had not won her vote, but trump had lost it.

in the last week, though, navarro has taken it to her [theoretically] fellow republicans like a tornado. as aciduous as she can be with democrats, she has never approached this level of wrath and it is something to behold:



edit :: sometimes i think i'm a bit too eager to see the worst in republicans, enough that i forget when they show decency. in my list of people who haven't ever succumbed to the allure of trump [whatever that is], i should, of course, have included ohio governor john kasich and the "royal family" of the republican party, the bushes. kasich was notable in the national spotlight for offering a counterbalance to trump's vicious bombast and, later, for quietly boycotting the party's convention, held in his own state. and no matter what you think of the bush clan, there is no getting around the fact that they've been steadfast in their refusal to bow to trump's level, and several have made no secret that, beyond refusing to endorse the republican nominee, they'll be supporting former secretary clinton. 

i believe that the republicans have brought this on themselves. they have prodded the worst instincts in many of the "rank and file" republicans. they wove a basket of paranoia, racism, sexism and toxic resentment around their supporters and watched let the deplorable stew ferment. they were arrogant enough to believe that, in the country where the right of the people to bear arms for the specific purpose of overthrowing the government is enshrined in the constitution, that this could never be turned against them.

in the background, i can hear paul ryan, the republican party's brightest star, speaking to a crowd in his home state. he's being booed and heckled by trump supporters.

a year and a half ago, the republicans were certain they had a handle on their supporters, that they'd be able to manipulate them to march to the polls against hillary clinton with the sort of florid rhetoric that allowed them to win back both houses of congress and shut down the government. but there's an art to that, of knowing how far you can push without having thing snowball out of your control. in the end, it was the democrats and hillary clinton who had a feel for the limits of their supporters' tolerance. facing a similar sort of insurgency within the democratic party, hillary and the party knew when to stop. the art of the feel.

donald trump, talking about groping women simply because he can't control himself, and still insisting that he will never drop out of this race, clearly does not know when to stop and his followers will follow him to his personal masada without a second thought. but the only reason he can do that is because, for years, the republican party has not known when to stop. so when they're done howling about pussy, i hope they focus the blame where it really belongs: on the assholes who made trump possible in the first place. 

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