Donald Trump and Eric Trump seem to have a phenomenal misunderstanding of the characteristics and motivation behind sexual harassment. Alexandra Tselios schools them.
The “Weak” in Politics as seen by Alexandra Tselios
I have often observed that what society deems strength in male figures is looked down on less favorably when demonstrated by women, while men suffer from similar unfair judgments when it comes to understanding sensitivity traits often reserved as favorable for females. When Donald Trump recently discussed sexual harassment in the workplace, suggesting that should Ivanka Trump ever face sexual harassment, he hoped she would “find another career or find another company if that was the case,” I was completely confused. If a woman faces sexual harassment, why should she give up the years spent building within that company and run elsewhere? Eric Trump, Donald’s son, but clearly no more progressive, said, “Ivanka is a strong, powerful woman, she wouldn’t allow herself to be [subjected] to it.” The insinuation being that a woman allows herself to succumb to sexual harassment and, by default, is responsible for how that plays out. I appreciated Fox News host Megyn Kelly’s response to Eric Trump via Twitter, in one succinct word: “Sigh.”
The core problem for me, aside from how the comments can be seen as victim blaming, is that again it represents a wrong assessment of what strength means. Strength, by its very nature, lends to resilience more than being defined by a personality type. The assumption that a person who is perhaps assertive and outspoken is stronger than an individual who may come across as “meek” is completely incorrect. My personal experience with sexual harassment was documented in detail last year, where I sought to understand the complexities of the man who was my boss and how I was treated. At 19 years of age, I was not a shy girl, nor a particularly quiet girl. However, I was inexperienced when it came to these matters and how to deal with them. Again, this experience was disassociated from terms such as a lack of “strength or power.”
What we do know from evidence is that men who are prone to sexual harassment fall into a number of attitudinal sets. A study from the University of NSW and Miami University found that men who are prone to harassing women were more likely to be struggling with hierarchy, social, and performance factors. As such, they had a higher probability to rely on aggression and hostility towards women as an attempt to maintain their dominant social status. Specifically, the study said, “We hypothesised that female-initiated disruption of a male hierarchy incites hostile behaviour from poor performing males who stand to lose the most status.” This sounds to me like it has lot more to do with the lack of strength and power the perpetrators feel than a lack of strength and power of the individual being harassed. From my personal experience, and from the literature I have read seeking to understand female-directed hostility, I have not identified that a woman who will not be harassed is actually strong and powerful or that she would innately “reject” succumbing to such an experience. Quite the opposite, in fact, with evidence suggesting an individual increases their hostility relative to how they feel personally in a competitive climate. I would also argue that Megan Kelly saw a level of publicly-observed sexual harassment from Donald Trump directly and I cannot see any indication that, as a woman, she is any less “strong or powerful” in comparison to Ivanka Trump.
The second part of Trump’s statements though, advice to simply leave the company and remove oneself from “succumbing” to sexual harassment, was at best naive and at worst insulting. It never occurred to me that the best course of action to take when being in a situation where I was sexually harassed was to quit and go elsewhere. No, I was prepared to uncomfortably remain where I was rightfully positioned and my perpetrator eventually quit—I wasn’t going away so easily. But not every person wishes to remain, and the flip side to this is many can’t simply quit a role due to unsavory workplace circumstance. In fact, it is unlikely many have the luxury to survive financially by simply “walking out” like Mr. Trump suggests.
From my experience carefully following the recent U.S. Elections, I see Mr. Trump make glib, stupid statements often from a place of ignorance coupled with facetiousness. Frankly, most of us agree these comments are incredibly harmful. It is crucial that we move away from naive statements that incorrectly correlate weakness with victims and acknowledge that gender equality, particularly in the workplace, requires a nuanced understanding of the forces that result in poor behavior, defensiveness, hostility, and the recognition of gender/personality stereotypes. My recommended homework for Mr. Trump senior and Mr. Trump junior would be, incidentally, to read the research published that found men who blame victims in cases of sexual harassment have a higher probability to actually be harassers themselves.
The “Weak” in Politics as seen by Roger Pugh
Heard at Hillary’s Campaign HQ
“Why do you think Trump’s wall might not be tall enough?”
“The pole vault Gold Medal winner at the Rio Olympics will probably be able to clear it and might come from Mexico.”
Heard at Trump Campaign HQ
“Bill says Hillary is the best ‘change-maker’ he’s ever encountered.”
“Well, she obviously failed with him.”
Heard at the Immigration Authority
“Why are you so sure that Trump’s wall will reduce illegal immigration?”
“Where there’s a wall, there’s a way.”
Heard at the Country Club
“I hate everything Trump says and I don’t believe anything Hillary says.”
“I don’t believe anything Bill says either, and I wasn’t impressed by what Melania said when I heard Michelle say it first.”
Heard at a Republican Fundraiser
“Obama has come out strongly in favor of Hillary.”
“He should have done that during the 2008 primaries.”
Heard at a Hollywood Studio
“Do you think Tim Kaine’s any good?”
“He’s worth at least ten Pence.”