Hot mic: The power of words

christmas-soapLast summer I swore in front of my mom.

It wasn’t one of the lesser of the swear words, the ones that you can sort of explain away. No, this was the big one, the big grand-daddy of swear words.

It was road rage, I guess.

“I can’t fudging get over!” I shouted. Only I didn’t say fudging. The people in the other vehicle? They didn’t hear me, but my mother sure did.

There was that moment, that desperate, frantic moment where I tried to talk my way out of that slip. Could I say that I had said something else and she had misheard me? Could I pretend I didn’t say anything at all? Could I blame it on other people, those nonexistent, terrible people around me who also use that dirty language? Was there any way that I could blame it on my husband?

I looked over at her where she sat with quiet dignity.

“I’m really sorry I said that.” I didn’t have to say what “that” was. I swear I could still hear it echoing through the car.

“It’s okay,” she said quickly.

“No, it’s not,” I replied.

She waved it off, a quick forgiveness that I probably wouldn’t have gotten if I still had lived at home. She wasn’t above washing our mouths out with soap.

Words say something about who we are. People may hear me swear and make some assumptions about who I am as a person. I don’t like that my mom now knows that I use that language. I still cringe when I think about saying that word in front of her.

There is a reason we should watch what we say. Words have power and if we get in the habit of using certain words or to take it a bit further, expressing certain thoughts when we think no one can hear, they find ways of coming to the surface. Sometimes, they can reveal who we are in a way that can be damaging to how we want to be perceived.

There’s no better lesson for this than the lesson that Donald Trump is learning over the leaked hot-mic footage from 2005. It’s been three days since that has been leaked but it’s been everywhere. If you haven’t heard of it then I assume you live in a cave and then my question for you is do you have room for one more? Trump has since apologized, and talked about it in the debate where he told us once more how much respect he has for women. Yeah. Okay. There has also been an influx of posts where people have rushed to come to his defense. I’ve made a list of some of their points that I have seen. Let’s talk about those.

It’s just locker room talk.
I thought the expression, “Boys will be boys,” was bad. I mean, come on, is it such a terrible thing to make boys be accountable for their actions? Now, words of misogynistic men are just explained away with, “It’s locker room talk.” This is what most men will say when women aren’t present.

But, is it?

There is a subreddit called AskMen, and a redditor asked, How much truth is there that guys have lewd, vulgar “locker room talk” between themselves (a la Trump and Billy Bush)? The answers didn’t surprise me. One redditor said “I’ve lived in a lot of countries, and engaged in a lot of male-only conversations, and have never heard anyone say anything like this in my entire life. If anyone had, the reaction from the other men wouldn’t have been “slightly uncomfortable.” We’d have thrown him out on his ear.” Another redditor said, “I’ve played rugby in the macho bullshit culture of an Australian rugby club. Sometimes shit got really crude, but not once did anyone cross the line into discussing sexual assault, even in a joking manner.”

So, maybe this isn’t just locker room talk? Maybe, not all men talk like that? Maybe, and in my case I’ve found this to be true, men are so much better than what they are sometimes given credit for.

It’s just crude words.
cuxaw14waaadhfzLet’s just be clear about this, joking about sexual assault and admitting to it goes far beyond just using crude words. I personally don’t like the word pussy. It’s certainly not what I call my vagina, but I’m not offended by that particular word. What does offend me is someone talking about grabbing a pussy. The word grab is the problem, because that is assault. It’s not being overly sensitive to say that joking about this or basically admitting to doing it is disgusting. My being offended by this is not the product of a society that is too concerned with being politically correct. My being offended by a joke about sexual assault is the product of living in a country where every 109 seconds a person is sexually assaulted. Every eight minutes, a child is the victim. Have you ever been groped in public? Ask around. Have people you have known been groped in public? Ask them if they think that what Trump said was just crude words.

It was over ten years ago.
Yes, this was over ten years ago and maybe it would be something we could sort of shake our heads at, accept his apology and move on. Except, this is a man who has a history of saying awful things about women. There are articles, entirely too long, detailing all of the very public things that he says about women, essentially reducing us all to the shapes of our bodies and our only worth based on how we look. He has been making these comments for most of his adult life. I don’t have to go into all of them, do I? Do you want me to remind you that he called Megan Kelly a bimbo or that he said that Heidi Klum was fat (Heidi Klum!). Just last week, he talked about the former Miss Universe’s nonexistent sex tape. If you don’t know what I’m talking about or you think that I’m exaggerating, check out this and this and this. And let’s not forget those were things that he said in public, when he was supposed to be watching his mouth. The hot-mic clip gives us an idea of what he says in private.


For what it’s worth…

You read Fifty Shades of Grey.
Listen. I read all sorts of things. I don’t limit myself. I read Fifty Shades of Grey. I thought it was awful, but I read it. Does that mean that because I’ve read that book and that admittedly I’ve read other books that sometimes explore kink and the beautiful and strange world that is human sexuality that it means you can say or do whatever you want to me? Does that mean I’m not allowed to be offended when someone laughs about sexually assaulting someone? If I read a book about someone being murdered, does that mean that I’m now okay with murder? No. Obviously not.

He wasn’t running for president then.
So? Seriously. So? Does that mean that when he began his candidacy for president we should have wiped clean the slate, pretended that he didn’t say all of those racist and sexist things? That’s not how it works. He is running for president now and to be honest his candidacy hasn’t exactly slowed down the racist and misogynistic garbage coming out of his mouth.

Hillary Clinton/Bill Clinton/Rap Artists/Anyone else you can think have said or done worse.
I’m not interested in getting into an involved discussion about all of the other people who have said and done worse things. Pointing the finger at someone else doesn’t change what Trump has said or did. It’s irrelevant. We can talk about rape culture. We can talk about rap artists. We can talk about the Clintons, but it doesn’t change for one moment what Trump said or admitted to doing.

See, words are important. Trump’s words tell us more than anything else how he feels about women. We could also talk about how he feels about minorities because we all know he has had a lot to say about them as well, but I’m trying to stay focused here on just this one issue. Trump says terrible things in public, in speeches, on twitter, in interviews and then thinks we should all forgive him for what he thought he said in private. He wants to just sweep away the words with a half-hearted apology, but you can’t do that. I can’t unsay the f-word that I said in front of my mom. I can’t blame anybody else. Trump can’t unsay words just to get out of the consequences of them and he can’t lessen them by pointing the finger everywhere else.

It must be exhausting having to defend this. I almost feel sorry for the Trump supporters who are looking for the ways to make this okay, to minimize this. But, really, you don’t need to that. Do yourself a favor. Stop. Stop defending this. You don’t have to like Hillary Clinton. I don’t care who you vote for. (Well, I do, but I’m not going to get into that.) Vote for Trump, if you must. But, stop defending this behavior and these words.

If you’re okay with everything he says and does and how he feels about women, that’s fine. I’m not here to change you. But, I need you to know that you also are a misogynist. Own it. Write it on a t-shirt. Wear it as a sign around your neck. You cannot be okay with all of these things that he says and does and then shrink away from what that makes you.

A misogynist.

That’s a pretty powerful word, isn’t it?

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