Feminism in the Time of Trump // Melissa M. Ertl
Photo from Associated Press (AP)
Donald Trump has claimed that “nobody has more respect for women” than he does. However, his cabinet picks, in addition to his actions in his first few days in office, diametrically oppose his claim. It is nothing short of horrifying to read about the men in the Trump presidential cabinet who have been accused of engaging in intimate partner violence (Jeltsen, 2016). Trump himself has at least sixteen women who have accused him of sexual assault (Pearson, Vagianos, & Gray, 2016). What are the implications of having a president whose actions are, time and time again, consistent with sexism and misogyny (e.g., Cohen, 2017)?
Someone only needs to review a few examples of Mr. Trump’s vitriolic attacks on women that demonstrate the former point. In 1991, Trump called women “beautiful pieces of ass,” objectifying women and reducing them to a single body part rather than considering them as they truly are—complex humans with thoughts, ideas, and feelings. In 1992, in an interview with New York Magazine, Trump gave away his technique for working with women: “You have to treat ‘em like shit.” Furthermore, in 2011, Trump called breastfeeding “disgusting”; in essence, Donald Trump has no issue with women displaying their bodies in a sexual way for the pleasure of men, but when it is simply to care for their newborn children, it is somehow repulsive.
The above photo went viral on social media on January 23rd when Trump signed into effect the global gag rule that effectively prevents foreign aid for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that discuss abortion as a potential option for women’s reproductive health needs (Kahn, 2017). Surrounded exclusively by White men, Trump reinstated and expanded an executive order that will deny women access to safe abortions—and as a result, thousands of women will die across the world (Crockett, 2017). Although the global gag rule is intended to reduce access to abortion, it has been found to actually do the opposite: When George. W. Bush reinstated the rule, it reduced access to contraception and led to more unwanted pregnancies (Crockett, 2017), which women then chose to terminate. In other words, Trump’s executive order denies the right for millions of women to control their own bodies (i.e., denies their human rights), puts the lives of these vulnerable women at risk, and will have real global repercussions.
It should come as no surprise that women are rushing to Planned Parenthoods across the country to get intrauterine devices (IUDs) to prevent pregnancy (Cohen, 2017), since many fear that affordable contraceptive options will no longer be available to them in Trump’s America. In fact, the number of IUD appointments at Planned Parenthoods has increased 900% since the election (Amanpour, 2017). Planned Parenthood’s President, Cecile Richards, said that women “are desperately concerned that they might lose their access to health care” given Trump’s calls and actions to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Sanger-Katz, 2017) even before it is replaced with another method to procure life-sustaining health care.
But Tom Price, Mr. Trump’s cabinet pick to head the Health and Human Services Department, is somehow so out of touch with the reality of everyday Americans that he thinks affording birth control is something that all women are able to do with ease (and without the help of insurance). In 2012, when a reporter asked Tom Price how low-income women would afford their birth control copays without the no-cost contraceptives provision of the Affordable Care Act, Price replied, “Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There’s not one” (Khazan, 2016). It is clear that Tom Price paid no attention to statistics on the affordability of birth control before the Affordable Care Act—when approximately a third of women reported struggling to pay the cost, with copays ranging from $15 to $50 a month (Planned Parenthood, 2014). Although $600 per year may not be much to Tom Price, it can be part of a rent payment, two months of groceries, two car payments, or two weeks of childcare costs. This was a monetary burden placed solely on women, when contraception should be a concern for every person who is sexually active—not just women.
With Trump’s impending repeal of the Affordable Care Act, women in the US will revert to spending their hard-earned money on contraceptives; all the while, the gender wage gap ensures that men enjoy more money for the same work (AAUW, 2016). Women are not expected to reach pay equity until 2059 at the earliest (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2015), and this date stretches farther into the future when adjusted for race: For example, Black women will wait until 2124 for equal pay, and Latinas won’t reach pay equity until 2248—232 years from now—if trends in the last 30 years continue (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2016). In the meantime, women continue to be taxed on basic necessities of being women through paying taxes on feminine hygiene products, for example. On average, women in California pay about $7 per month for 40 years of tampons and sanitary napkins; statewide, this comes to over $20 million annually in taxes (Larimer, 2016).
