Reflecting on the Fake Shock over Donald Trump: Why Now?

Reflecting on the Fake Shock over Donald Trump: Why Now?

Subject-matter warning

It is rare – as it should be – that my blog is not focused on Access to Justice and self-representation. I am grateful for and respect the fact that the followers of this blog are looking for information, news and analysis on this topic which is so incredibly important, and so dear to my heart.

But this Thanksgiving weekend I am asking your permission to allow an exception to this rule. Because if there was ever a time for every writer who might have some small impact to write about sexism and misogngy, it is now.

“Donald Trump a misogynist? Who knew?”

It has been an extraordinary few days watching the US election and the implosion of the Trump campaign (just in case you have been in a cave for the past 72 hours, see

But what may be the most remarkable aspect is listening to statement after statement condemning Trump’s objectification of women as sexual prey –  in a presentation formula that suggests shock and surprise.

It would be ridiculous to claim that Trump’s colleagues in the Republican party weren’t given fair warning. Even before Trump ran for President, his role in relation to beauty pageants and soft porn magazines such as Playboy was well-known, as was his public feud with Rosie O’Donnell, and his extraordinarily inappropriate public comments about his own daughters.

Nonetheless the horror and disgust of those condemning Trump is mixed with a “who knew?” quality. Or if there is any reference to earlier clues, it is always suggested that only now has he crossed “the line”.

Of course, some of this shock is pure political theatre (see Frank Bruni in the New York Times (

But I think there is a little more here than just that.

Let me try to suggest what these reactions really mean, and why there are deep and important lessons here.

Demeaning women is still widely tolerated

Women are uniquely and regularly demeaned in our culture. By demeaned, I am talking about being treated as a plaything or a commodity, controlled and moved around like furniture to suit, called hurtful and derogatory names, and condescended to and patronized (sometimes as “cute”). Sometimes really quite nice men (believe me, way nicer than Donald Trump) do and say demeaning things to women. That’s because it’s tolerated, and they feel that is OK..

Being demeaned is not servitude – it’s marginally more appreciative (as in, “whoo hoo! would you look at that!”) – and pageant winners and Playboy bunnies do get paid.

But being demeaned in a culture that tolerates this norm is not pleasant, as any woman will tell you. In the now infamous tape, the way Trump and Billy Bush talked about the actress they were meeting was of course deeply demeaning – but every woman watching winced painfully again when Trump got off the bus and reverted to a “nice boy” posture. In that moment the actress was demeaned further as the “boys” around her were in on the joke, and she was not.

Many other groups are victimized – by racism, homophobia, Islamaphobia, transphobia and more – in ways that are uniquely harmful. But being demeaned is something very specific to women’s experience.

So when Donald Trump used terms that demeaned women, right from the start of his campaign referring to women as “dogs” and “pigs”, there were a few sharp intakes of breath – but that was all. As he escalated, the sharp breaths got a bit noisier, but still the way Trump regularly spoke about women was tolerated.

Crossing what line?

The line that had to be crossed before we began to see consequences for Trump’s long-established sexism and misogynistic commentary was a very long way, from “just’ calling women demeaning and derogatory names. To cross the line Trump had to boast about sexual coercion and power.

Women know that sexual assault and rape is incredibly common. Not because all men are awful – and not because all men who comment on women’s bodies in a demeaning way go on to assault them. But sexual crimes against women are the result of widespread tolerance of entitled male behaviour (whether demeaning or explicitly coercive), and countervailing pressure placed on the women they abuse to tolerate or excuse it, but at minimum keep quiet about it.

Why now? How did we get from there to here?

So when I heard the statements of condemnation of Trump this weekend, I wonder – why finally now? Why did it take something this disgusting to get people in the same party with the same goal of winning the election to stand up and say this is intolerable?

Just to refresh our memories, here is a brief chronology.

At the beginning of the Trump campaign, we knew the following:

As the campaign moved through the primaries and into the conventions, we came to know that:

  • A number of women had made allegations against Trump of sexual assault and one of rape
  • Trump was close friends with Roger Ailes, a decades-long notoriously enabled sexual harasser at Fox News
  • Trump tweeted a split-screen of his wife and Ted Cruz’s wife with a demeaning and insulting message
  • He derided the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq saying “she (a Muslim woman) probably had nothing to say – maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say”.

Finally this week, we were told that:

  • Trump was recorded describing his own predatory sexual behaviour with women
  • Talked with Howard Stern about his daughter Ivanka’s breasts and when asked by Stern if he can could call Ivanka “a piece of ass”, says “Yeah”.

