“Frailty thy name is woman”—”Hamlet,” Act 1, Scene 2
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” That familiar saying can be easily associated with the base, misogynistic tirades of Donald Trump. Since announcing his presidential run, the brash New York billionaire has left in his wake a growing list of women who have reportedly been castigated, criticized and caricatured in ways not demonstrated since the days of corsets and bustles.
In those days, it was common place for women to occupy “second place” to the man. Literature—from the opening book of the Old Testament to the dystopia of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”—is replete with misogyny, the kind of which Trump has aligned himself with since his boyhood. You don’t have to a presidential opponent…or beauty queen … or talk show host … or actress, ad infinitum. You just have to be a woman invading his territory which has, arguably, been acquired by arrogance and honed on braggadocio and self promotion.
“He sought them both, but wish his hap might find Eve separate (because of his certainty that she is weaker…”)
—John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”
In John Milton’s epic poem, the issue of who is to blame for the fall of man has largely focused on Eve. She has been denounced in Sunday School for playing a larger role in the decision to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, while Adam’s role has been interpreted as more of an unwitting dupe tempted not by Satan, but by his faithful mate who purposefully shifted blame for her disobedience onto Adam. Trump is a master of shifting blame. In a reversal of the Bible story, Trump has learned the art of displaced aggression whereas he “does the deed” (sexual harassment) yet places blame onto the victim allowing him to remain unscathed.
So far, Trump has insulted a litany of persons—some powerful and other’s not so much—in his imaginative coup d’état to become the leader of the free world. As the alpha male, Trump perceives women to be the weaker or “fair sex” ripe for his control. First, he set his sights on Rosie O’Donnell (“a fat slob”), then Marlee Matlin (“Is she retarded?”), Carly Fiorina (whose face he said essentially disqualified her from being president), Megan Kelly (“… blood coming out of her … whatever”), Alicia Machado (“Miss Piggy”), Bette Midler (“disgusting and grotesque”), and now the revelations of sexual impropriety with women he’s come in contact with over the years via obscene objectification (“… just grab ’em by the puy”). Even First Lady Michelle Obama is not immune to Trump’s “anything goes” campaign style in reference to his team’s lifting of her 2008 convention speech only to be conveniently rewritten for his wife, Milania, at this summer’s GOP confab in Cleveland.
Humiliating women by decrying their ugliness or temerity to confront him on the issues may be a recreational pastime for Trump. For instance, when New York Times columnist Gail Collins described him as a “financially embittered thousandaire,” Trump responded by dispatching a copy of the piece with her picture circled: and the hand-written comment “The face of a dog.” Years ago, when he owned the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, he reportedly would screen all of the contestants. Persons working on the events have said that if Trump did not consider a woman up to his standards, he would direct her to stand with her fellow “discards” as though he was playing a titillating game of gin. One of the contestants, Carrie Prejean, a former Miss California and 2009 Miss USA
runner-up, commented a few years ago about Trump’s rudimentary objectification of women:
“Some of the girls were sobbing backstage after [Trump] left, devastated to have failed even before the competition really began … even those of us who were among the chosen couldn’t feel very good about it. It was as though we had been stripped bare.”
“Get thee to a nunnery” Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1
Hamlet’s insult to Ophelia shows some of the insecurities that he felt about women. Researchers suggest that some men may overcompensate for a perceived lack of virility with sexual domination. This week, People magazine reported that a half-dozen people have come forward to corroborate a former writer’s account of being sexually assaulted by Trump at his Mar-a-Lago mansion in Florida in 2005. Natasha Stroynoff, on assignment to write a profile about Trump and his wife, wrote last week that Trump once grabbed her, pinned her against a wall and “stuck his tongue in my mouth” without her consent.
Working women within the Trump empire reportedly labor under a cloud of Trump’s distrust. In discussing a former employee in his 1997 book “The Art of the Comeback,” Trump suggested to commentator Mika Brezenski that working moms are particularly lacking in loyalty and thus do not make for good employees. “She’s not giving me 100 percent. She giving me 84 percent, and 16 percent is going towards taking care of children.”
