Have you ever felt “put on the spot” because of your gender or ethnicity?... remarks that a person is not truly “American” because of how they look or that an Asian woman must certainly be docile and subservient - based on tired, stereotypical images fed by the media...
This “Politically Correct Crap”
Make America Great Again.
That is the motto of the current Republican presidential candidate frontrunner. Awesome. Sounds great!
“Nobody’s going to mess with this country. We’re going to become great again”
Donald Trump, May 19th, 2015
And all this politically correct crap? It's ruining our country, for crying out loud! Just say what's on your mind!
“I know where she went. It's disgusting, I don't want to talk about it. Got it. A woman using the toilet is disgusting; a man whizzing in a urinal is not”.
Donald Trump, December 21st, 2015
Heh heh heh!
Just a crude remark about the female presidential frontrunner in the other party, right? Politics is dirty anyway, especially during an election year! Let it roll off!
Say what you want! We live in a free country; censorship stinks. It's suffocating!
I do not have the background or the expertise to properly analyze or critique the vast history of political correctness – or lack thereof, but I sure as heck know what it feels like when sexist or racist comments are made, whether or not directed at me, for political gain or otherwise.
Like the following remarks (in italics), said countless times to me over the decades:
“Do you serve your husband, do everything for him?”
[What?! Because I'm Asian you are asking this? What century are you living in?! My spouse wants an independent-minded woman for a partner, not a freakin' slave so he can pat her pretty little head and tell her not to worry about anything, thank you very much!]
“Ching chong chee....”
[What the hell are you saying? I don't understand you! I speak English only. Pfft!]
And my number one favorite:
“Where are you from?” [California] “No, where are you really from?” [*big sigh* From a galaxy far, far away!]
What it Feels Like
What does it feel like to have stupid sexist or racist remarks directed at you, you ask?
This is how it feels: targeted. Insulted. Disrespected and disregarded. Put on guard from unfounded suspicion and resentment. It's as if you are suddenly in the glare of stadium lights, except in most cases, just in the concentrated, wary eyes of a single inquisitor. You get the feeling that the validity of your personhood is in question.
Because I'm a woman. Because of how I look, my ethnicity.
Have you ever felt “put on the spot” because of your gender or ethnicity? If so, you can probably relate to that on-the-edge feeling that might also be accompanied with irritation and equal suspicion of the person asking you certain questions.
Even the most innocuous remarks from the friendliest strangers have a tinge of a distrustful tone to them:
“Your name is Jennifer? I thought you'd have a name like...like...”
[Like a name you can't pronounce?!]
And that's just the tip of the iceberg!
These sorts of remarks convey an attitude of you-don't-belong-here or you-can't-possibly-be-from-here. That a person is not truly “American” because of how they look or that an Asian woman must certainly be docile and subservient and won't stir the pot based on tired, stereotypical images fed by the media, or chance encounters with strangers whom they do not know at all.
Never mind that my family has been born, raised, and lived on US soil since the 19th century!
I am still bewildered when (hopefully, well-meaning) strangers ask me very racist or sexist questions and make stereotypical comments in this 21st century of ours. It is hurtful, though I believe I am getting better at responding not so much with an emotional knee-jerk answer but with a question to challenge them.
That's not to say I AM sorely tempted to respond with a comment dripping with sarcasm! [Were you sleeping in history class? No, I'm not fresh off the boat, freshly arrived here. Etc., etc!]
And I cannot completely attribute this to my having lived in the sticks – in a rural area for the last 21 years; I've gotten comments of all kinds over the years– far more demeaning and obscene that aren't worth mentioning here, even when living in, working in, and visiting big, multi-cultural metropolitian cities like San Francisco and New York.
I consider myself a sensitive person – maybe ultra sensitive sometimes; because I've experienced rude and crude comments from others, I cringe when other people – particularly women and minorities, experience nasty remarks.
Even when public figures with whom I may not necessarily agree experience sexist or racist comments, it makes me mad; they do not deserve it at all.
Guidelines for the World to Follow?
When a presidential candidate declares he wants to make America great again spouts crude remarks about women pissing or menstruating when they feel they've been challenged, what is half of humanity to expect?
Or loosely categorizes a whole group of people (yes, women and children, too) as thieves, rapists, or terrorists?
THAT's what makes America great?
To be the exceptional asshole of the world?!
To treat women with disrespect, especially any woman who might disagree with what you say? If a presidential candidate is challenged by a female journalist, she is then considered disrespectful toward him...and of course menstruating?
"You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her — wherever."
Donald Trump, on co-host Megyn Kelly, after the first Republican Presidential debate
That's the guideline for the rest of the world to follow? A leading public figure and presidential hopeful flippantly makes a misogynistic comment and we're supposed to laugh and shrug it off?
[Especially if his supporters remain silent on the issue, which to my mind means they agree with him.]
Take Senator Ted Cruz's alleged attempt at humor during a debate during his university years when he proposed a method to detect infidelity wherein God should
“give women a hymen that grows back every time she has intercourse with a different guy, because that will be a ‘visible sign’ of the breach of trust.”
Creepy, youthful humor, that's all!
Indeed, the senator's spokesman, according to the The New York Times, told the newspaper via email that campus recollection stories should be taken with a grain of salt.
To be fair, on the other side, Senator Bernie Sanders became well-known earlier last year for a 1972 article in which he wrote that
“A woman enjoys intercourse with her man – as she fantasizes being raped by three men simultaneously.”
He thankfully recanted that!
You may ask: Why bring up the past?! Bernie has repeatedly said let's move on:
“That we worry what I wrote 40 or 50 years ago, to the degree they become significant in the campaign, that’s just sad.”
