When I inexplicably found myself back in grad school for the second time in my life, during a slightly lonely period in my late twenties, I used to hang out with the “dudes” of my department. These hang-outs were usually drunken, come-to-think-of-it-rather-trite-and-banal, shindigs.
When the hang outs were all guys, sexism in the form of humor was an oft used lingua franca among many of them. Unfortunately they tended to be the loudest and dominated the proceedings. Since this was a progressive social science department, all the guys had taken different feminist theory classes during their grad and undergrad years. Indeed, the most disgustingly misogynistic of the lot apparently even minored in women and gender studies at UCLA, his previous alma mater.
(Just goes to show that ivory tower credentials are highly unreliable in determining good human beings.)
In more than one party, this misogyny masked as ribald humor would rear it’s ugly head. Indeed, the stuff that came out of the UCLA-graduated head misogynist’s mouth was no less than the vileness that has been revealed to come out of Trump’s mouth. And it was all laughed at and seen as fun by the rest of the guys in that group.
All I did at the time was numb my loneliness with booze, as folks guffawed to the drunken ramblings of some white, self-identifying Marxist’s lewd misogyny, heartily egged on by his drinking buddy – a white, Anarchist dude who identified as a very public feminist. (If there’s one thing socialist and anarchist dudes seem to find congruence on, it’s male privilege).
The group also happened to be a really white and heteronormative group. Me and a buddy of mine were the only men of color (and I was, as far as I could tell, the only queer man).
I don’t say this to make some vague point about intersecting forms of oppression.
I say this to undo the shame I feel to this day of not doing a damn thing to intervene – cowering behind the excuse that I didn’t feel safe enough to do so. When in all honesty, I would have been fine. I could have told them off, walked away (and almost certainly have been far happier and healthier for it). I could have even tried to counter it with humor or sarcasm or just done something. For a variety of reasons, I preferred cowardice at the time.
But as I sat there wallowing in my misery, I did make particular note of this feeling that churned inside me, a rather sickening feeling.
There is a particular insidiousness to misogyny when it comes from men of the more entitled sections of society. Because there’s greater social and cultural power behind the words. Whether it’s white men in America or upper caste Hindu men in India or men from the majoritarian sections of society wherever the fuck their miserable selves may exist – rape culture is held up, among other ways, by majoritarian male power and control.
And glued together by the silence and willful ignorance of others.
Now Trump’s misogyny seems to know no bounds – be it his braggadocio in committing rape and sexual assault or his despicable sexualization of his own daughter on, of course, the Howard Stern show – Trump is human refuse. But he is not human refuse in a vacuum. He emerged, or rather was hellishly spawned, out of a society steeped in rape culture.
Indeed, one of the most troubling things about the revelations of his violently sexist conversations is not really being addressed by the media – maybe because it poses far more difficult questions for us as members of this society.
Trump-style misogyny is far more commonplace than we might think.