Nearly a month after International Women’s Day, and after looking back at President Donald Trump’s first year in the White House, it’s time to say thanks.
In January 2017 Trump was sworn into office as the 45th president of the United States after defeating Hillary Clinton in an aggressive and outrageous election campaign. During the campaign, Trump showed no hesitation to malign just about every group in the US population, including African Americans, whom he described as ignorant, poor and under-educated, Hispanics, Muslims, the disabled and even bereaved Gold Star families. What has become clear since is that this disturbing, unpresidential, misogynistic campaign was actually a gift, and I want to thank Trump for it.
Many people believe Trump was elected not because of an inspiring platform and a precisely-articulated campaign, but mainly due to the loathing voters felt toward the establishment and the old elites, which many surveys showed were well represented by Clinton. In other words, he was not an ideal candidate, but merely the lesser of two evils. The millions of people, including millions of women, who voted for him did so despite of who he was, not because of who he was.
Now, at the end of his first year as president, Trump and his people are recounting, again and again, his amazing achievements with regard to the economy, defense, foreign policy and energy. In his first State of the Nation address, he went as far as to say the “administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.”
But oddly enough Trump is not talking about his greatest achievement, the one that places him in the company of Moses, Lincoln and Churchill, and his actions on par with the Declaration of Independence, Reformation, the abolition of slavery and the technology revolution. Trump’s greatest achievement is the outcome of his violent behavior toward the most excluded population in the world – women – and the resulting social campaigns.
Even before his run for the presidency, Trump expressed himself in an aggressive manner toward women, viewing them as sexual objects and speaking of them in a humiliating and degrading way. His hot mic moment, in which he let people know where you can grab women “when you’re a star,” was especially memorable, as were his comments about the Gold Star mother who is a Muslim: “She probably – maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say.”
Trump’s attitude toward women, together with his abusive statements about minorities, would not have made such an impact were it not for the era in which we live. In the age of social media, our ability to connect, share opinions, feelings and frustrations has created a powerful movement. This is a movement in which people are no longer disconnected from one another; Trump’s election triggered a response uniting people around the US and the world.
Social networks and Trump’s rhetoric combined to create the perfect storm. We witnessed the greatest rage ever produced among the largest and most excluded group in history. The president propelled millions of women around the globe in hundreds of demonstrations throughout 30 countries and effectively started the women’s march movement (#WomanMarch).
Trump’s unrestrained personality, his harsh statements which reflect an important and traditional component in undermining women around the world, and his victory all became a powerful catalyst for millions to protest what he represents. The anger generated by his election became an incredible grassroots movement in which women pick up their heads and refuse to be degraded, humiliated or excluded. But Trump is only the trigger. The women were the engine, carrying others with them.
The protests began immediately upon his inauguration. The #Pussyhat women’s march and #SignedByTrump project signaled the direction things were headed. The subsequent #MeToo and #TimesUp movements convulsing the core of Hollywood’s industry are the latest, and most prominent, manifestations of this new era. The pro-women, anti-misogynistic movement is not fringe. Opinion-makers such as Oprah Winfrey and Sharon Stone are on board, and Harvey Weinstein and other prominent figures have been called out for their mistreatment of women. Power can no longer be an excuse or shield for abusive behavior.
This protest extended to the courageous revelations of Olympic gymnasts against the team physician who, under the establishment’s protection, sexually attacked and abused them. It also crossed oceans and cultural divides, reaching the Iranian bastion of discrimination against women, as witnessed in the hijab protest of brave Iranian women.
This movement emerged along with Trump’s election. It is the second side of the same coin, part of the historical tipping point for a change in power relations between men and women. This is President Trump’s greatest achievement.
While only one year into the process, we can already confidently say it will no longer be possible to treat women as sexual objects. It will no longer be possible to harm women and get away without paying a price. It will no longer be possible to treat women as an inferior and weaker sex and it will no longer be possible to expect women who receive a (real or metaphorical) slap in the face to lower their gaze. Trump’s victory has fueled a new era of women (and other minorities) equal in value, power and strength at least to that of men.
This past year was one in which humanity began a process crucial to its success. Populations which were, up to now, excluded and relegated to the margins are standing tall, staring straight ahead and saying: no more.
So, in an era like this, all that remains is to say: thank you, President Trump.
The author, a social-technology entrepreneur, is a partner at Tarya and started the #YouToo and #ManUp (Men Take Responsibility) protest campaigns.
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