Okay. Youthful fantasies aside, I think it is instructive to remember that whoever is running for president of the US is fair game for digging into one's past and trying to find out some measure of the content of their character, whose decisions will affect you directly or indirectly.
You can take their past crude comments with a grain of salt – that's history, right?
Just laugh it off and chalk it up to immaturity!
But for myself, it really does not matter which party a candidate professes allegiance to; I am not aligned with either major party. What is truly important is how she or he regards the female half of humanity, people who don't look like himself or herself or share their religious beliefs, those who profess a non-heterosexual orientation, as well as those who do not share their socio-economic status because that will be reflected in how they will lead the country.
Their pasts are relevant as an indicator of whether they've changed, evolved, or grown more entrenched in their ideologies.
One can only hope they genuinely believe in their recantations of cringeworthy statements made in earlier years, such as when it was revealed over the summer that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said during the 90s:
“People who are physically and mentally able to work […] should be able to get their life together and find a husband, find a job, find other alternatives in terms of private charity or a combination of all three.”
to which he recanted that he is not “in favor of shaming women” and that single mothers “do it heroically.”
You are Fair Game, Candidates
Hey there, presidential candidates! You are fair game for the public. You are shouting out to the world we need to make America great again!
You want us to be the leader of the world so others may follow our example of –-- [fill in the blank]?
I think that speaking freely involves some level of responsibility, especially if you want to be the president of the USA and you spend your campaign time shouting out about how America needs to be exceptional (again).
I'm not even going to get into being exceptional with military exceptionalism and the utter horror we inflict on others while our “leaders” have simultaneously talked of God and love and love for life over many generations. That's already well-documented.
I am just speaking of (and picking on) those who proclaim they will “make America great” again because I believe it is a tall order to do so when their discourse seems to be of exceptionally low quality regarding women, minorities, immigrants, and refugees – and their lived experiences and choices.
On accepting Syrian refugees
Comparing the risk of accepting Syrian refugees to having a “rabid dog” in your neighborhood:
“If there's a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you're probably not going to assume something good about that dog. And you're probably going to put your children out of the way. That doesn't mean that you hate all dogs. … We have to have in place screening mechanisms that allow us to determine who the mad dogs are.”
Dr. Ben Carson, November 19th, 2015
On Black Lives Matter
“Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”
[At a rally for Donald Trump in Birmingham, Ala., on November 21, 2015, several attendees reportedly assaulted a Black Lives Matter demonstrator after Trump asked for him to be removed. Video from the event and witness accounts suggest the man was kicked, punched and choked.]
Donald Trump, November 22nd, 2015
On women's healh and abortion
“Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America. Look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom, you put 50 cents in and voila. So, yes, anyone who wants contraceptives can access them.”
Senator Ted Cruz, November 30th, 2015
“I just think you've created an industry now - a situation where very much, you've created an incentive for people not just to look forward to having more abortions, but being able to sell that fetal tissue - these centers - for purposes of making a profit off it, as you've seen in some of these Planned Parenthood affiliates.”
Senator Marco Rubio, September 21st, 2015
On immigrants entering illegally
“If there’s abuse, if people are bringing — pregnant women are coming in to have babies simply because they can do it, then there ought to be greater enforcement. That’s [the] legitimate side of this. Better enforcement so that you don’t have these, you know, ‘anchor babies’, as they’re described, coming into the country."
Former governor Jeb Bush, August 19th, 2015
When asked if he regretted using the term anchor babies:
"No, do you have a better term? OK, you give me, you give me a better term and I'll use it. I'm serious."
Jeb Bush, August 20th, 2015
“What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed where there is organized efforts — and frankly it’s more related to Asian people — coming into our country, having children in that organized effort, taking advantage of a noble concept, which is birthright citizenship.”
Jeb Bush, August 24th 2015
I shudder to think how women, minorities, immigrants, and refugees will be treated if a future leader of our country is so blatantly disrespectful of others. I don't think that makes for great leadership. (It might make for a good dictatorship, though).
The comments above only serve to further generate ignorance, fear, and hate.
Is that really a model for the rest of the world to respect and aspire to?
Rise Above the Hate!
2016 presidential candidates, I'm watching you! Awesome if you can help solve many of our most pressing issues and make America great, but for goodness sake, stop shlonging:
- Immigrants who are here legally and illegally
- Refugees fleeing the unimaginable horrors of war
- The LGBT community
- Journalists - particularly journalists who may be female, who may be from a non-English media outlet, or who may be disabled, who challenge you; you are accountable to the public!
- Public figures who have the decency and humanity to apologize when they recognize they have been insensitive toward others and who make efforts to keep an open mind by listening and learning from others through discussion.
Schlong. Beat. F--k. Mess with...take your pick. You get the picture?
Rise above the hate instead of promoting and perpetuating hate by brushing it off or denying it. Call out despicable actions done in your honor!
You can do that much, can't you?
- Alternet: Trump's Outrageous Attack on the Female Body Really Reveals a Widespread Contempt for Women in American Culture
- Before It's News
- Chicago Tribune
- Washington Post
- The Daily Telegraph
- Hello Flo
- New York Times – Ted Cruz
- New York Times – Bernie Sanders
- Ballotpedia – on ISIS and Syrian refugees
- Ballotpedia – on the Black Lives Matter Movement
- Ballotpedia – on abortion
- Ballotpedia – on immigration
- Scientific American
- Urban Dictionary
- Think Progress
- Raw Story
- Business Insider Indonesia
Disclaimer: Views here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent an official standpoint of Safe World for Women, as an organisation.