The FREQ Show #2: The Unmanning of Trump – Feminist Frequency

The FREQ Show #2: The Unmanning of Trump

#The FREQ ShowMay 18, 2017

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Ebony Aster

Operations Director and rogue snuffleupagus

The FREQ Show is back with an all-new episode! Join us as we dig into the ways that some liberal critiques of President Trump employ the very same homophobia and misogyny that they wish to repudiate.

This is Episode 2 of “Season Zero” — our four episode mini-season which kicks off a new Feminist Frequency web series devoted to pop culture, current events, and media missteps (and the occasional triumph). Stay tuned over the next month as we explore provocative issues like trans rights and Muslim media representations.

We’re loving the comments you’re leaving us on Facebook and Twitter  to let us know what you think of the show, so please keep those comments coming! Continue to share your episode questions, guest recommendations, and format suggestions.

So stay with us, as a new episode will be released every two weeks on our Youtube channel. Take a moment to subscribe to ensure that our videos hit your inbox the minute they’re released!

 

You’ve almost reached the end of this piece – but there’s plenty more where this came from!

All of Feminist Frequency’s work – web pieces just like this one, videos, newsletters and interviews – is completely free to the public. But, everything we produce requires research, staff time and resources.

We need your help to keep our feminist media analysis and educational materials easily available and accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

Read the full article…

The FREQ Show is back with an all-new episode! Join us as we dig into the ways that some liberal critiques of President Trump employ the very same homophobia and misogyny that they wish to repudiate.

This is Episode 2 of “Season Zero” — our four episode mini-season which kicks off a new Feminist Frequency web series devoted to pop culture, current events, and media missteps (and the occasional triumph). Stay tuned over the next month as we explore provocative issues like trans rights and Muslim media representations.

We’re loving the comments you’re leaving us on Facebook and Twitter  to let us know what you think of the show, so please keep those comments coming! Continue to share your episode questions, guest recommendations, and format suggestions.

So stay with us, as a new episode will be released every two weeks on our Youtube channel. Take a moment to subscribe to ensure that our videos hit your inbox the minute they’re released!

 

You’ve almost reached the end of this piece – but there’s plenty more where this came from!

All of Feminist Frequency’s work – web pieces just like this one, videos, newsletters and interviews – is completely free to the public. But, everything we produce requires research, staff time and resources.

We need your help to keep our feminist media analysis and educational materials easily available and accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

TRANSCRIPT

 
CLIP: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
“Mr. Trump…your presidency? I love your presidency. I call it “Disgrace the Nation.” You have more people marching against you than cancer. You talk like a sign language gorilla who got hit in the head. In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s [bleep] holster.”

Remember that time, back in January, when millions of Americans fired up Pinterest, broke out their gluesticks, and went arts & crafts wild like kids at camp?

Armed with thousands of colorful banners, posters and signs, an estimated four and a half million people around the world took to the streets on January 21, 2017 for the Women’s March. To remind ourselves of just a few of the reasons why people were out that day, let’s pause for a moment and listen to some words from our Commander-in-Chief that helped inspire this tremendous event.

CLIP: Access Hollywood
I did try and fuck her. She was married. I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. You know, I’m automatically attracted to a beautiful – I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss.
[laughter]
I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. “
“Whatever you want.”
“Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Yes, that’s our President back in 2005 when he was merely a billionaire reality TV show host, proudly admitting how he abused his power and celebrity to sexually harass and assault vulnerable women. And by the way: this may be the most famous example of Trump telling us what he considers to be the real “Art of the Deal” — but it’s by no means the only one.

Even before Trump announced his candidacy for President, every news cycle about him was like being stuck in a game of Rape Culture Jumanji.

And partially in response to his blatant, abusive misogyny, upwards of 4.6 million people gathered in more than 550 cities in the United States alone, many of them wielding some seriously spectacular signs displaying messages of resistance to systematic racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression.

But unfortunately, not all the images or chants back in January were inspirational. In fact, when you get right down to it, some of the signs and slogans didn’t just lack creativity – they actively reinforced precisely what the people holding them thought they were protesting. Punchy doesn’t always equal progressive, y’all.

When you’re “joking” about the unusually small size of someone’s hands, or laughing at pictures of him in homoerotic scenarios, you’re actually feeding the same logic that encourages someone to think they can, well,, “move on someone like a bitch.”

Our culture tells us how a “real man” should think, what he should look like, and who he can dominate. These messages are toxic. They depend on a version of masculinity that says: “Real’ men use power to dominate. They take what they want, in business, or politics, or in their relationships with women.”

And yes, these messages equate having small hands — or small anything — with being less of a “real” man. Let’s look at some more examples to help us unpack how this works.

In August of 2016, our last blissful, pre-election summer, a statue appeared in New York City’s Union Square of a very naked Donald Trump. The size of this statue’s genitals was clearly intended to be an insult to the man whose greatest leadership experience up to that point may have been the two times he fired Stephen Baldwin on The Celebrity Apprentice.

From public art and social media to protests and marches, renderings like this statue are everywhere. It’s impossible to avoid the memes about hand size, poorly executed spray tans and combovers that are meant to offend a certain thin-skinned individual who has a tendency to rage on Twitter and also has access to the nuclear codes.

