The value of a woman

Audra Gamble

Over the weekend, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump landed in boiling hot water after a tape from 2005 was released, showing his vulgar comments about women.

Perhaps most egregiously, Trump said “when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy, you can do anything.”

The actions Trump describes in this statement are descriptions of sexual assault. While Trump and his supporters may call these statements the then-59-year-old made “locker room banter,” the presidential candidate received a great deal of backlash for what he said in the tape.

Trump’s own running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, said this: “As a husband and father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump in the 11-year-old video released yesterday. I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them.”

It wasn’t just Pence who reprimanded Trump for his actions, either. Many political leaders from both sides of the aisle criticized Trump’s language in the tape.

“These comments are repugnant, and unacceptable in any circumstance,” said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere, and take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape.”

And Trump’s former opponents were quick to criticize his words, too.

“As the grandfather of two precious girls, I find that no apology can excuse away Donald Trump’s reprehensible comments degrading women,” said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

It’s encouraging that in light of what Trump seems to think are casual mentions of sexual violence, men are sticking up for women and how women are talked about. Across the nation and across political lines, men in power made statements about how they support and stand by the grandmothers, mothers, aunts, nieces, daughters and granddaughters of America.

But here’s the thing. Women’s experiences with sexual violence should not be valued or validated based upon their relationship to men. Yes, women are mothers, they are sisters, they are daughters. And yes, all men have a mother or an aunt or some other strong female figure they look up to. But do you know why their stories of sexual assault and objectification matter? Because they’re human beings.

At the moment in the 2005 tape when Trump said he could grab women by their genitals and get away with it, it’s still unclear who, if anyone in particular, he was referring to. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter. Far too many women have real-life experiences that are too similar to Trump’s statement for comfort.

In fact, when prompted by bestselling author Kelly Oxford on Twitter, more than a million women shared their experiences with sexual violence, uniting with the hashtag #notokay.

All these women, and far more who are less public about their experiences, need to be heard. Their real-life encounters with rape and sexual violence are not something anyone should have to go through, and it’s certainly not something to be joked about in a locker room or anywhere else in existence. This kind of language is a clear perpetuation of rape culture.

Whether any American, male, female or otherwise, has a woman they respect in their life, Americans should not accept the crude and dangerous way Trump talks about women, about human beings.

As voters across the nation begin to cast their ballots for the next president of the U.S., it is imperative to remember these words Trump has spoken. This lack of respect for other people is not appropriate for a locker room or anywhere else, and it certainly isn’t appropriate for the Oval Office.