Michelle Obama Easily Proved That Feminism Is As Much For Men As It Is For Women

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has been in a tailspin for several weeks, owing to both an atrocious debate performance and, more recently, a litany of sexual assault allegations against the candidate. Trump has denied all of the allegations, calling them a "fabrication." In a speech Thursday, Michelle Obama spoke about Trump bragging about sexual assault — and in doing so, she explained an important way in which feminism benefits men as well as women.

When footage surfaced last week of Trump bragging about his ability to grope women with impunity, Trump and his lackeys attempted to diffuse the controversy by writing off his comments as “locker room talk.” That wasn’t a good excuse: Trump had boasted of kissing women without their permission, adding for good measure that, if you’re “a star,” you can “grab ‘em by the p---y” without facing any repercussions.

I’ve written at length about why that wasn’t locker room talk. For one, Trump wasn’t in a locker room; he was in a bus with a colleague, preparing to be interviewed for a TV show. Moreover, even if he was in a locker room, that wouldn’t have made his comments any less repugnant. And lastly, as Obama herself pointed out on Thursday, most men simply don’t speak like that, regardless of where they are.

“To dismiss this as everyday locker room talk is an insult to decent men everywhere,” the first lady said. She’s right, and her comments shed a spotlight on how patriarchal norms can hurt men as well as women. Excusing comments like Trump’s as “locker room talk” doesn’t just minimize the the seriousness of sexual assault, though it does do that, too. It also suggests, incorrectly, that every man is engages in this sort of awful behavior. Men who use the “it’s just locker room talk” excuse are, therefore, incriminating themselves, and their entire gender.

To be clear, the point is not that men are the primary victims of the “locker room talk” narrative. They aren’t — having an unsavory reputation foisted upon you is, of course, nowhere near as serious as actually being a victim of sexual assault. Nor am I arguing that we should shed a tear for the poor men who’ve been unfairly slandered. That’s nowhere close to the most important issue here.

I would say, though, that men everywhere should think long and hard about how this “locker room talk” narrative affects them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard guys complain that women assume the worst of them just because they’re men; they’re convinced that a couple of bad apples with Y chromosomes have given all men a bad rap and that this makes life unfairly difficult for the good dudes out there.

I’ve never had this feeling myself, but there are plenty of guys who have. And to those men, I would say this: If you want women to give you the benefit of the doubt, a good start would be to push back hard whenever you hear someone give the “locker room talk” excuse. Because that narrative promotes the very belief you’re trying to dispel: the belief that all men are, by definition, misogynistic pigs.

This is just one example of a situation in which adopting a feminist viewpoint can benefit men as well as women. It’s in nobody’s interest for the baseline assumption to be that all men are terrible, and one way (though certainly not the only way) men can help dispel of this fiction is by rejecting the “locker room talk” excuse whenever it’s presented. Because when Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, he wasn’t engaging in locker room talk. He was just being an asshole.