13 Of The Most Problematic Things Men Have Said In 2017
Over the last year, the world watched from the edge of its seat as Donald Trump, a former reality television star, was sworn into an office that made him, by many standards, one of the most powerful people in the world. But as the president continued to tweet, it became clear that the gravitas of the Oval Office did not necessarily include a public relations filter. With all of the attention on him, it may have been easy to miss some of the other most problematic things men said in 2017. Ultimately, Trump was certainly not alone when it came to making questionable, or outright offensive, statements.
From false apologies for sexual assault to appeals for already-paltry rape sentences, some men really ran the gamut of poorly-timed, tone-deaf speech this year. One name that immediately comes to mind, of course, is Roy Moore, who refused to halt his campaign even as senior members of his party publicly urged him to. (He continues to deny any of the sexual misconduct allegations against him.) Then, there were the powerful men accused of sexual misconduct who decided that their responses to allegations against them should include the fact that they disagreed with some of the "details."
The fact is, with social media and technology developing at a rapid pace, insensitive and problematic statements that may have otherwise been forgotten are now magnified, shared, and repeated for days, weeks, and months after they were first uttered. There is no free pass for bad form — nor should there be. And as the year comes to a close, it offers a perfect opportunity to review some of the highlights — or, rather, lowlights — of problematic statements made by men in 2017.
Thinly-Veiled Sexist Insults
In December, Trump accused Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of "begging for campaign contributions," alleging that she "would do anything for them." That phrase, as many were quick to point out, is uncomfortably reminiscent of language used to describe sexual favors, and was criticized as wholly inappropriate in context. Add into the mix that Gillibrand has publicly said Trump should resign over sexual misconduct claims against him, and what you have is a shockingly tone-deaf tweet.
Appealing A Sexual Assault Conviction
In 2015, Brock Turner, a former Stanford student, was arrested for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. He was convicted of three sexual assault charges in 2016, all felonies. He could have served up to 14 years in prison, but the judge sentenced him only to six months. Ultimately, he only ended up serving half that time.
Turner is now appealing his conviction, reportedly in an effort to reduce the part of his sentencing that requires him to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Though not Turner himself, his legal adviser told the press, "what happened is not a crime."
An Alleged Child Molester Asking For Money
Moore has consistently denied the sexual misconduct and assault allegations made against him during his senatorial campaign, describing them as "dirty politics" and "ritual defamation." But one of the most flinch-worthy things he did, aside from construing molestation allegations with political conspiracy, was asking for money from donors just as the accusations were picking up steam.
In the email he sent out, he painted the accusations as part of a cosmic war. "The forces of evil will lie, cheat, steal — even inflict physical harm — if they believe it will silence and shut up Christian conservatives like you and me," he wrote. "Their goal is to frustrate and slow down our campaign's progress to help the Obama-Clinton Machine silence our conservative message. That's why I must be able to count on the help of God-fearing conservatives like you to stand with me at this critical moment."
Casting The Women's March As "Unhappy Liberal Women"
In a Facebook post that is still published, Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Republican, described the Women's March on Washington, D.C. as "a group of unhappy women." That wasn't all, though. He went on:
We shouldn't be surprised; almost all liberal women are unhappy. Perhaps there's a correlation. ... But I do have a question: if they can afford all those piercings, tattoos, body paintings, signs, and plane tickets, then why do they want us to pay for their birth control?
Referring To Immigrants As "Someone Else's Babies"
Iowa Rep. Steve King tweeted in March that, "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies." He was referring to immigrants, and lamenting that American women weren't repopulating the United States with their own children. Twitter users immediately denounced the racist sentiment, but his message was lauded by former KKK grand wizard David Duke, who responded by tweeting, "GOD BLESS STEVE KING!!!"
When King was given the chance to explain himself, he doubled-down on his comments, telling CNN, "I meant exactly what I said."
Downplaying Alleged Unwanted Touching With A Joke
Actresses Heather Lind and Jordana Grolnick both accused former President George H.W. Bush of groping them during a photo-op. They claimed that he then followed up the alleged unwanted touching with a dirty joke. A spokesperson for Bush said that what the women experienced was a harmless and routine interaction:
"To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke," the spokesperson told CNN. "And on occasion, he has patted women's rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate."
