Respect for Women: Where Are Our Role Models?
When President Trump and Melania Trump visited France this July, President Trump’s first action was to look First Lady of France Brigitte Macron up and down and pronounce her to be “fit.” Trump said to her, “You’re in such good shape.” He then turned to the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, and said, “She’s in such good physical shape. Beautiful.” Clearly uncomfortable, Brigitte Macron grabbed Melania’s arm and stepped back away from Trump. This incident was broadcast live around the world.
What message does it send when the American President treats the First Lady of France like a sex object?
This public example of sexist behavior—disrespectful treatment of women as sex objects—is what keeps the “bro culture” in place in the workplace and in society. Author Dan Lyons of the New York Times, writing about the cultures of many technology startup companies, explains that, “Bro cos. become corporate frat houses, where employees are chosen like pledges, based on ‘culture fit.’ Women get hired, but they rarely get promoted and sometimes complain of being harassed. Minorities and older workers are excluded.” Author Áine Cain of Business Insider agrees that “the resulting ‘bro culture’ tends to prioritize young men over all other employees, creating an environment that’s ripe for toxic behaviors like excessive partying and systemic harassment of colleagues.” Bro culture exists in all sectors and industries in the United States, though, not just in tech startups. In another article, Sam Polk of the New York Times describes the bro culture in Wall Street firms that results in women being overlooked for a promotion, being ridiculed or ignored in meetings, and generally being treated disrespectfully.
There is a close connection between all of Trump’s anti-woman actions:
- His public displays of disrespect for women
- His proud comments about sexually assaulting women in the Access Hollywood tape
- His assault on women’s reproductive rights
- His executive orders to strip women, especially poor women, of access to health care by attempting to defund Planned Parenthood and weaken Title X
Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times writes, “Mr. Trump doesn’t care about women’s health or rights.” I agree. I would add that he does not respect women. Period.
As a role model to young men about how to treat women, he is a disaster. As a role model to all men about how to treat women, he is a disaster. We must all speak out, women and our male allies, to provide a different example and to challenge this one.