When I was 13 years old, there was a boy in my Year 8 classes at school who would often grab me in my crotch.
I would get to class quickly and try to position myself between two occupied seats but he was that guy with enough social clout to tap the person next to me on the shoulder and tell them to move or even get that done with just the flick of his head.
I would sit my school books or pencil case on my lap as a deterrent.
I remember him laughing. I remember feeling so unsafe. I remember not understanding why – what was he trying to communicate, how was I supposed to feel or respond?
Maybe he didn’t really know either? Where had he got the idea? What goal was he trying to achieve? What did his actions reflect of his understanding of sexuality or intimacy or respect for women?
And then, then you hear the recording of Donald Trump – a 59 year old man (at the time), successful in business, of high social profile, educated, and relationally and sexually experienced. He is clearly heard to say about women, “when you’re a star …you can do anything. You can grab them in the p—y. You can do anything.”
So, it’s just because you can? It’s just because no one tells you not to?
Why is HE doing it? Does he think it’s sexy? Has it worked as a pick up measure in the past? Does he think women like it? Does he consider it foreplay? Does it feel like a conquest?
Whatever the motive and whatever the personal justification, he has ultimately given voice to the misguided behaviour of a 13 year old boy – and males of all ages – that ‘because you can’ supersedes all other filters for choosing a behaviour or action. The lack of respect for others (particularly women), the obscene level of narcissism, the depraved distortion of sexual intimacy and honour of another’s sexuality, the right of another to feel safe in their person – free from the expectation that someone might just grope their genitals at any time …all that and more just falls away.
This is the fertile soil that nurtures abuse and entitlement and this man has just put language to it.
This IS leadership. It is terrible leadership – but it is leadership. It is a person of influence using language of permissiveness and dishonour to shape the culture they are leading.
This really is not okay.
Our young men need to hear a different narrative and be called to champion a higher standard. Our women need men who will esteem and protect them – for everything they are – including their sexuality and physicality but extending deeper to their mind, their soul; their hearts. Our countries need leadership that embodies respect for every human and renders unacceptable anything that demeans or diminishes.
Trump’s profoundly inappropriate attitude and words (including his lame charade of an apology) and the response they’ve received ought to be a wake up call for us all. A call to check our language, check our privilege, and check our leadership.
We can do so much better than this. We must.