On #TrumpTapes, power, and liberal hypocrisy

Image: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Image: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The much-deserved backlash against Trump’s remarks from the recently published 2005 recordings is a particularly interesting one, as it has received wide condemnation from within his own party.

Republicans have essentially made their careers legislating women’s bodies. A prime example would be their efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, an essential organization in the U.S., that provides reproductive health care for women and support for victims of rape.

This alone indicates that the Republican establishment does not actually care about systemic violence against women. What they care about, rather, is that Trump’s horrific comments have besmirched the face of the GOP by openly and crudely expressing the misogynistic value systems they themselves embody regarding women.

Considering the numerous women who have accused Trump of rape, it is safe to say that if the GOP cared about violence against women, they would have never have helped Trump win the Republican nomination.

Beyond that, none of these men have illustrated a capacity to even imagine women as people who exist outside the parameters of men. Subtly possessive language about “our women,” “our daughters,” and “my wife” should clue us in as to how Republicans view women, whether or not it is “their” white women, they are talking about.

Speaking of which, now there is this ridiculous discourse being shared and promoted voraciously by both liberals and leftists, claiming that the GOP’s outrage at Trump’s misogynistic comments has to do with the fact that it was at the expense of a white woman. But Jill Harth and Ivana Trump are pretty white the last time I checked.

No, the problem for the Republican establishment is not and never was Trump’s misogyny, even when directed at white women. The problem is that the recordings explicitly show Trump admitting to degrading, objectifying, and sexually assaulting women and there is no way to refute that. When women accuse men of rape, they are disregarded, dismissed, or subjected to ridicule because we live in a patriarchal world where men perceive women’s voices as inherently cunning, manipulative, “shrill,” or untrustworthy. Ignoring women’s claims is one thing, but the GOP can’t ignore things that come from Trump’s own mouth.

But there is something far more insidious revealed by the Trump tapes: his overt admission to utilizing the power that comes with fame.

Trump: I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

Bush: Whatever you want.

Trump: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.

One of the central aspects of critiquing oppressive systems of power is, quite literally, critiquing power. But the response from liberals show they are not bothered by the oppressive presence of capitalist patriarchal power, just Trump’s “abuse of power.”

This is the quintessential problem with liberalism. Of course abusing power is not okay, but there is no desire among liberals to actually challenge power, nor will they address the way this same power has been weaponized by the Democratic Party to bash the Left.

Power is not neutral — it is politically charged to uphold the values of white supremacist imperialist capitalist patriarchy.

Likewise, liberal feminism would have women achieve the status of honorary men and share the power enjoyed and abused by men under patriarchy rather than challenge the existence of male power in the first place. If Trump had not abused this power, Democrats and Republicans alike would remain perfectly content with the existence of power by itself.

In other words, liberalism serves to preserve power, not challenge or question it.

Liberal feminism is quite satisfied in spouting social justice rhetoric against capitalist patriarchy but refuses to mobilize against its material roots, as they theorize that such aggressive direct action would be “just as bad” as the violent state. As such, they are not only maintaining the status quo by dismissing any resistance from the Left, but they fundamentally do not understood what “power” is and how it operates within oppressive systems.

Liberal feminism protects the use and abuse of power, even if it means abusing other women.

Sure, they may not say so in such explicit terms, but that is essentially what it comes down to: searching for opportunities to freely join and use white supremacist imperialist capitalist patriarchy to their advantage. This is glaringly transparent by the sheer joy and excitement of neoliberal feminists championing a Hillary Clinton presidency.

When the Left labels Hillary Clinton as the “most powerful woman in the world,” it is not a compliment.

If we are actually committed to defeating white supremacist imperialist capitalist patriarchy, here’s a few pointers:

1) Stop legitimizing and promoting the idea that people only suddenly care about sexual assault because the target, in this case, was a white woman. To say something so awful about victims of sexual assault in order to signal your supposedly better politics is astoundingly insulting, and quite frankly, anti-feminist. In a world where women are subject to mockery and shame and rarely receive justice when raped, regardless of political affiliation, race, or class, all women deserve our support. That’s feminism, baby.

2) Trump is not an anomaly. He conforms to everyday hegemonic toxic masculinity that is symptomatic of white capitalist patriarchy. His words and style of speech are openly masculine in their linearity and hold threats of violence against women and people of colour. However, Trump’s personality is so cartoonishly villainous that, while it is sensible to abhor him, he is far too convenient — too easy — for liberals to hate. His rhetoric of violent dominance erases the more subtle manner that male violence against women manifests under patriarchy. Similarly, it obstructs any harsh and nuanced criticism of Bill Clinton’s past with women and the Clinton campaign itself because liberals are (rightly) fearful of a Trump win. It is necessary to analyze all interactions with men within the context of capitalist patriarchy, even the “good men,” in order to liberate women as a class.

A feminism that rationalizes the power of white supremacist imperialist capitalist patriarchy as long as marginalized groups get a fair shot at utilizing it is not feminism. Anyone who would cynically use a story about a member of the opposing party sexually assaulting women in order to prop themselves up as having superior politics is a hypocrite, not a feminist.

This kind of commentary is an affront to social justice. It is neoliberal feminism. It is corporate feminism. And it is doing an excellent job in selling us out to the jaws of our oppression.

San Sudharshan is a radical feminist who is completing her undergraduate degree in Gender Studies and an ardent lover of bell hooks and tea. She lives in Sydney, Australia. Follow her @sansdn.

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