I have been struggling with the image of women who are still supporting Donald Trump since the video of his despicable comments in a conversation with Billy Bush was made public last week. Not being a woman makes it difficult, I suppose, to relate to the feelings of women who continue to support him. But I like to think that I have some capacity for empathy, when it comes to the experiences that women can have, even if I’ll never experience pregnancy, or menstruation, or menopause, or vaginal rape.
In any event, limited though I’m sure I am, I think the way Trump speaks about women in that video, let alone the way he says he actually has treated women and the way he claims to have assaulted them, is reprehensible. And for that reason, I was perplexed by the sight of a sizeable group of women rallying in support of Trump outside of Republican National Committee Headquarters in Washington, DC, earlier this week.
The demonstration was organized in an attempt to deter the RNC from distancing itself from Trump or from dropping its support for him altogether. And these women were not just casual in their support of Mr. Trump. In fact, they appeared to be every bit as fervently supportive of him as many of his rallies portray his supporters to be. Their support was even undaunted by a male supporter in the middle of their throng who held a large sign that read, “Better to grab a p***y than to be one.”
So, as I say, I’m perplexed. What kind of thinking produces that kind of unequivocal support by women for a man who so clearly seems to be a sexist, if not a full-fledged misogynist? After giving the matter no small amount of thought (and consulting with my wife) I have come up with a few plausible (or at least semi-plausible) answers. Here is my non-exclusive list.
1. They don’t believe the picture of Trump that the tape provides. This answer requires acceptance of Trump’s apology/explanation to the effect that the tape just captured the equivalent of “locker-room banter,” the kind of guy-to-guy chatting that they assume is commonplace, or at least is not reflective of true feelings. And I would understand if that’s the reason/explanation for their acceptance of his comments and the attitude those comments express, were it not for the fact that grown men (post-adolescent men) don’t talk like that, let alone consider doing the kind of things Trump says he does in that tape. I have never had a conversation with another man (or heard such a conversation between men) that contained that kind of vile degradation of women, and I don’t know any men who have.
2. They are more concerned with the future of the country than they are with the personal deficits of the person who is the president. This one requires a viewpoint that I confess I don’t have, but I can understand it. The perspective would be that the country is a mess, literally in far worse shape than it has ever been, and that a complete change of leadership is required, even if that change puts in the office of the presidency a man with “questionable” attitudes towards women. This view would tend to discount the horror of Trump’s statements and instead emphasize the need for change, pure and simple.
3. They hate Hillary so much that they view her opponent through “rose-colored glasses.” I have spoken to women who just don’t like Hillary Clinton, and I assume there are some who for whatever reason, truly hate her. Perhaps they find her phony; that seems to be a common view of men and women who are anti-Hillary. Some may fault her for staying in her marriage, although most women seem less inclined to criticize another woman for making that kind of tough decision. And there may be some who really believe Hillary is deserving of scorn for besmirching and denigrating the accusers of her husband (the three women Trump had on display, with the woman who claimed she had been raped as a twelve-year old by a defendant Hillary defended, at Sunday’s debate). Women in this category would have the same forgiving/discounting attitude towards Trump’s tape as the women in the second group (above).
4. They are staunch Republicans who will support the party’s nominee no matter how flawed he might be. I can relate most closely to this reason, simply by switching the scenario so that I envision Trump as the Democrats’ nominee and someone I view as despicable (like maybe Ted Cruz) as the Republican nominee. Do I support Trump in that scenario? I don’t, but I don’t know if I vote for Cruz either. But then, I’m not a staunch Democrat (not to the extent I’m suggesting the women would be staunch Republicans under this reason). But, maybe, if I was, I’d overlook all the flaws and obvious shortcomings of my party’s nominee and pledge undying loyalty to him, even if I were a woman and had heard him say those horrific things about my gender.
5. They are clueless and don’t even know what he said. This reason is demeaning of the women in that DC protest on Monday. I know that. But, in all honesty, it’s the one that makes the most sense to me. I just don’t think a self-respecting woman would shout out her support for Donald Trump, in light of that videotape of his perspective on woman and the way he says he has assaulted them, if she actually knew/understood what he had said. My wife says I’m naïve in holding that view, and I suppose I am. But I just have too much respect for all the women I know to think that any woman with knowledge of what Trump said and admitted to doing would take part in a protest to proclaim unquestioned support for him.
But, no matter. To each her own. Donald Trump is on his way to a well-deserved, massive electoral defeat, and in less than four weeks, few will even care that, to the very last day, there were women who fervently supported his candidacy.