In 1994, Trump told ABC News that his power dynamic with women is commonplace among his circle of male colleagues. “I have really given a lot of women great opportunity. Unfortunately, after they are a star, the fun is over for me.” He meant that. When he hosted “The Apprentice,” Trump had one of his deputies, Carolyn Kepcher, fired because he apparently couldn’t bear her growing fame and reportedly fired her for becoming a “prima donna.”
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe … your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.” Genesis 3:16
Trump basks in the absolute dominion over women he comes into contact with, therefore his interaction with and opinion of women reflects a misogynistic view that they are only meant to be “seen and not heard.”
Here are a few more “gems” Trump has said about women over the course of 25 years:
—“I would never buy Ivana any decent jewels or pictures. Why give her negotiable assets?”—1990;
—Regarding sexual assault in the military, he tweeted in 2013: “What do these geniuses expect when they put men and women together?”;
—Importance of sex appeal on “The Apprentice” “… early victories by the women were, to a very large extent, dependent on their sex appeal”;
—1991 interview with Esquire Magazine: “… doesn’t really matter what [media] writes as long as you’ve got a young beautiful piece of ass”;
—2006 interview with Larry King: “[Angelina Jolie’s] been with so many guys she makse me look like a baby”;
—2012 tweet about Arianna Huffington: “[She’s] unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man”;
—At the movies: “My favorite part [of “Pulp Fiction”] is when Sam has his gun out in the diner and he tells the guy to tell his girlfriend to shut up. Say ‘bitch be cool’ I love those lines”;
—Critiquing himself: “Love him or hate him, Donald Trump [gets what he wants]. Women find his power almost as much of a turn-on as his money.”
“She was naked on the roof and the kind was seduced by her beauty.”
—1 Samuel, Ch.29
There is a long lineup of the scandalous women who populate Bible stories: Eve, Delilah, Jezebel, and Sapphira. Trump, like King David, is seduced by beauty, as if a woman’s body were a separate, sentient entity which poses a threat to him by its mere existence. In his high-powered world, Trump is the sexual aggressor only to qualify his actions with the rationalizations “she shouldn’t have been there … she shouldn’t have been wearing that … if she hadn’t, then I wouldn’t have.”
The GOP has traditionally courted evangelical Christians during presidential campaigns. This year, however, Trump’s misogynistic tirades have soured this once-reliable voting block to the extent that more than 700 female Christian leaders—in citing the “sin of misogyny”—have banded together to condemn the Republican nominee.
“As Christian women we are appalled by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s recorded remarks that disparage women and condone sexual assault,” read a statement from a consortium of female Christian pastors. “Such language cannot be dismissed as ‘locker-room talk.’ Mr. Trump must offer public contrition that fully acknowledges the seriousness and depravity of his actions.”
A number of prominent women from the Christian left signed the letter, sponsored primarily by the group Faith in Public Life, including Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO of Faith in Public Life and chair of President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships; Christian author and blogger Rachel Held Evans; Rev. Suzii Paynter, president of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and Christian author Jennifer Crumpton.
“… he fell in love with a woman in the Wadi Sorek whose name was Delilah.” Judges, Ch. 16
The beautiful and seductive Delilah is one of the most scorned women in literature. “You mocked me and told me lies,” she tells Sampson. “Now tell me how you may be bound.” Trump the powerful demonstrates such unbound might that if any woman does “unbind” or “unmask” his secret strength she has done so only by guile and deception.
Prior to the Faith in Public Life letter, a group of 75 evangelical leaders released a statement condemning not only Trump’s misogynistic comments, but the overall “bigotry” of his campaign narrative.
“Donald Trump’s campaign is the most recent and extreme version of a history of racialized politics that has been pursued and about which White evangelicals, in particular, have been silent,” a Change.org petition stated. “The silence in previous times has set the environment for what we see now. For this reason, we cannot ignore the bigotry, set it aside, just focus on other issues, or forget the things Mr. Trump has consistently said and done. Mr. Trump’s racial and religious bigotry and treatment of women is morally unacceptable to us as evangelical Christians.”
