Donald Trump, Sexism, and Addiction
Our country is having several important conversations right now: one about addiction and one about how women have been treated in the workplace. Unfortunately, these discussions have a hollow element because they are happening under the dark cloud of our Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump’s own attitude and addictive sexual behaviors towards women.
Trump’s Addiction To Women
Trump has discussed the difficulties of having an alcoholic older brother and touted his own tee-totaling lifestyle as a paragon of virtue. But alcohol and cigarettes aren’t the only vices men can fall into. We have seen other evidence of the President’s thin skin and self-centered worldview, so it makes sense that he engages in unhealthy behavior to soothe the side effects of these personality attributes. Besides a fondness for inhaling stacks of fast-food sandwiches, Trump appears to have an addiction problem involving women. We’re not just talking about his endless parade of wives. Specifically, he has a past of compulsively using women for sexual purposes, sometimes against their will, to stroke his own ego. This behavior is no different from that of an alcoholic who drinks to distract himself from whatever internal emotional problems he has.
Sexist Attitudes and Addiction
Right now we are watching a collision of our society’s attitudes towards addiction and attitudes towards women. If our President has a past of addictive behavior, why isn’t it a larger part of the national conversation? We only have to look to Harvey Weinstein to understand why. While opioid addiction may be more clear-cut, the continuing epidemic of sexual misconduct and assault on women is hurting just as many people. Unfortunately, while we grapple with both problems, one is taken at face value and the other is not. We can see this in the tone of media coverage: the opioid epidemic is a national tragedy. The “#MeToo” discussion, on the other hand, has been met with a mix of shock, doubt, and in some cases, derision. Unfortunately, this attitude merely feeds the maddeningly stubborn sexism that continues to color the way Americans talk about these problems. The only way to stop the sexist treatment of women—everything from unequal pay to groping and sexual assault— is to talk openly and honestly, without judgement. Ironically, this is the same way that experts in the field encourage us to talk about alcoholism and drug addiction.
The relationship between sexism and addiction is a thorny one. Do we treat female addicts differently then men? Even if you put our treatment of President Trump’s compulsions aside, the answer is most certainly yes. Addiction and alcoholism memoirs written by women like Cat Marnell, Lisa Smith, and Carolyn Knapp have horrifying passages about nonconsensual sex, while similar books written by men like David Carr, Agusten Burroughs, and James Frey tend to focus on the addict’s destructive treatment of themselves and other people. As America continues to grapple with unprecedented levels of drug addiction (and high rates of alcoholism) as well as continued problems with sexual violence, the influence of Trumpism must not be allowed to derail these crucial conversations.
Alcohol Is NOT An Excuse
Another criticism from the #MeToo movement that must not be allowed to hijack the conversation is the role of drug and alcohol use in unclear or nonconsensual situations. Drug or alcohol use and sex certainly have a messy relationship that can blur the lines of consent. Legally speaking, however, precedent has been established that if someone is intoxicated, she is incapable of getting consent. The bottom line should simply be that if someone can’t or doesn’t give consent, don’t have sex with them! Lingering bias (like the dismissal of Trump’s Access Hollywood tapes as “Locker Room Talk”) continues to put the duty to resist fully on women. Take our society’s enduringly sexist understanding of alcohol, for example. If a woman is drunk, it may be her fault if a man does something to her. The same line of thinking goes the opposite for men: if a guy is drunk, he is not responsible for his actions. This kind of double standard is ridiculous and only serves to enable the actions of sexual predators.
While Republicans may be known for how much they drink, according to his own words, Trump has never been intoxicated. Therefore, the American public should hold him accountable for his predatory behavior. The simple truth is that women around him have been victimized because of Trump’s addiction to sexual power. Indeed, women have been at risk due to simply standing too close with a skirt on, being the wife of a friend, or—in the case of his beauty pageant—merely changing in a private room backstage. If a female politician had engaged in similar behavior, like compulsively bursting into male locker rooms to ogle the athletes, would society treat her the same way? Because the current #MeToo upheaval has exposed that systematic sexism is still in full swing, the answer would likely be “no.”