All The Ways Rape Culture Was Encouraged In Trump's First 100 Days
There was plenty of talk during the election about how then-candidate Donald Trump was actively contributing to "rape culture." The term emerged in the 1970s, to define the society-wide green light of various types of harassment and violence against women, up to and including rape. As feminist author Emilie Buchwald describes it, "In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable." Trump's contribution to this kind of society was not difficult to see, especially in light of the infamous Access Hollywood tape that recorded him bragging about sexual assault. It was hardly the only example.
Then, candidate Trump became President Trump. News coverage understandably shifted to the usual topics of presidential concern: cabinet appointees, foreign policy, the budget, health care, tax reform, and so on.
But as Trump nears the seminal 100-day mark, it is illuminating to review all the ways he and his administration continue to allow, legitimize, and even encourage rape culture. In fact, the content of the examples below surprised even me, which suggests Trump has reprised another vestige of his campaign days: winning the news cycle. Perhaps it's not hard to do when you're POTUS.
Either way, here is what Trump and his team have been doing, with very little media attention, to encourage rape culture:
1. Trump — Celebrator Of Sexual Assault — Is Inaugurated
The moment Trump became president was a win for rape culture. Here was a man who had bragged about sexual assault. Here was a man whom numerous women have accused of varying types of harassment and assault over the years, from inappropriate touching to walking in on underage teens in the changing room at a pageant competition.
Here was a man, with all that in his past, who still became the most powerful person in the country. The very reality of "President Trump" is contributing, daily, to the notion that how a man behaves toward women, even to the point of boasting about "grabbing" them, is not that important.
The president holds by far the most visibly powerful position in the country. The election of President Trump is damning evidence of society's rampant disregard for the equal rights of women.
2. Betsy DeVos, Title IX, And The Safety Of College Women
"It takes a village to raise and protect a rapist," campus anti-violence activist Wagatwe Wanjuki aptly articulated in an article at The Daily Kos. There, Wanjuki outlines how Betsy DeVos' refusal to commit to enforcing Title IX to protect college women when their accusations of sexual assault are ignored or mishandled contributes to rape culture.
In short, when campus officials know that no one will be on their case for ignoring or procrastinating on sexual assault cases, they're much more likely to do nothing.
3. Trump Team Legitimizes Mike Cernovich
This one is a bona fide doozy. For those unfamiliar with Mike Cernovich (good for you — try and stay that way), he's a child of the alt-right movement, and is known for quite the grab bag of misogynistic and racist remarks. Among other unsavory statements, he's claimed that date rape is not a thing and said that black women should be "slut shamed" so that they don't get AIDS.
What does that mean for the Trump team? It means retweeting and legitimizing Cernovich, that's what.
Oh, yeah! That's right — Donald Trump Jr. thinks Cernovich is worthy of a Pulitzer Prize. Like John Oliver said, it seems this particular apple also doesn't fall far from the orange.
4. Trump's Proposed Budget Slashes Assistance For Domestic Abuse Victims
In his proposed budget, Trump asked for an 18 percent cut in funding to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and a 4 percent cut to the Department of Justice.
The Violence Against Women Act is funded under those two departments, as a way to provide services for women who are suffering from domestic and/or sexual abuse. According to Monica McLaughlin of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Trump's budget would mean "approximately 260,000 fewer victims would be able to access shelters and supportive services each year."
5. Trump Defends Bill O'Reilly
Have you heard the news on Bill O'Reilly? It would be hard to miss all the headlines about Fox News' most celebrated, highest-rated former host, who left the network under a cloud of sexual harassment allegations — all of which O'Reilly has denied. After The New York Times relentlessly followed the story of O'Reilly's many, many settlements, Fox News apparently decided that removing him was smarter than trying to keep him under employment.
But there is someone who did defend Mr. O'Reilly. That someone is President Trump. "I don't think Bill did anything wrong," Trump has said. Welp.
It cannot be overstated that sexual harassment has a real impact on women's lives. With the display of nonchalance from so many in Trump's administration and family — including Trump himself — it's crucial that we don't lose a hold on why fighting back matters.
When a woman at Fox News feared for her career because she allegedly rebuffed advances from O'Reilly, that matters.
When women who have been date raped see Kellyanne Conway and Donald Trump Jr. giving legitimacy to a man who denies such a thing even exists, that matters.
When women are desperate to leave a place of domestic abuse, but there is no funding to help them relocate, that matters.
When college women are afraid to come forward after being assaulted, for fear that their suffering will be magnified by a flippant or negligent response from college administrators, that matters.
When all women — and all men — every day must face the fact that their president has demonstrated too many instances of misogyny to not be a misogynist, you know what? That matters.
Trump has showed no signs of a personal or policy turnaround when it comes to rape culture, and the examples above are from his first 100 days in office only. Staying vigilant and refusing to back off the fight against rape culture might feel like a long road ahead. But these days, it's also felt more urgent than ever.