It gets worse. Within the so-called “Bible Belt,” Liberty University has been a hallmark of conservative principles based on Scripture. But that was before Trump. This month more than 2,500 students at the Virginia campus signed onto a statement denouncing university president Jerry Falwell Jr.’s endorsement of Trump:
“A majority of Liberty students, faculty, and staff feel as we do. Donald Trump received a pitiful 90 votes from Liberty students in Virginia’s primary election, a colossal rejection of his campaign,” the statement read.
“Lolita” by Vladimir Nobakov
In this book, the reader sees the world through misogynistic eyes. Humbert Herbert, the narrator, looks at women as object of desire (or distaste), and not as real people. Like Trump, Herbert seems to “love” Lolita (representing the ultimate in beauty) because she is a pretty little vivacious nymph. But he hates the character Charlotte Haze because she hinders his route to his desires. Trump’s insulting behavior toward women may be representative of a dislike of anyone whom he believes is blocking his path to power.
Closer to home in Orange County, Kay Warren, wife of Saddleback Church founder Rick Warren, and also a mental-health advocate, tweeted, “As a victim of sexual assault, I tell you firsthand of devastation wreaked on women and girls by predatory men and boys who think women ‘like it.’”
Julie Roys, a host with the conservative Moody Radio network, commented recently, “I honestly don’t know what makes me more sick. Listening to Trump brag about groping women, or listening to my fellow evangelicals defend him.”
Trump never enjoyed particularly good poll numbers with women (about 51 percent of the population and 53 percent of the 2012 electorate), and after the “Access Hollywood” tapes, they’re even worse. Fox News conducted a poll this summer that asked how much Trump respects women with 60 percent of the respondents saying either “not much” or “not at all.” The numbers swelled to 65 percent among women. Trump has never reached a net-positive favorable rating among women overall, instead polling much better among men than women in every state where exit or entrance polls were conducted during the primary season.
By the summer, 73 percent of women in a CNN/ORC (Opinion Research Corporation) poll said they had a negative view of Trump with only 26 percent of respondents giving him positive points. Even Republican women—who mostly had favorable views of Trump until the last two weeks—were more likely to report unfavorable opinions. Since the two parties held their nominating conventions, Trump’s lead over rival Hillary Clinton with Republican women has declined by 13 percentage points, according to polls conducted by the New York Times and CBS News. In late July, 72 percent of Republican women said they would vote for Trump—a healthy majority—but significantly below the level won by the past three Republican nominees (93 percent for Mitt Romney, 89 percent for John McCain and 93 percent for George W. Bush).
“Something wicked this way comes …” Macbeth, Act. 1, Scene 7
Did Lady Macbeth’s scheming ways lead to the downfall of her husband, the Thane of Cowdor, who plotted murder against King Duncan? No. It was Macbeth and his secret desire to ascend to the Scottish throne that led his attempt. Literary history would forever fault his wife who supposedly encouraged him with accolades of spousal pride and admiration.
Lady Macbeth and all the mischaracterized women in literature fell victim to a history of societal misogyny. Trump has such a history of misogyny.
Another poll, this one conducted by Franklin and Marshall College just prior to the GOP convention, found Trump’s standing with women at a perilously low level: Just 27 percent of women backed him, compared to 58 percent for Clinton. Recent polling from CNN/ORC reveals that 19 days out from election day, 60 percent of women voters say they would back Clinton, compared to 33 percent who would vote for Trump.
Overseas, the Clinton-Trump contest is being watched closely. In Scotland, Trump’s defense of his lewd comments about women as merely loose talk have been condemned by Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon who told Sky News that she was “horrified” by his remarks and the allegations of sexual harassment against him. She took the unusual step—as the head of a foreign government—to urge Americans not to vote for Trump who has significant business holdings in her country.
“I’m horrified not just by comments he has made or in some cases the things he’s reportedly done, but also the dismissal of that kind of language and those kind of attitudes as just ‘locker-room banter,’” Ms. Sturgeon said. “This is really misogyny at its worst, and I think we’ve all got to stand up against that.” The prime minister added that although the decision is exclusive to the American voter, “… how America votes, who is the President of America has implications for the world.”