Some preliminary thoughts….
Of Traffic and Trump
Debate hangover abating, but slowly. I woke up thinking of Claude Levi-Strauss’s classic work on the exchange of women and alliance theory, and how Gayle Rubin reworked his male-dominant-yet-oblivious-to-gender model. In her classic The Traffic in Women, Rubin argues that within capitalist patriarchy, women are the currency — the commodities or objects exchanged — as men negotiate their relationships with one another and jockey for position within a male dominated hierarchy. To quote Rubin, “If it is women who are being transacted, then, it is the men who give and take them who are linked, the woman being a conduit of a relationship rather than a partner to it.”
Segue to Trump’s lewd conversation with Billy Bush and on to Trump lining up four of “Bill’s Women” prior to the debate with hopes of positioning them among his supporters at the subsequent town hall meeting. Who is really the audience for this “locker room banter” and offensive discussion of which male has access, rightfully or wrongfully, to a woman’s body? And what does it mean when well-intentioned men denounce Trump, offended for their wives/daughters/mothers/sisters? It ends up being all about men. Women and access to them is patrolled by men in an effort to assert their position within a hierarchy of other men. Who gets to make the sexually aggressive remarks and moves becomes a game of, well, which male trumps the other while the women and their bodies are the medium through which this elaborate cock fight occurs.
And the visuals from last night? Many have already tweeted about this and I agree with the stalking imagery. I also note the unspoken aggression that kept Trump erect throughout the debate (sorry, but it is all so phallic that I will not feign resistance to the temptations of language). The predator moving from side to side, always in the frame, always shadowing his target before he pounces. Only a rich white male could get away with that posture last night. Imagine if he had been an African-American man prowling and scowling behind a white woman? Again, men jockeying for position with other males: class, color and masculinity converge. Rich and white trumps…well, pretty much everyone else it seems.
And for those good, decent men who do not speak or act this way, and might attempt to intervene to express their disapproval when other men begin the verbal sparring and the cock fight? I know you pay a price for “not being a good sport,” for “not being one of the guys,” for being — I bet you have heard this a few times — a “wimp” who has been “pussywhipped.”
The take away from all of this? Power and privilege do not cede of their own accord. Make some noise. Get out and vote.