I never understood the idea of a man looking down on a woman. Maybe that’s because I grew up with an incredibly strong, capable woman for a mother and because from the very early days of my career, a good number of my managers were women — the kind whose abilities you wouldn’t dare question. Yeah, maybe I wasn’t the best person to have a relationship with since I was a cocky little bastard, but there was never a point where I believed that simply by lucking into a Y chromosome, I was somehow sharper, more competent, and all-around better than the other half of the planet. With all due respect to James Brown, the world was never “mine” as a man, as far as I was concerned.
If we’re fortunate as a global society, tomorrow will see the end of Donald Trump’s improbably threatening and impossibly sickening attempt to become the most powerful man on earth, an attempt that very likely began as all heedless crusades begin with Trump: as a response to a public insult. In the ensuing year-and-a-half since he surreally rode down that gilded escalator and immediately launched into a speech in which he called Mexicans rapists, we have, as John Oliver points out again and again, hit rock bottom, then barreled through it to an all new rock bottom, then ultimately barreled down yet again into a kind of black oblivion of the American soul.
The campaign of Donald Trump has given rise to so much vitriol, so much ugliness, so much barely disguised fascism that’s apparently been percolating beneath the gossamer surface of our society, that it goes without saying that a Hillary Clinton victory tomorrow won’t put any of it back in the box. Sure, she can keep Trump out of the White House, but “Trumpism” likely isn’t going anywhere. The grotesquerie he’s given voice to and has been the Pied Piper of can’t be put down by an election. It will still be there within our American culture, festering, but now loud and proud and very dangerous. Who knows where our country goes from here?
Trump’s scorched earth pursuit of authoritarian power harmed a lot of people along the way. He directly threatened immigrants, Muslims, journalists, and any who dared to disagree with him. But in keeping with his personality, what he’s exhibited his entire life, the ones who were on the receiving end of his most threatening and demeaning gestures were, of course, women. I’m a big believer that the words “sexism” and misogyny” shouldn’t be used interchangeably, because they don’t mean the same thing. Sexism is a prejudice against women that manifests in discrimination and condescension. Misogyny is a flat-out hatred of women, certainly women who don’t “know their place.”
Trump is a misogynist. To him, women are nothing more than things to be ogled and assaulted for his own pleasure, or roundly mocked for not pleasing him by being too ugly or too uppity.
Given that it’s tough for anybody with a functional brain and an ounce of character to imagine that 50% of the population is somehow beneath them, Trump’s attitudes toward women are often confusing. But here’s the thing: They’re obviously indicative of an entire school of thought among men like him. Maybe many men in general. I never really got that, never really understood just what women go through in our society — certainly accomplished women who dare to threaten male hegemony — until the Trump campaign took on Hillary Clinton. Until Donald Trump ascended to the same status as Hillary Clinton, despite being an idiot with no business running for president.
Think back for a moment to any of the three presidential debates. If it wasn’t already crystal clear, that’s when it should have become so. Donald Trump, an ignorant bully, a political dilettante, a feckless buffoon whose accomplishments are largely self-inflated mythology, was standing on the same stage and on equal footing with a woman who had dedicated almost the entirety of her life to public service. We’re talking about a woman who was a first lady, a two-term senator and a secretary of state; a woman who’s one of the most respected people on earth; a woman who’s worked her ass off for decades to better herself. And she’s facing off against a man who had been granted the same consideration just by showing up.
There’s nothing at all special about Trump. Don’t let his relentless self-promoting bullshit fool you. Trump is a puffed-up, rich asshole; a malignant narcissist who’s never done a hard day’s work in his life and yet displays a near-toxic level of privilege; a guy who, as Barry Switzer famously said, was born on third base but goes around thinking he hit a triple. If Trump had even a specimen cupful of good sense or self-awareness he would’ve walked off that debate stage and sat his wrinkled orange ass down. But what he has in place of both is a gargantuan sense of entitlement, one that prevents him from even wondering whether he’s out of his depth. Of course he isn’t. He’s a rich guy. He’s Trump.
Under no circumstances and in no sane world should a know-nothing blowhard like Trump be allowed to stand toe-to-toe with somebody like Hillary Clinton. Certainly in some ways it feels like both a horrific irony and a cultural necessity that Clinton has to face down, of all people, Trump to get to the White House. He’s the “big boss” that has to be defeated to win the game. In this case, the game is one so many women have had to play at one time or another and the big boss really might be a boss, or any smug jackass who’s been condescending and demeaning to them (despite the leg-up his gender may have afforded him while those women had to work twice as hard without all the fanfare).
Trump is the apotheosis of a certain brand of horseshit masculinity — its Rosetta Stone by which we can decode so much boneheaded male behavior. To know that he’s spent most of his life degrading women, and worse, is infuriating. Him, a cartoonish clown like him, believing that he’s anywhere near the level of a Hillary Clinton or any of the strong, decent women he’s condescended to or thrust himself upon in his lifetime is enough to make you want to take a 2×4 to his knees. And again, he’s not special. There are so many men out there just like him, men who think the world owes them something just because they’re men. And so many women who have to deal with them.
Tomorrow won’t make those kinds of men go away. Although it may be the biggest reminder of all that the world they believed was their birthright is changing. And regardless, it will be a very special kind of satisfying to know that Donald Trump got his ass kicked by a woman — a woman who was better than him from the very beginning.