What is the most fake about the fake shock and horror over Donald Trump?

So back to my original question. Are any of those now condemning Trump really surprised? Or do they have to act surprised in order to maintain the widely accepted norm that its OK to demean women in innumerable ways (“its just a bit of a joke love!”) – unless and until they are actually threatened with sexual violence?

Because if you what you see as the lesson here is that boasting about being a sexual aggressor will diminish your chances of becoming President of the United States, look again.

The real lesson is that it is wrong to demean women, and dangerous to tolerate it.

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Comments (5)

  • sandra olson

    i appreciate your comments, they are timely. and also apply to the self represented. i noted that the question of the direction of the courts came up in the Clinton Trump debate, after the documentary on tort reform and the case of justice oliver diaz was broadcast, it offers hope of change,. we here in canada unfortunately tend to follow the US. the corporate corruption of the judicial system there and here, seems to be following each other. when i stood in court here in chilliwack and the opposing lawyer, a woman, stated that i probably didnt even know who my childs father was, i was breathless with this demeaning and slanderous comment. the judge, also a woman, said nothing. the slander, disregard for what i had to say, the demeaning and ridiculing comments that i withstood, are a mark of what any woman who speaks up will endure if you say, no, you cannot do this. The genetics industry owns the judicial system, and the judicial system likes knowing that no one has the right to say anything critical of them. if we do, you are game. There is no rule that says fairness must apply. MANNERS count. OUR JUDGES, HAVE ABANDONED THEIR PRINCIPAL OF FAIR RULE! women have always been treated like we were furniture, if not now,,,,, when, ;;;;;;;;

    October 10, 2016 at 4:43 am
  • Jana Saracevic

    I have wondered for some time now whyTrump’s past treatment of women has not impacted his campaign more. Americans need to seriously ask themselves if these are the moral qualities they wish to see in a presidential candidate?

    Perhaps those in his party who felt powerless to derail his his candidacy in the past now feel more confident to ask for his resignation.

    October 10, 2016 at 12:14 pm
  • Professor Emeritus Ferrel Christensen (Philosophy of Science)

    If there is any word mire often used dishonestly for ideological reasons these days than ‘misogyny’, I’m not sure what it would be, In the case of Donald Trump, it appears to me from all the evidence that he no more feels contempt for women than a thief does for his/her victims–they merely have what he wants. What he seems to feel instead is an unbounded sense of entitlement and egomania. Further, the idea that women get less compassion and consideration than men in this society is a flat lie, widespread despite obvious and huge amounts of evidence. One could write books–and some have been–revealing what is wrong with the above essay, but I find especially galling its appearance in a blog dealing with the justice system–where by every measure women are treated far better than men in equivalent circumstances.

    October 10, 2016 at 2:49 pm
  • brenbstewart

    I’m heart sicken by the subject in this post. Not because Julie wrote it but because there is so much truth in what she says regarding the role that money pays for these men, and sometimes women, to buy their way out of the legal system. Having been a ‘victim’ of such a scenario in the past.

    Furthermore, If we would peruse the social media platforms and count the number of times that. the owners of these platforms allow images of ‘almost’ naked women standing beside expensive cars and other items of sale, and in some images the women are most diffidently standing in a sexual position…and those owners allow it by calling it ‘art’. And the number of ‘Likes” that the posting author receives are predominantly males.

    On one occasion, I wrote to one of these posters who in one post had a picture of The Lord Jesus hanging on the cross with a Caption…suggesting that more of us need to get focused on the Lord. Then a few posts later he had an image of well endowed women boasting their enlarged breasts.

    I asked him how he could have both of those posts on the same website……His response to me was, ” God made woman, and He made them beautiful !

    In the end , of this interaction, I felt compelled to apologize to him for pointing out this contradiction of values and morals. So, in the end, I have just realized, that he won.


    October 10, 2016 at 6:36 pm
  • sandra olson

    i will add, today is international women and girls day here in BC canada. it is sad that we celebrate it on these terms, it is also my daughters 23 birthday, without her identification. also without her medical history, and for me, without the right to say this is wrong, as i have been declared vexatious and banned from the courts. women are still, contrary to some peoples thoughts, completely discarded and demeaned politically and legally. when this will end, who knows. Probably about the time i will once again have access to our courts, Hillary Clinton will not be physically threatened with being jailed on public TV, and my daughter will finally have her rights and her correct identity established.

    October 11, 2016 at 3:55 pm

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