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Guest opinion: Trump and white male privilege

Sarah Hess

Sarah Hess

I am deeply saddened by the recent comments and revelations regarding Donald Trump. His biases toward women and his actions are all too common and are an outcome of being a privileged white male in a patriarchal society. Yes, his actions are extreme and he is more willing to be public about them, but I believe his comments reflect a dark undercurrent that is still very much a part of our society.

Patriarchy has been around so long it can seem like “it is just the way it is,” but truly, it is just a set of ideas and beliefs that were adopted a long time ago. Though we have moved beyond many of the more extreme tenets, many are still impacting our society today.

I have struggled since I was a young girl to understand the discrimination that I have experienced and witnessed. It has never made sense to me why half of the world’s population is treated differently. This discrimination can be subtle or blatantly misogynistic. Either way, there are constant reminders that trouble me deep in my soul.

I am troubled that for women, home is statistically the most dangerous place to be. One in three women are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner.

I am troubled that professional athletes are still allowed to play and are often still honored after incidents of domestic violence or sexual assault.

I am troubled that women still earn only 80 percent of what men earn.

I am troubled that more than 80 percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat.

I am troubled that women are still not allowed to be religious leaders in many churches.

I am troubled that football, one of the most popular sports in the U.S., is almost exclusively played by men with women relegated to the sidelines, wearing revealing costumes and cheering on the male players.

I am troubled that there are still beauty pageants, and I am distraught that the fastest-growing segment of the pageant market is girls ages 6 months to 16 years of age, an estimated 3 million children. These little girls are often heavily made-up, dressed in high heels and taught to dance and pose provocatively.

I am troubled by the recent cases of college-age men who have been convicted of raping an unconscious woman and given minimal or no jail time. I am troubled by the judges who believed that disrupting these young rapists’ lives with jail would be harmful to their futures.

I am troubled when I think about children in Sunday school learning about God, Jesus, the disciples … all stories about men. Where are the women in our religious education?

I am troubled that so many mainstream movies have scenes of rape and that a traumatic assault is often used as a plot device simply as a way to increase the “excitement” factor. Using rape scenes in entertainment desensitizes the watcher to the impact of rape and traumatizes survivors. Often these scenes reinforce victim shaming and rarely show the rapist receiving any consequences for the assault.

I am troubled that one in four women will be raped in her lifetime, that most rapes go unreported and, even if reported, they are seldom prosecuted.

I am troubled that most sexual assault prevention programs focus on how women can avoid being raped instead of training men on how to stop raping.

I am troubled that it is often women who are left to deal with an unplanned pregnancy and yet some politicians are trying hard to limit women’s access to family planning and reproductive freedom.

I am troubled that usually when Jane Doe marries John Smith, she becomes Mrs. John Smith.

I am troubled by the images we see of women in media. Women’s bodies are objectified, sexualized and used to sell just about everything. Most of these images are Photoshopped and contribute to women’s poor body image.

I am troubled that women who are breastfeeding babies in public are still often asked to do it in private.

I am troubled by the fashions that women buy into. Women’s clothes often have nothing to do with comfort or practicality. I am reminded of an old Chinese practice when I see women hobbling in heels so high they can barely walk without someone’s arm to provide stability.

I am troubled that when I read a children’s book to my grandkids most of the main characters, whether human or animal, are male.

I am troubled that more than 60 women came forward and accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault and he is still a free man.

I know, I seem very troubled, but I think there is much to be troubled by. Let me close by saying I am also hopeful. Change can only happen when we bring these things into the light. We can move beyond the limitations of patriarchy and create a new order, one in which all “people” are created and treated equal.

Sarah Hess has lived in Glenwood Springs for 36 years. She was a family counselor for 20 years and is currently savoring retirement. She has been joyfully married for 32 years and is the proud mother of two adult children and will soon welcome her third grandchild.