Intr o duct i o n 3 the federal bench13 and three to the Supreme Court, including one, Brett Kavanaugh, who had himself been plausibly accused of sexual assault as a student. And he allied with members of Congress who aped his antics, like U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL), later reported to have shown fel- low lawmakers photos of naked women he had met at parties orchestrated by a county tax collector and to come under investigation beginning in 2020 for having sex with and trafficking a seventeen-year-old girl.14 Trump’s rhetoric was excused by some, at his own suggestion, as mere “locker-room talk”—something that guys supposedly engage in inno- cently in the normal course of things. The assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh was minimized and rationalized by some supporters as just a fumbled attempt by a normal high schooler to make out with a girl, or maybe something she had misremembered or made up from many years ago. As for Congressman Gaetz, those in his own party declined to hold him accountable, as they had done with the president before him.15 In the chapters that follow, we examine the principal events, actors, and paradigms in the politics and policy of sexual harassment and sexual assault, as epitomized by and advanced during Trump’s tenure as can- didate and president. While previous presidents and many lawmakers, including Bill Clinton and “lion of the Senate” Ted Kennedy (D-MA), had also engaged in sexual misconduct while in office, Trump seemed to be the most public and unapologetic about his behavior and rhetoric. “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?” he declared on the campaign trail early in 2016, bragging about his general ability to act with impunity.16 “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” he said, referring to his self-professed proclivity to kiss and grab women at will (his, not theirs).17 Our primary concern with a climate that tolerates and enables sex- ual harassment and assault and traffics in sexist rhetoric is that it ham- pers women’s full and equitable participation and treatment in the public sphere. This is particularly true when the majority of those “manning” the primary institutions of public power—the executive, judicial, and legisla- tive branches of government—are, as the word implies, men. Women are chronically underrepresented in positions of authority. Among elected officials and in academia, international organizations, the cybersecurity field, and film industry, women hold, at best, only between a quarter and a third of leadership positions only 16 percent of governors and 8 percent of CEOs are women, and the numbers for women of color
Previous Page Next Page