In addition to the sea of miniature members, tiny hands, and aggressively orange bouffants, criticism in public spaces has included numerous images of Trump and Putin taking their diplomatic intimacy to the physical level. Valentine’s Day proved to be a pretty great opportunity for artists intending to defy Trump, to use some homoerotic imagery to get in some jabs.

But in this case, homoerotic equates to homophobic. If you use gay imagery to insult someone, the implication is that homosexuality is itself something shameful. These images don’t just criticize a political relationship. They emasculate Trump by using make-up, pregnancy, and even his position as the “little spoon” to suggest his effeminacy.

These images also mock the notion of two men being together sexually or romantically, which communicates to all onlookers that, in 2017, intimacy between two “real men” is laughable. People who would consider themselves LGBT allies are deploying the kind of rhetoric that implies that anything other than stereotypically masculine or heterosexual behavior is wrong or absurd.

What do we mean when we say “stereotypically masculine”? Well, the media we create and engage with too often depicts aggression, physical strength, pride, protectiveness, and even short tempers as “manly.” We’ve elevated those traits from “manly virtues “ to masculine requirements– and any deviation from them makes a man suspect. The end result is that at times our entire culture seems like a backslapping locker room full of chuckleheads, and we get a President who learned diplomacy from The Little Rascals.

CLIP: The Little Rascals
“And what do you say if we form a new club…and call it the ‘He-Man Woman Haters’ Club’?”

These images are so pervasive, and so socially entrenched, that we’ve come to accept them as natural and true, like the sun rising in the east or every odd-numbered Star Trek movie being total crap.

But there’s nothing objectively true about the way our culture dictates how to be a man. In fact, this version of masculinity is only recognizable because we contrast it with its opposite: weakness, humility, and vulnerability: in other words, “femininity.” If being a “real man” means being stoic, strong, and rational, then being a “real” woman wins you a lifetime supply of timidity, weakness, and hysteria.

Bonus round: the word “hysteria” comes from the Greek word for “uterus.”

Associations of compassion, vulnerability, and emotion with femininity are no more intrinsically true than associations of aggression and dominance with masculinity. But in setting up this contrast, and by defining behaviors, bodies, and appearances as either masculine or feminine, our culture says that men should exhibit masculine attributes, and conversely, women should exhibit recognizably feminine traits. Cross or blur that culturally-defined line, and you’ve got a real problem on your hands – no matter how big or small.

The truth is that cultural ideas about masculinity and femininity limit all of us to one degree or another, though people who identify as men and people who identify as women are impacted in very different ways. In our culture, the attributes associated with femininity are deeply shameful for “real men” to possess. There’s nothing more insulting a man can say to another man than to question his masculinity or to call him some colorful synonym for woman. Why? Because as we continue to perpetuate this strict system of only two gender options, femininity continues to be regarded as something negative.

CLIP: The Man
“Well, what am I then?
“What are you? You are my bitch. That’s what. My own, personal bitch.”

CLIP: Get Hard
“I’m gonna make you my bitch’s bitch. You’re gonna be my grandbitch.”

CLIP: End of Days
“Stop being such a pussy!”
“You fucking shot me!”

In actuality, people of any gender can possess any personality trait, and can find themselves within the binary of male and female, somewhere in-between, or outside of it entirely. But, as long as our culture maintains and normalizes rigid expectations related to gender – like, continuing to prize masculinity while denigrating femininity – these ideas about gender will contribute to the oppression of particular groups of people, including women, trans folks, and non-binary people.

Ok, so you may be asking, what does all this have to do with insults hurled at Donald Trump? Let me be very clear about this: I AM NOT defending Donald Trump. This is about recognizing that “jokes” about who is and isn’t a real man are the kinds of things that Trump himself would laugh at. Yeah, we know that this kind of stuff drives Trump up the wall. But that’s not a good excuse to participate in it. We’re better than that. We’re certainly funnier. We need to challenge what many of those criticisms and insults are actually saying about men, women, gender, and sexuality, because they reinforce harmful patriarchal ideas that actually benefit people like our current president.

Sure, it can be gratifying to carry a sign or share a Facebook post that would get under the skin of our quick-tempered, fast-tweeting, rarely-self-reflecting President. And because Trump buys so fully into deeply sexist ideas about masculinity and power himself, questioning his masculinity can seem like an easy, effective way to knock him down a peg. But we have to think about the message we’re sending when we insult anyone using the idea that small hands are unmanly, or that two men loving each other is embarrassing — even a president who was leaving a bad taste in people’s mouths with his personal line of steaks at the Sharper Image…long before he was offending and embarrassing us as commander-in-chief.

If we rely on patriarchal ideas of masculinity to insult and protest against someone who clearly benefits from patriarchy and misogyny, and from his own position as a straight, white, tremendously wealthy man, then we help to perpetuate these same norms. These are the very norms that help enable someone to laugh off their own history of sexism and sexual assault, and still get elected to the highest office in the land.

What would actually be transgressive and challenging to Trump is a resistance that works to dismantle the very notions of patriarchy and power that helped propel him to the presidency. A resistance that defies rigid notions of masculinity and femininity and loudly embraces people of all genders and all gender expressions.

So let’s stop resorting to body shaming or homophobia when what we’re really trying to do is critique the misogyny, the history of sexual assault, and the abuse of political power by someone who should have done us a huge favor and disappeared from the public sphere following his cameo in Home Alone 2.

This is our brand new Feminist Frequency show! If you like what we’re doing here, please share it with your friends, subscribe for more videos, and donate to help us continue making them!

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