Donald Trump and his alt-right supporters want women like Michelle Obama to know their place. In her case, twice. Referring to workplace sexual harassment, Donald Trump Jr. told an interviewer in 2013, "If you can’t handle some of the basic stuff that’s become a problem in the workforce today, then you don’t belong in the workforce. Like, you should go maybe teach kindergarten. I think it’s a respectable position." Teachers. Nurses. Homemakers. Maids. Know your place, ladies. It's a man's world. If you can't take a little grab-ass around the office, “You can’t be negotiating billion-dollar deals."
Michelle Obama, a lawyer, is having none of it. No woman should. In a mesmerizing speech in New Hampshire yesterday, Obama ditched her usual stump speech to address the allegations of sexual assault against Donald Trump and the tape in which he brags about it to the boys.
First Lady Michelle Obama starred in a defining moment of the presidential race Thursday, delivering a stinging and emotional condemnation of Donald Trump’s behavior toward women that framed the election as no longer about ideology, but human decency.
Michelle Obama told the audience:
And I know it's a campaign, but this isn't about politics. It's about basic human decency. It's about right and wrong. And we simply cannot endure this, or expose our children to this any longer — not for another minute, and let alone for four years. Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say enough is enough. This has got to stop right now.
It was a speech that Hillary herself could not have given, for a number reasons: in part, because it remains damn near impossible for a woman to make inspiring feminist arguments on her own behalf without coming off as self-congratulatory; in part, because Hillary is hamstrung by the fact that she’s married to a man who has been accused of his own sexual-power abuses; and, in part, because she is simply less comfortable conveying communion, empathy, and inspiration on the stump. But while Hillary could not have delivered it, it was a speech that the country desperately needed.
Obama never once mentioned Trump by name:
And to make matters worse, it now seems very clear that this isn't an isolated incident. It's one of countless examples of how he has treated women his whole life. And I have to tell you that I listen to all of this and I feel it so personally, and I'm sure that many of you do too, particularly the women. The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman.
It is cruel. It's frightening. And the truth is, it hurts. It hurts. It's like that sick, sinking feeling you get when you're walking down the street minding your own business and some guy yells out vulgar words about your body. Or when you see that guy at work that stands just a little too close, stares a little too long, and makes you feel uncomfortable in your own skin.
It's that feeling of terror and violation that too many women have felt when someone has grabbed them, or forced himself on them and they've said no but he didn't listen — something that we know happens on college campuses and countless other places every single day. It reminds us of stories we heard from our mothers and grandmothers about how, back in their day, the boss could say and do whatever he pleased to the women in the office, and even though they worked so hard, jumped over every hurdle to prove themselves, it was never enough.
Throughout this campaign, throughout the presidency of Barack Obama, forces of retrenchment have yearned to turn back the clock, unmake the future, and erase the present. Like the Taliban who used dynamite and artillery fire to destroy a different religion's cultural antiquities, and who yearn to put their women back in their places, Donald Trump's GOP is at war with modernity. They truly believe this is their country, a white, Christian, male-dominated country, and they are unwilling to share it if they cannot control it. They would rather burn it down, constitution and all.
On Reddit, someone named CouchAlmark distilled why Trump appeals to the Republican base (h/t David Atkins):
Trump's message is basically the same as everything the GOP's been dog-whistling for decades. The only difference is that he considers a dog whistle to be low energy. He prefers a bullhorn, which fucks up the whole strategy because suddenly it becomes searingly obvious to everyone what he's saying. This appeals to the base because finally someone is focusing on giving them what they want instead of using them to push a fiscal policy that they don't care about.
The fiscal conservatives, meanwhile, are horrified because they didn't want to have to be openly associated with those social issues. Trump puts them in a position where they have to choose between pissing off independents, who don't like it when the GOP runs on a platform of "fuck Mexicans, blacks, women, and gays", and pissing off their base, who won't settle for dog whistles anymore.
This is part of why Trump was able to decimate everyone else during the primary: it wasn't just that they were too busy attacking each other to attack him, but they to some degree couldn't attack him because they have the same social positions that he does.
We have everything we need to stop this madness. You see, while our mothers and grandmothers were often powerless to change their circumstances, today, we as women have all the power we need to determine the outcome of this election.
We have knowledge. We have a voice. We have a vote. And on November the 8th, we as women, we as Americans, we as decent human beings can come together and declare that enough is enough, and we do not tolerate this kind of behavior in this country.
In the end, that is what this election is about. That is the message decent people in this country must send to their fellow citizens and to the rest of the world.