It seems as though every time I turn on the television, look at my phone, or open my laptop, I find yet another story about a woman, a young woman, or child who has been sexually harassed or assaulted at the hands of an adult. This week, unfortunately, was no different, as I awoke to find news reports about Donald Trump's comments about a 10-year-old girl in a 1992 interview. In the footage, Trump addresses a room filled with young girls for an Entertainment Tonight Christmas feature and in the video, he's heard saying that he would be dating one of them in 10 years. According to the footage, he asks one of the young girls if she's going up the escalator, and when she replies yes, he turns toward the camera and says: "I am going to be dating her in 10 years. Can you believe it?" I read headline after headline recounting the story and all I could think is, What if Donald Trump said this about my daughter? What if he said this to my little girl?
Women and girls are sexually harassed and discriminated against daily. According to statistics published by The National Center for Victims of Crime, one in five girls will be the victim of sexual assault. Misogyny is so deeply ingrained in our society that we've been conditioned to just shake our heads and brush comments like this aside. For generations, men and women have been taught that "boys will be boys," as if this alone was a valid excuse for problematic behaviors. Though not every sexual assailant is a man, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center found in 2004 that men are more likely to commit sexual assault where sexual violence goes unpunished, and a study by Greenfeld in 1997 found that nearly 99 percent of sex offenders in single-victim incidents were male, and six in 10 of those men were white. I have a son, and at 16, even he understands that talking about women or even men in this way is never OK.
My daughter may be 13 years old, but in many ways, she's still a child. She likes hanging out with her friends, listening to music, and spending time with her family. Her life is simple, uncomplicated, and fun. Her biggest worry is making good grades.
As the mom of a now-13-year-old daughter, I want to remind Trump of this: You're not a boy. You're an adult. You were an adult 24 years ago when you looked at a room full of children and reduced them to a future dating pool. You've been an adult since 1964, before I, a woman approaching middle age, was even born. As someone attempting to become the leader of our country, you should know better, think better, be better than the kind of person who sexualizes a child.
My daughter may be 13 years old, but in many ways, she's still a child. She likes hanging out with her friends, listening to music, and spending time with her family. Her life is simple, uncomplicated, and fun. Her biggest worry is making good grades. Yet, sadly, she's already had to deal with a few wandering eyes from men old enough to be her father and grandfather. I want my daughter to enjoy the remainder of her childhood without being dragged into age-inappropriate thoughts of sex, sexuality, and body image. I want the same for all of our country's children, and I need to know that whoever holds the presidency feels the same way.
By looking at this young girl and near-bragging that he was going to date her in 10 years, Trump boiled her worth down to that of a sexual object. She was no longer a young person who could grow up to do great things and change the world. She was a girl who may or may not be good-looking enough in the next decade to merit a spot hanging from his arm.
Often I wonder what our opponents would catch us saying or doing if every single one of us ran for a public office as important as the presidency? Would people vote for my former neighbor who, at 70 years old, would sit in his second-story window looking over our fence whenever my daughter was in our pool? What if he was qualified in every other way other than the fact that he was potentially a child predator? Would people be willing to look past that, so long as he was willing to "make America great again"?
As a voter and a mother, I can't. I won't teach my children that what they say or do doesn't really matter as long as they have enough money or power, or a loud enough voice to tell others that they're wrong. I refuse to believe that the old boy's club mentality truly eclipses the gravity of a middle-aged adult referring to a prepubescent child as a prospective love interest. By looking at this young girl and near-bragging that he was going to date her in 10 years, Trump boiled her worth down to that of a sexual object. She was no longer a young person who could grow up to do great things and change the world. She was a girl who may or may not be good-looking enough in the next decade to merit a spot hanging from his arm.
So much needs to change in our society that it feels simply overwhelming at times. Where do we even begin?
Let's start by refusing to sweep inappropriate and sexist comments under the rug anymore. They're not OK. They've never been OK. It isn't "locker-room banter"; it's flat-out gross. Let's teach our children to be respectful of everyone no matter their gender, race, sexual orientation, or economic status. Let's practice boundaries and teach them to our children. Let's educate our children that they can't touch a person without his or her consent and that they do not ever have the right to barge into someone's personal space because of their gender or sexuality. Let's teach them value and that a person's worth isn't rooted in their looks or weight or physical capabilities, but on the goodness of their character.
In so many ways, the work we need to do is not about our political system, our candidates, or our liberalism or conservatism. It's about human dignity. It's about the right our children have to continue being children instead of being ogled by grown adults who should be fixing their own inadequacies before attempting to take on those of our country.