Everyone’s worried for their children today. We’re worried they might rape someone and be held accountable for it. We’re worried they might not know about consent and get “caught out”. We’re worried they might dodge millions of dollars in inheritance tax and get their names in the papers. You know, all the usual things.
Most urgently, Donald Trump wants you to “think of your son” because “evil people” – like the Democrats who are against Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination – might “destroy” him too if you’re not careful.
“What do I do, Mom? What do I do, Mom?” he said yesterday in Mississippi, in imitation of a poor, beleaguered child who wasn’t able to become the chief executive of IBM or General Motors because he’d been accused of raping someone in the past. A life “left in tatters”, truly, with the basic human right of being able to head up a large corporation or sit on the Supreme Court swept away by some conniving female. It doesn’t bear thinking about.
Donald Trump is worried about his son, and Donald Trump Jr is worried about his own sons in turn. “I’ve got two boys, and I’ve got two girls,” Trump Jr said this week in Montana. “And when I see what’s going on right now [with MeToo and the Christine Blasey Ford investigation], it’s scary.”
He added that in such an environment, where men seeking to control the laws of the land are asked to publicly answer to allegations of sexual assault, he was more concerned for the wellbeing of his sons than his daughters. Like his father, it seems he believes that it really is “a very scary time for young men in America”.
In this tale of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, it’s important to remember where the women factor in. Trump knows that referring to Christine Blasey Ford as a politically motivated liar, and then tarring all women with the same brush, isn’t an intelligent strategy. He steps carefully around the issue of demonising the entire female population even as he mocks Ford’s testimony to thousands of people.
He invokes the sympathetic mother; the horrified, protective, desexualised older woman who knows her baby did nothing wrong; the one to whom the question is posed: “What do I do, Mom?” And it isn’t Brett Kavanaugh’s life alone that he dwells on with a significant pause in his campaign rally speech: “A man’s life is shattered. His wife is shattered, his daughters.”
These people are, in Trump’s narrative, the Good Women. They’re the faithful wives with nonexistent libidos who diligently raised their sons with traditional values, reminding them to open the car door for their prom date, to pick out a corsage, to help their mother with the grocery bags. They’re the daughters who sit mutely in church pews beside their fathers; young women who have been cautioned not to sleep with anyone except their future husbands, who would never be seen out late or wearing a short skirt at a college party, or around underage drinkers.
They are fantasies. They are the Madonnas pitted against the whores in an endless right-wing reverie. The Good Woman is never, ever sexual.
The women who right-wing politicians have a real problem with are the sexually mature. And they have no children, and so it’s hard to pretend that their libido is powered purely by maternal instinct. They don’t act as though sex is a necessary endurance until they get to the ultimate aim of a cooing newborn.
They’re the college students; the twentysomethings at bars and gigs; the Christine Blasey Fords in their swimsuits and their T-shirts, sipping a beer at a party. They have a sexual freedom that men such as Trump find so uncomfortable, so wrong. And that’s why they’ll never appear in one of his speeches, never be talked about with faux-concern, that paternal raised eyebrow, the soft gesture. They might turn out wearing Make America Great Again caps at rallies every so often, but their very presence is dangerous to acknowledge.
So, to the entire Trump family, I would say this: I’m worried about your sons too. I’m worried you raised them with the same values you’re espousing now. I’m worried you told them that women who aren’t their mothers or daughters don’t really qualify as human beings worthy of your concern. I’m worried I’ll encounter those sons of yours on the street, or at a party, or in the office when they’re all grown up.
I’m worried I wouldn’t be able trust them to act civilly, maturely, or indeed legally.
I’m worried that if I do report an assault, I’ll be openly mocked and publicly disbelieved. I’m worried that men will be placed in power who see sexual assault as normal, and rape as “a bit of horseplay before I married the mother of my children”. I’m worried those men will sit in the courtrooms, make the laws and look sympathetically on other, younger men who also don’t see women as people.
And I’m worried about your daughters, too. I’m worried that if they come to you asking: “What do I do, Dad? What do I do, Dad?”, the answer will be: push it down in your mind. Take the therapy. Deal with the flashbacks. Tell the partner you can’t face intimacy with that it’s just because it hurts or you have a headache or you’re a bit tired. Above all, don’t speak out – because that means “ruining a man’s life”. And you wouldn’t want someone’s life to be ruined over a stupid little thing like rape, right?
In a world where this is how privileged Americans raise their families, I’m worried about everybody else’s children too.