Thelma and Louise, if only you could be here now!
“Thelma and Louise” is the iconic 1991 Susan Sarandon (Louise) and Geena Davis (Thelma) movie that was a life-changer for so many women. In the movie, a girls roadtrip morphs into a girls outlaw journey. Thelma dances with a man named Harlan at a bar. Louise shoots Harlan after he tries to rape Thelma. They flee because they know that the criminal justice system won’t believe that he tried to sexually assault Thelma. Because, after all, she danced with him.
I loathe violence and I don’t want to shoot anyone. But I, and I’d bet other women along with our male allies, are having a Thelma and Louise moment after recent events during this presidential campaign. On Oct. 7, The Washington Post released a 2005 video of Donald Trump. On the tape, Trump brags to TV personality Billy Bush about how women let him kiss them and grab their genitals whenever he wants because he’s a “star.” “I did try and fuck her,” he says of one woman, “She was married.”
On Oct. 9, Trump, during the second presidential debate, repeatedly dismissed what he said on the tape about sexually assaulting women – as mere “locker room banter.” “I’m a gentleman, Hillary,” he said, after downplaying his, at best lewd, sexist comments, or, at worst, braggadocio about having non-consensual sex with women, as just “boys will be boys” talk.
Trump, Mr. Macho Man, hasn’t shown much, if any, sincere remorse for his sexist remarks and behavior toward women. First, Trump issued a non-apology, saying he was sorry “if anyone was offended.” “Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course,” he added.
“Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am,” Trump later said, “I said it. I was wrong, and I apologize.”
Trump’s moment of “contrition” lasted for a nano-sec. At the Oct. 9 debate, Trump quickly returned to his usual mode: deny, attack and lie. Contrary to the facts, as the Blade reported, he denied saying that former Miss Universe Alicia Machado had been in a sex tape. “Bill Clinton was abusive to women. Hillary Clinton attacked those same women — attacked them viciously,” Trump said.
Never mind that in 2008, Trump told CNN that it was “nonsense” that Republicans tried to impeach Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Or, that in a 1998 CNBC interview he called Paula Jones, who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault, a “loser.”
I don’t mean to say that Hillary Clinton is a saint. She has often responded to questions in a lawyerly, defensive manner, and, as is the case with many politicians, sometimes lied. But, it’s impossible to imagine her ever engaging in the sexist behavior that’s the norm for Trump. Most important, Clinton (unlike Trump), if elected president, wouldn’t seek to appoint Supreme Court judges who’d be eager to overthrow the court’s rulings on Roe v. Wade or marriage equality.
Why should the LGBT community care about sexism? Because women are part of the queer community. Queer women have endured not only sexual harassment and sexist comments from hetero employers and co-workers, but misogynistic behavior and slurs from within the LGBT community.
Sexual assault is the most violent type of sexism. The pay gap between men and women, another form of sexism, impacts us right where we live. Subtle forms of sexism, too, are hurtful. Trump’s “locker room banter” packs an emotional punch. So much so that athletes are tweeting that they don’t “banter” like Trump in their locker rooms. “I was a 5 sport athlete in high school. 5 years of college football,” former NFL quarterback Sage Rosenfels tweeted. “Guys don’t talk like that in locker rooms.”
Let’s hope that a much-needed conversation on sexism and sexual assault will emerge from this sleazy election season.
Kathi Wolfe, a writer and poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.