Photo from Jeremy McLellan, @jeremymclellan
All around us, there are daily reminders that women do not have the societal benefits of men—that women’s position in society is lower due to the patriarchal structures of our society that perpetuate maleness as the standard. Martin Belam, a writer for the Guardian in London, captioned the photo of Mr. Trump signing the global gag rule with: “As long as you live you’ll never see a photograph of 7 women signing legislation about what men can do with their reproductive organs.” Other captions included, “If you’re wondering what patriarchy looks like: A group of white men watch as Trump reinstates the #GlobalGagRule” (Valenti, 2017), and “This group just made it more difficult for women to get access to health care worldwide. You tell me what’s wrong with this picture” (i.e., no women are a part of this decision; Harris, 2017). Above all, the above photo demonstrates that we will have to fight to ensure that women’s rights truly are treated as human rights in the US for the next four years. Despite the impending detrimental consequences for both women’s health and their rights in our country and across the globe, I know we are in good hands. The women’s march was the largest day of protests in US history (Broomfield, 2017), with approximately one in 100 Americans marching to advocate support for women, immigrants, refugees, Black lives, and the LGBTQIA community, among many others. Sister marches took place in 60 countries on seven continents (Wildman, 2017). Signs rang out: “The future is female,” “no more wire hangers,” and “America is Brown; America is queer; America is female; America is great.” Provided that the enthusiasm shown in the march translates to continued political activism, we can fight against the misogyny perpetuated by our lawmakers who prioritize controlling women’s bodies over the health and reproductive needs of women everywhere.
Written by: Melissa M. Ertl
AAUW. (2016). The simple truth about the gender pay gap. American Association of University Women. http://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/
Amanpour, C. (2017). Demand for IUDs reportedly surging with Trump. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2017/01/09/intv-amanpour-cecile-richards-planned-parenthood.cnn
Cohen, E. (2017). Women rush to get IUDs because of Trump. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/25/health/iuds-trump/index.html
Crockett, E. (2017). Trump reinstated the global gag rule. It won't stop abortion, but it will make it less safe. Vox. http://www.vox.com/identities/2017/1/23/14356582/trump-global-gag-rule-abortion
Institute for Women’s Policy Research. (2015). Pay equity and discrimination. Institute for Women’s Policy Research. http://www.iwpr.org/initiatives/pay-equity-and-discrimination
Institute for Women’s Policy Research. (2016). If current trends continue, Hispanic women will wait 232 years for equal pay; Black women will wait 108 years. Institute for Women’s Policy Research. http://www.iwpr.org/initiatives/pay-equity-and-discrimination
Jeltsen, M. (2016). Trump’s white house shaping up to be home for men accused of domestic abuse. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-administration-domestic-abuse_us_584b141de4b0bd9c3dfcd283
@JessicaValenti. (2017, January 23). Tweet text. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/JessicaValenti/status/823594304971173888
Kahn, M. (2017). President Trump just reinstated the "global gag rule," which will deny women all over the world access to abortion. Yahoo News. Retrieved from https://www.yahoo.com/style/president-trump-just-reinstated-global-180904183.html
@KamalaHarris. (2017, January 23). Tweet text. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/KamalaHarris/status/823639752314327040
Khazan, O. (2016). Tom Price: “Not one” woman struggled to afford birth control. The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/11/tom-price-not-one-woman-cant-afford-birth-control/509003/
Larimer, S. (2016). The ‘tampon tax,’ explained. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/01/08/the-tampon-tax-explained/?utm_term=.2b8f736a6dda
@MartinBelam. (2017, January 23). Tweet text. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/MartinBelam/status/823637000783798272
Planned Parenthood. (2014). Survey: Nearly three in four voters in America support fully covering prescription birth control. Planned Parenthood Federation of America. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/survey-nearly-three-four-voters-america-support-fully-covering-prescription-birth-control
Pearson, C., Vagianos, A., & Gray, E. (2016). A running list of the women who’ve accused Donald Trump of sexual assault. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/a-running-list-of-all-the-women-whove-accused-donald-trump-of-sexual-assault_us_57ffae1fe4b0162c043a7212
Sanger-Katz, M. (2017). What does Trump’s executive order against Obamacare actually do? New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/21/upshot/what-does-the-order-against-the-health-law-actually-do.html
Wildman, S. (2017). The women’s march has now reached as far as Antarctica. (Really). Vox. Retrieved from http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/1/20/14335430/womens-march-antarctica-seven-continents-60-countries