Dear Confused Male Friend,
You’ve been in my life for over a decade and I have always valued our friendship. I genuinely love and care about you, which is why I attempt to ensure that we don’t drift apart by hitting you with the occasional phone call. But, our conversation this past weekend left me feeling bewildered, hurt and upset, so much so that I am now forced to reevaluate your presence in my life.
Allow me to explain. As we caught up on the phone last Saturday, our conversation turned to politics. It was a risky turn, but you’d asked what I’d been up to and I decided to share that I had jumped on board the Biden train because I was terrified of Trump being re-elected. You told me that even though you don’t support him, you didn’t understand why people like myself are legitimately afraid of the possibility of Trump serving a second term. So, I attempted to explain my feelings, citing what I consider to be some of Trump’s most egregious acts (immigrant detention camps, his relationships with Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un, the photo op at St. John’s Church, there are so many to choose from!).
But, then I decided to speak from the heart. I told you that my fear began on election night in 2016, before I even knew how bad things would actually get. I told you that I cried that night and remained in a state of devastation for days afterward. This is when you laughed and said you just didn’t “get it.” So, I took a deep breath and explained that the root of my anguish stemmed from Trump’s being elected even after the 2005 tapes were released where he bragged that his stardom allowed him to do anything he wanted to women, even “grab ‘em by the pussy.” It was at this point in our conversation when things really took a turn for me.
“C’mon Deidre,” you said in a way that made me think you might actually follow up with, “Don’t be so sensitive.”
“What?” I said, feeling totally thrown. “What Trump said is disgusting. I certainly don’t know any men who speak that way about women.”
“Uhh… yeah you do,” you replied.
“Sure you do,” you said. “We all talk that way.”
This is when I began to feel lightheaded and like I had just been punched in the gut.
“Especially in the comedy world,” you continued. “I mean, yeah… that’s just how guys talk!”
Stunned, I tried my best to keep moving forward in the conversation, not fully understanding what was happening in the moment.
“Ok, but Trump isn’t a comedian,” I rationalized. “He’s the President of the United States!”
“But, he’s also an entertainer,” you quickly retorted.
I’m not sure exactly what was said after that because I was in a state of shock. I just wanted to rewind and go back to the part of the conversation before you seemingly defended the businessman/entertainer-turned-President’s proud declaration that he grabs women however and wherever he wants because of his celebrity status. I wanted to go back and live forever in the moment before you told me that all men, including you, speak “that way” about women.
In reflecting on our conversation I’ve realized that I may have sounded a bit naive when I claimed not to know any men who talk like that. What I meant to say is that I don’t willingly associate with men who speak that way about women. That includes you. Do I think that some men still, even today, think and talk like Trump did on that tape? Sure. I just didn’t realize that you were one of them.
Your admission to speaking about women in degrading and foul terms legitimately surprises me. I’ve known you a long time and I generally feel that you’ve treated me with a great deal of respect. But, having met you at a time when you were heavily involved in the world of comedy, I also know you to be someone who likes to say things for shock value. And I pray to the universe that maybe what you actually meant by “we all talk that way” is something more akin to the presumption that all men are capable of verbally objectifying women in vulgar terms when talking amongst themselves in locker rooms, or in your case green rooms.
While even that scenario still leaves me with an unpleasant taste in my mouth that I can only describe as an accidentally-inhaled mouthful of vapor from whatever heavily-applied cologne I assume Trump dumps on himself every morning, I can’t help but wonder if you somehow slept through the #MeToo movement and are not aware that our society has recently adopted a new standard of behavior for men with regards to women. I must also point out that there is a notable distinction between statements like “Wow, that chick’s hot, I’d really like to put my hands on her body in a sexual way” and the President’s words: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything.” The difference is that only the latter statement actually condones sexual assault.
Look, I’m not trying to shame you here. I’m simply trying to give you some insight to how your words have made me feel. And I’m taking the time to do so because I care and I hope that you do too. What I didn’t tell you during our phone call was that on November 8, 2016 my world fell apart. By electing a man to the highest office who actually bragged about being able to get away with sexual assault and has been accused by dozens of women of doing so, I was forced to see for the first time in my privileged existence that I do not hold the same value as my male counterparts in our society. It was the day that the illusion of the America I had bought into for my whole life finally dissipated and I was faced with the reality that I live in a society that is inherently misogynistic (and racist). I now know that my ignorance prior to this moment was my privilege as a white cisgendered woman. And this year has taught me how much more I still have to learn about what harm I have unknowingly caused to BIPOC, particularly women of color. But, on election day, I was just starting to become enlightened. And I was horrified.
Our recent phone call has unfortunately left me feeling horrified once more. That you would seemingly take pleasure in laughing and speaking to me in such a patronizing way about something I told you had previously been a source of pain for me was downright mean of you. And the possibility of what you actually meant with your words disturbs me. But, I will not allow this to devalue me the way I did when Trump was elected. Instead, I see that you are now the one who is faced with a problem. What once was acceptable is becoming less and less so. It’s up to you to decide if you’re willing to learn and grow from this. If so, my door is still open to you. But, if you stand by your words from our phone call after reading this and don’t see what I’ve tried my best to articulate in a caring and honest way, then I wish you luck. But, I’m afraid you’re no longer a friend of mine.