At least seven women have now come forward with similar accusations, but the response has remained the same: Bush's camp says it was a joke, or else they do not address it at all.
Likening Diversity Initiatives To Discrimination
In August, a former Google engineer made headlines when a memo he drafted, lambasting the company's diversity initiatives and describing them as harmful to men, made the rounds on the internet. He was eventually fired, but the impact of his comments is still reverberating through and around conversations about diversity issues in tech. A piece of his memo read:
"Discriminating just to increase the representation of women in tech is as misguided and biased as mandating increases for women’s representation in the homeless, work-related and violent deaths, prisons, and school dropouts."
Blaming Sexual Assault On Alcohol
When actor Anthony Rapp accused Kevin Spacey of sexual assault, Spacey responded by saying that he didn't remember the alleged encounter, and then apologized. He also came out as gay, which critics said was an attempt to overshadow the scandal. One additional tone-deaf piece of this apology, however, included the sidestep that he may have been intoxicated when the incident took place. "If I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior," Spacey said. Effectively, it was yet another attempt to assign blame for the alleged incident elsewhere.
Describing Music As Too "Girly"
U2 frontman Bono said in a recent Rolling Stone interview that he believed "music has gotten very girly." He continued: "And there are some good things about that, but hip-hop is the only place for young male anger at the moment — and that's not good."
This dig insinuated that it's unfair to men that they are living in a world where women increasingly front musical acts, despite the fact that for decades, women lived in a world where men largely did so. Additionally, his statement was criticized as being racist: He seemed to suggest that the male anger expressed in hip-hop is unhealthy relative to its iterations in other genres. He also discounted the success of male hip-hop artists, suggesting that their achievements are somehow lesser for having come in that genre rather than his own.
Calling Accusers Liars
Earlier this year, The New York Times reported that Fox News' parent company, 21st Century Fox, renewed commentator Bill O'Reilly's contract with them while knowing that there were sexual misconduct allegations made against him. Reportedly, Fox News also paid $32 million to settle a sexual harassment claim made against O'Reilly by a former network contributor. O'Reilly's response? That the details in the report were "lies and smear."
Insinuating That Women Know Less About Sports
When reporter Jourdan Rodrigue, of The Charlotte Observer, asked Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton a question about route-running, he responded with snark: "It's funny to hear a female talk about routes," he said.
Rodrigue responded to the comment on Twitter. "I don't think it's 'funny' to be a female and talk about routes," she said. "I think it's my job." Sponsors started dropping Newton in response to his comment and he eventually apologized.
Louis C.K.'s Half-Hearted Admission
Famed comedian Louis C.K. was accused of sexual misconduct by five women in a November New York Times report. In the aftermath of the report, C.K. said that the stories were true. "I have been remorseful of my actions. And I've tried to learn from them," he said in a statement.
But while he did say that the stories in the report were accurate, not once did he actually apologize for what he had done or to the women he had hurt. So, while it was refreshing that someone accused of sexual misconduct didn't use their space to immediately deny the allegations, his response still left a lot to be desired.
Equating Women With Incubators
Speaking about a bill concerning state coverage of abortion procedures, Wisconsin state Rep. Scott Allen suggested that abortions were bad for the labor force.
"Labor force shortages are tied to population declines," he said. "And labor force shortages are a limiting factor in economic growth. And limited economic growth poses a problem when government tries to pay for public services and infrastructure." He then concluded that, regardless of this, "the Democrats continue their effort to support the abortion industry," effectively equating women with baby incubators instead of recognizing them as unique individuals who can contribute to society in a variety of ways.
There were almost too many problematic statements in 2017 to keep track of. This is especially true of politics this year, but elected officials weren't the only ones who overstepped boundaries when it came to insensitivity — entertainers and media moguls were also guilty. With a new year, you can hope that men in the spotlight will choose to think twice before they speak into a microphone, proverbial or otherwise. But whether that happens is truly a toss-up.