Just last week I wrote an open letter to Elhamy Agina, the Egyptian MP who suggested that Egyptian female university students be forced to undergo a virginity test before they enrol, telling him to keep his ‘hands off our hymens’.
And now, I find myself writing a similar piece in response to another politician, Donald Trump no less, telling him to keep his hands off our p*ssies. And t*ts. And every other part of our bodies too.
(While it gives me no pleasure to use such derogatory language while describing the female anatomy, it is important to call out such distasteful and offensive language for what it is: unacceptable)
The arena of politics, regardless of which country or continent you find yourself on, is notoriously difficult for women at the best of times. However, when you have men such as Agina or Trump using certain platforms to express their misogynistic views, they are creating a world with greater gender inequality and discrimination, which impacts every single one of us.
Both men share a responsibility to their followers and others. After all, one is an elected official and a sitting MP for a prominent party in Egypt. The other, a billionaire with a celebrity status to match, is currently campaigning to be elected as the 45th President of the United States. They have followers, people who look up to them and many who also try to emulate them.
It would seem that Trump’s celebrity status has truly given him a ‘God’ complex; that he is entitled to do whatever, and most worryingly, whoever he wants. I dread to think of the subliminal messages being sent to other men.
My brother, until last year, can only be described as a Trump superfan. He watched The Apprentice religiously, bought his books, collected article on him. It has been a painful year or so watching him slowly see the true Trump emerge from the public persona. Although to be fair to Trump, he never even tried to hide his particular prehistoric attitudes to women. He would regularly appear on Howard Stern’s radio show and discuss women and their bodies. He not only revelled in reducing women to sex objects, but did not mind if others did the same, even if the subject of such objectifying was his own daughter, Ivanka. In 2004, Trump agreed with Stern that Ivanka was ‘a piece of ass’ and in 2006, he claimed that she had ‘always been quite voluptuous’.
The two male politicians may be from two continents separated by vast distance and cultural millennia but their attitudes towards women happen to be eerily identical. (Trump may actually find it offensive to be compared to and found near identical in thinking with a Muslim!) Both men’s behaviour and psyche betray a deep rooted sense of entitlement, opening expressing offensive and unacceptable views on women and their bodies.
In some of the most excruciating footage I have yet to see of the 2016 US elections, Trump states ‘You can do anything. Grab them by the p*ssy. You can do anything’. In other words, women should allow themselves to be violated and groped especially when they are in the presence of a star such as him. No consent needed. Claims of sexual assault have followed Trump around for many years. It does not now seem to be outside the realm of possibility for some of these claims to contain a grain of truth.
According to Agina, not only should female Egyptian university students allow themselves to be inspected to mandatory vaginal inspections to ensure their hymens are indeed intact but also, only a few months ago, claimed that all young girls submit to the barbaric practice of Female Genital Mutilation. FGM, for those who still reside in blissful ignorance, happens when a young girl’s clitoris and often parts of her labia too, are sliced off and then stitched up. This practice is encouraged to ensure that young girls could not fall prey to their raging and out of control natural urges and thereby jump on and sexually assault members of the unsuspecting male population in the countries that carry out such horrific practices. Agina claimed that his fellow countrymen were sexually weak, and that mutilating and sewing up the private parts of young girls was the only way to stop them from giving into their selfish sexual urges, conveniently placing blame squarely at the feet, and vaginas, of the victims.
In the aforementioned footage, Trump boasts of his fondness of kissing any woman he wants to and not needing to even seek consent. He believed that women who allowed him his little transgression of thrusting his slimy tongue down their throats were overawed by his status as a star. How can women around the world ever feel safe with politicians like Trump or Agina around?
In 2012, a British politician made comments around rape, claiming that it was not necessary to “seek consent prior to each new insertion”. I was unfortunate to have been in the position of a parliamentary aide to him at the same time and witnessed how his followers tried to silence critics of his comments using thuggery, harassment and intimidation. Suddenly, misogynistic comments about women’s bodies became normal in social gatherings. A member of the Respect Party decided to moon at me and a number of other women. Every day talk in the constituency office became more vulgar and sexualised; at one point when I objected to the use of the word ‘penis’ being shouted out by a senior partner at the law firm that had funded the party, I was told to either ‘shut up or suck on it’.
The comments made by the British politician were used by his followers to validate their own attitudes to women, and in some instances, encouraged his male supporters to behave more aggressively towards women.
Trump has given his opponent Hilary Clinton plenty of ammunition throughout the election campaign. Trump said of US journalist Megyn Kelly, who acted as a moderater during a presidential debate on Fox in 2015, ‘that she had blood coming out of her wherever’. It is widely believed that the blood he was referring to was menstrual blood. Rosie O’Donnell was branded a “a big fat pig” and Bette Midler was labelled as “ugly”. In my opinion, being unattractive may actually be a blessing if you are unlucky to happen to be in the same orbit as this misogynistic dinosaur.
Trump’s apology when his latest comments came to light simply does not cut the mustard. You cannot express such outdated views in a vacuum. His attitudes towards women have been formed over decades and will not change overnight. Trump is right now battling to save his credibility as a viable candidate in the US elections. He will say and do anything and everything to save his thatch, including, many suspect, sell his own mother down the river.
Similarly, Agina’s backtracking following the inevitable international outcry may have eased the pressure a little off the female Egyptian students who are seeking an advanced education, but there is no real incentive for men like him or Trump to ever change or treat women as equals, let alone as superiors. Women will always be viewed as commodities, as objects without sense of purpose other than to do the bidding of men.
Fighting against the objectifying of women and treating women as chattels of men has long been the bedrock of feminism in the West and beyond. Yet now it seems, as we near the third decade of the new millennia, the work on changing male mind-sets on how women are to be viewed and treated seems to be further than ever from being achieved. In Egypt, and other sharia law based countries, the sexist attitudes of men are no longer being tolerated; activists and human rights campaigners, with the help of sympathetic social media platforms, are calling out those who make outrageous demands on women and their bodies, although this is still a slow, painful process. Similarly, Trump is being forced to confront his long held, deeply unpleasant behaviour and attitudes towards women; his wealth and celebrity status no longer guaranteeing him a blanket pass anymore.
The Republican Party now need to step in now and take decisive action against allowing this sorry excuse of a sexual predator and bully from continuing as the party’s candidate in the US elections. If Donald Trump is elected in November 2016 as the next POTUS, we are facing a catastrophe. If a man with views as vile as Trump can win the most powerful position in the world, how can any of us feel safe?