Add sexual harassment to the list of topics Donald Trump doesn’t understand too well. Both the Republican presidential nominee and his son Eric made appalling, victim-blaming comments in the past 24 hours when asked how they would feel if Ivanka Trump were sexually harassed at work.
Donald Trump said that if his daughter were ever sexually harassed at work, he hoped she would just switch jobs, or even careers. And Eric said Ivanka “wouldn’t allow herself” to be subjected to sexual harassment because she is a “strong, powerful woman.”
There have been no public reports of Ivanka being sexually harassed — the two Trump men were responding to a hypothetical question. But it’s dismaying that even if the victim were his own daughter or sister, neither man could bring himself to place blame on the actual person doing the harassing. Ivanka alone would shoulder the burden of dealing with the problem, or preventing it from happening in the first place.
Attitudes like these are common, which is why many women are reluctant to come forward and report harassment. But when it comes to Donald Trump specifically, they’re also one more example of the toxic way he treats women.
Donald Trump’s comments were related to the Roger Ailes controversy
It all started when Kirsten Powers of USA Today asked Donald Trump about the other appalling, victim-blaming comments he’s made about the more than 20 women, including former anchor Gretchen Carlson, who said they were sexually harassed by former Fox CEO Roger Ailes.
Trump said last month that he felt “very badly” for Ailes, but didn’t mention feeling badly for the women. He said Ailes has “helped” those women in their careers, and suggested that the women are lying because they wrote “wonderful things” about Ailes in books — until now, “all of a sudden,” they’re saying “horrible things.”
“There was quite a bit of fabulous things said [about Ailes by Gretchen Carlson],” Trump told Powers when she asked him about those other comments. “It would be easier for me and more politically correct for me to say you are right. But you would think she wouldn’t say those things.”
Powers pointed out that other women have come forward besides Carlson. Trump said he didn’t know that — which means he’s either lying or has a uniquely terrible memory, since he was talking about multiple women just over a week ago.
Powers pressed Trump. What if someone had treated Ivanka the way Ailes allegedly treated those women?
“I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case,” Trump said.
He didn’t say that the man who harassed Ivanka should be punished. He didn’t say that Ivanka should come forward or that people should listen to her. He said that Ivanka alone should take on the burden of quitting her job and looking for another one — and even looking for another career entirely. Even for someone with Ivanka’s wealth, talent, and privilege, that’s an overwhelmingly difficult, life-altering thing to ask.
Meanwhile, under Trump’s scenario, it seems the man who forced Ivanka out of her job, or her career, would go unpunished and be free to harass other women.
Eric Trump doubled down on his dad’s double-down
On CBS This Morning Tuesday, Eric Trump was asked about his father’s comments in USA Today. He replied that his sister Ivanka is a “strong, powerful woman,” and that she “wouldn’t allow herself to be subjected to that.”
In typical Trump word-salad fashion, it’s not totally clear what Eric Trump means by this. He mentioned taking complaints up with human resources; did he mean that Ivanka was “strong” enough to come forward and report it if she were harassed? Or did he mean that she was so “powerful” that she would somehow magically shut down harassment in the first place?
If it’s the former, Trump is off-base. About one in three women report being sexually harassed at work. There are a lot of very good reasons those women might be reluctant to report it, no matter how “strong” they are — fear of professional retaliation, fear of losing their job or career, or fear of the social stigma and victim-blaming that so often follows when women come forward.
And if it’s the latter, Trump is worse than off-base. He’s in Todd Akin territory, basically arguing that women somehow have the power to “shut that whole thing down” when it comes to sexual harassment.
As women who have experienced sexual harassment will tell you, that’s a ludicrous idea.
people tell me that i'm a "strong, powerful woman." being strong and powerful doesn't protect you from a customer slapping your ass— lindsay blackwell (@linguangst) August 2, 2016
Eric Trump's idea of harassment:— amber ruffin (@ambermruffin) August 2, 2016
Man: Sexy mama!
Woman: Stop sexually harassing me.
Man: You are right and I am bad. I will stop forever.
Work analog to "she doesn't drink and wear slut clothes so she'd never allow herself to be raped" https://t.co/XaxxL2CT6C— Tressie Mc (@tressiemcphd) August 2, 2016
Fittingly, Megyn Kelly — whose own sexual harassment allegations against Roger Ailes may have been the final straw forcing him to resign — weighed in with an elegant one-word reply to Eric Trump’s comments.
This kind of thing is a pattern for Donald Trump
Trump has, of course, also made scores of disgusting comments about women. Some women, including employees or contestants on shows he’s hosted, have described him behaving in creepy or sexually harassing ways toward them. In his books, Trump openly objectifies both women who work for him and women who don’t.
Trump has also made some incredibly creepy comments about Ivanka specifically, including remarking that she has a “very nice figure” and that he’d date her if she weren’t his daughter.
But as Dean Obeidallah pointed out at the Daily Beast, Trump also has a history of making victim-blaming remarks about women who accuse high-profile men of sexual misconduct. He said that Bill Clinton was “really a victim himself,” and called Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky “unattractive.” He blamed Mike Tyson’s victim Desiree Washington for having been “in [Tyson’s] hotel room late in the evening at her own will.”
“Donald Trump is a serial defender of men who have engaged in sexual misconduct and is a serial shamer of the female victims who have come forward,” Obeidallah wrote.
Both of these patterns of Trump’s — treating women like sex objects, and then blaming them when they are treated like sex objects against their will — go hand in hand. They are both signs of toxic, abusive misogyny.