No, Donald Trump Is Not Being "Man-Shamed," Despite What His Surrogates Have The Nerve To Claim

It’s become standard practice for Donald Trump’s surrogates to go on television to enthusiastically defend him against the mountain of groping allegations he’s now facing (and has firmly denied). The standard line of defense so far has been to imply, and perhaps outright state, that the women accusing Trump of sexual assault — 12, as of this writing — are lying, and that Trump would never do such a thing. But in a recent CNN interview, Trump supporter Betsy McCaughey said Trump is being “man-shamed,” and that merits a bit of discussion.

Throughout the interview, McCaughey implied that Trump didn’t commit the sexual assaults of which he is being accused. She didn’t actually state this; she simply cast doubt on Trump’s accusers, claiming there was “absolutely no evidence” that Trump was guilty, and criticizing media outlets for publishing the accusations to begin with.

So far, nothing new there. But then she veered into stranger territory.

“I do believe the polls show that Americans are not buying this roll out of accusers, and this bigger theme of man-shaming. They want to get to the real issues,” McCaughey said. “When I look at the workplace, or college campuses, or politics, I see that men are constantly and unfairly put on the defensive. A man can’t call a woman nasty, but women can make any kind of accusations against a man.”

And this was very odd. Because although there is a larger conversation to be had about the merits of shaming as an act, a person generally can’t be “shamed” for something that doesn’t apply to them at all. One can argue that tattoo-shaming is a bad thing, for instance, but one can’t tattoo-shame somebody who doesn’t have any tattoos. The concept is nonsensical.

McCaughey said that Trump is being “man-shamed.” But this suggests that he’s being criticized for having a penis and identifying as male, and that’s obviously not true. He’s being criticized for allegedly groping women without their permission — allegations which he has denied.

One could believe that a person did commit sexual assault and is being unfairly shamed for it; this would be a morally-repulsive belief to have, of course, but it would at least have some semblance of logical coherence. Alternatively, one could argue that Trump is completely innocent — in which case there couldn’t possibly be any shame at play. McCaughey, though, wants to have it both ways. She wants to argue that Trump is being shamed for something while denying that he actually did that thing.

J.D. Pooley/Getty Images News/Getty Images

But perhaps this is too literal of an analysis. While the specifics of McCaughey’s argument are muddled and contradictory, the broader sentiment she’s expressing is very clear. It’s the “let men be men” argument — the idea that the United States has become so politically correct that decent, red-blooded American guys aren’t allowed to be themselves without somebody jumping down their throats. Just let men be men, darn it!

This type of mindset — the “boys will be boys” view of the world — has long been used to excuse flagrant sexism and misogyny. It is the exact kind of worldview that, for example, leads people to dismiss Trump’s “grab 'em by the p---y” comment on that Access Hollywood tape as harmless “locker room talk.” It’s the kind of language that gives sexual predators, in general, license to continue being predatory. McCaughey doesn't believe allegations that Trump groped any women, but the mere fact that he’s being accused of doing so is unfair “man-shaming,” in her eyes.

No. Women who report alleged sexual assault assume a great personal and financial risk for little to no reward — one woman was already driven from the country for fear of her life after coming forward with her accusations. There was a time when the prospect of a woman publicly accusing a celebrity multi-millionaire of sexual assault would be unheard of. The fact that this is no longer the case is something to celebrate, not bemoan.