We live in an age where it’s widely accepted that nothing is sacred. Anything and anyone can be videoed, recorded or photographed and it’s also become entirely acceptable to share these instances with the rest of the world. Many argue this is no bad thing, for example, when witnesses have captured crime on video and directly aided an arrest. In these instances, the fact that a passer-by happened to be in the right place at the right time with a camera phone is undoubtedly great.
The flip side of this is the harrowing reality for many teens where everything they do (whether wise or foolish) is captured by their peers. Today, everyone is a director and a voyeur. If someone is feeling careless or even vindictive, everything from your poor sexual decisions, teenage drinking antics or embarrassing moments is there to be captured. This can have disturbing ramifications for vulnerable teens (as in the new Netflix documentary, Audrie and Daisy,). This is unquestionably bad.
But what about the middle ground? What about moments that are stupid or misguided but would have no actual implications unless they were made public? Countless examples exist of employees fired (or not hired) for thoughtless social media activity, posting something illegal, unprofessional or slanderous on their Facebook or Twitter. The well-worn argument that what you do in your personal life shouldn’t implicate your work life no longer holds much weight.
There seems to be a double standard here, however. As we speak, there is a theatrical, incredulous spectacle playing out across the pond. It also happens to be an ‘interview’ for one of the most important jobs in the world. Yet for some reason, the same rules don’t seem to apply.
In recent weeks, Donald Trump has been exposed as even more of a misogynistic oaf than we ever even imagined. Kicked off in earnest with a now widely circulated a tape where he claimed he just grabbed women ‘by the pussy’, a slew of new allegations continue to emerge- from former employees being groped to disturbing, sexualised comments about a ten year old girl.
Aside from the fact that some these incidents either are or condone sexual assault, the real kick in the teeth was the narrative that subsequently emerged. It might- I mean might– have made some iota of difference if Trump had taken some degree of ownership over these comments, and taken the opportunity to initiate much needed discussion around areas like consent and power and women’s rights. Instead, he went to great lengths to immediately dismiss it as ‘locker room chat’, indicating that bigotry and disturbing, objectifying comments are totally fine, as long as they are expressed in private. Oh, and that he ‘loves women’. That’s fine then.
Trump’s apologies and excuses are simply self-serving. He claims he’s ‘not perfect’. Perfect he does not have to be, but he is one of two candidates in the running for a job where upholding and representing a moral code that reflects a nation is pivotal. He could have emerged from this in a vaguely positive light had he used the incidents as a platform to raise awareness around this kind of language, how men should hold themselves accountable for ‘locker room chat’, especially when it talks about objectifying or assaulting women- whether or not any women hear it. He stated ‘the words do not reflect who I am’. Whether or not they do, Trump’s inability to notice the role of excuses in this narrative reflects who is much more profoundly.
He may lose some votes, but he won’t be out of the race, which sends the strongest message of all.
Written by Alice Leahy