POLITICS--Donald Trump is arguably the biggest feminist running for president. Yes, you heard me right, and I’ve never had a lobotomy or been run over by a Mack truck. In fact, I am an avid supporter of women’s rights. My work is primarily known within the field of cyber harassment, revenge porn and online sexism.
I realize my “Trump is a feminist” position puts me in the minority. Okay, maybe I’m the only one. I acknowledge that most media outlets, pundits and politicians have blood coming out of their whatever (ears, eyes) when it come to The Donald, and they love calling him a woman hater. In fact, some have gone on to insult Trump supporters, describing them as “mindless zombies,” “crazies,” “low information voters” and racist, sexist xenophobes. These characterizations are not only false. They are offensive and alienating.
America as a whole—and specifically Trump critics—seem to be confused about definitions. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines feminism as “the theory of political, economic, and social equality of the sexes,” and it says that sexism is “a prejudice or discrimination against women.” The bottom line is that women want to be treated as equals—not as ornaments, delicate flowers or damsels in distress.
Of course, it is easy to get confused when pro-women icons themselves are spewing anti-women rhetoric. Gloria Steinem recently suggested young females are so weak and pathetic that they make decisions by copying boys (she later apologized), and Madeline Albright said that any female who votes for a male will burn in hell (she apologized, too). Hillary Clinton, a feminist standard-bearer in some circles, roared with laughter over Albright’s remark, thus conveying that she thinks it is acceptable to play the gender card for votes. (Note: it was recently reported that Secretary Clinton paid her female staff significantly less than her male staff while in the Senate.)
There are two ways to fight for women’s rights: in deed and in word. The “in deed” component might be called “policy feminism.” This involves equality as it is put into action, such as when supporting proposals that require equal pay for equal work. On this, Trump is well ahead of the curve. In the 1980s, he put a female in charge of a construction project—something that was not done in those days. In a 2015 CNN interview, attorney Michael Cohen produced numbers from the Trump organization which demonstrate that there are more female executives (than male executives) in the firm, and a large number of these women “are paid more.” Cohen invited CNN to pour over the company’s internal books.
“Trump is not a gender-based payer,” Cohen said. “He is a performance-based payer, meaning if you do the job, he doesn’t care if your name is Mary or if it is Joe.” Cohen challenged the other presidential candidates to open their campaign books so the media could scrutinize numbers related to female advancement and pay. No one has taken him up on the challenge.
This brings me to the second way to fight for women’s rights, which I call “verbal feminism.” This is where critics say Trump falters. I contend he fares much better than the other presidential candidates.
Trump speaks in the same direct way to both females and males. He is gender neutral when it comes to words. He is an equal opportunity critic. He does not speak as if women are weak or pathetic or need to be protected. He does not spare them from toughness or coarse words. They are equals. They are strong. Because our culture is entrenched in inequality, most folks cannot compute this. They only know that Trump’s language is contrary to the status quo and political correctness.
Society promotes the idea that males should place women on a pedestal like fragile figurines and never offend them. Men are told not to criticize females in appearance and to spare them from insults and curse words. This is not equality, and it harkens back to the Victorian period when members of the “gentler sex” were sequestered from violent language and toughness. Women were said to be weak, helpless and subject to hysteria. They needed to be protected by the stronger sex: males.
Enter the language police. Actress and feminist, Lena Dunham, has compiled a list of adjectives that she claims are inappropriate to use when describing a woman, including “shrill,” “inaccessible” and “difficult.” Dunham is apparently arguing that a male (such as my husband) can be called “difficult” (just kidding, honey), but Hillary Clinton cannot. She is saying President Obama can be called “inaccessible,” but Queen Elizabeth cannot. She is inferring that Ted Cruz can be called “shrill’ (and he is, by the way), but I cannot (I am unbearably shrill on occasion). The “Dunham censorship society” is reminiscent of the world centuries ago when women were sequestered in the Victorian garden, protected from verbal dustups and a rough and tumble world. Handling women with kid gloves is not equality or feminism. It is sexism.
The political establishment and most mainstream media outlets have a narrative about Donald Trump, which includes the notion that he hates women. They reinforce this meme. They search for evidence, and when they come up with nothing, they do the next best thing—they take his words out of context.
(Charlotte Laws, Ph.D. is a TV host, former Los Angeles commissioner, the author of the book, Rebel in High Heels and an occasional CityWatch Contributor. She has endorsed Trump and can be followed on Twitter @CharlotteLaws)