Storm’s A-Brewin: Stormi Daniels experience characterizes “new normal” within Trump administration

by Emma Claire Geitner

    Critics of President Trump hoped the Stormi Daniels 60 Minutes interview would be the last straw, finally rebuking his legitimacy and approval ratings to the point of no return. On the 435th day of the Trump Presidency, just shy of a week after the interview with Anderson Cooper aired on CNN, about 53.4% of Americans disapproved of the Trump Presidency while about 40.5% approved, constituting a rough idea of President Trump’s popularity. While the highly anticipated Stormi Daniels interview attracted 60 Minutes’ largest audience in decades, the ongoing popularity poll by FiveThirtyEight showed little to no fluctuation in the President’s approval ratings. The Stormi Daniels interview was a constant source of speculation regarding President Trump’s character, as well as her own, as snippets of the case reached the wider press. All of this was only confounded by the fact that the administration sought to have the episode completely curtailed. The conversation with Anderson Cooper aired as excitement reached a crescendo but a week later it seems, the storm has mostly blown over. Its aftermath is one that the Trump administration hopes to be of little consequence but has turned into a battle of the lawyers, with base threats and oddly a-legal jargon characterizing the continued discussions around the Stormi affair. 

    One of the major aspects of the pointed debate around Daniel’s credibility, which tangentially affects that of President Trump, is the question of her agenda. While both Daniels and her lawyer attempt to remain on top of the question, citing her own reputation as being slandered and her desire to control the conversation surrounding the affair as reasons for her decision to go public, hubris alone seems insufficient to share an affair that has the potential to invoke political ramifications and delegitimize an already teetering executive. 

    Daniels asserted, “I’m not a victim,” after stating her disdain that the “#MeToo” movement championed her for speaking out against President Trump, “This is not a 'Me Too.' I was not a victim. I've never said I was a victim. I think trying to use me to--to further someone else's agenda, does horrible damage to people who are true victims.” Her point is absolutely valid; false accusations of sexual assault damage true victims’ claims, but her account of the affair foregoes explicit consent; this alone seems reason to share her relationship, as it invokes concerns over President Trump’s character while also supporting the other women who have brought cases against the President to court. Daniels expresses that she was a complicit sexual partner, yet she, “honestly didn't say anything,” never orally confirming her agreement to become intimate; she felt that she, “had it coming for making a bad decision for going to someone's room alone and (she) just heard the voice in (her) head, "well, you put yourself in a bad situation and bad things happen, so you deserve this.” 

    Daniels’ interview shed light on the President’s character—his willingness to begin an affair weeks after his wife gave birth to a son, his ego that led him to initiate the relationship, and, perhaps most notably, his desire to silence and rebuke Daniels using alleged threatening tactics and monetary incentives to make her disappear. Regardless of Daniels’ wish not to involve herself in the #MeToo movement, she was bullied and harassed by someone in a position of power—President Trump used his involvement with The Apprentice to incentivize the affair—but the response following her interview has fallen short of the commotion and demands for accountability revealed after the publication of Ronan Farrow’s investigative pieces surrounding Harvey Weinstein and Hollywood’s “casting couch” culture and the subsequent flood of individuals coming forward to reveal their #MeToo experiences. Daniels has not received the same widespread support, but rather is facing fierce scrutiny. After a barrage of women have accused President Trump of sexual misconduct and after his business and building practices have been called into question, President Trump’s credibility is already low; Daniels’ interview only contributes to his character deficit, but it’s seen as nothing new, as not surprising. Perhaps her work as an adult film star taints her believability, or her unapologetic articulation hardens viewers to her story—it is truly yet another example of a strong woman facing consequences while her male counterpart is held to a lower standard. As President Trump’s low but constant percentage of popularity indicates, Daniels’ credibility was not sufficiently powerful to taint his legitimacy, despite his pattern of behavior. #MeToo has yet to transcend Hollywood and infiltrate the White House.

Women and "Looking Good" at the Gym

by Brooke Claflin

An article popped up on my Facebook feed the other day, and although I couldn’t relocate it for the purposes of this article, I can remember that it argued that women should abandon leggings and yoga pants once and for all. The author of the article questioned why we, as women, have felt the need to wear skin-tight articles of clothing, many of which promise to “shape,” “lift,” or do some other equally uncomfortable (albeit attractive) manipulation to our bodies. In fact, exercise clothing has become so stylized and sexualized that we often wear it to class or out in public. As I write this I am wearing leggings, as I often do to class— because yes I do think they are cute.

This begs the question, since when do looking cute and exercising overlap? Why do we feel the need to dress up for the gym? What would be so wrong with wearing loose, comfortable sweatpants to the gym? I think, however, that the problem of women at the gym expands far beyond clothing.

If anything, clothing is merely a symptom of the larger problem. This larger problem I will sketch out from largely personal and anecdotal experience. I go to the Earth Treks (a rock climbing gym) in Crystal City, where I climb with other Georgetown students. I have come to realize that my experience as a female at this gym is very different from the male one. It is important to know that in climbing it is seen as bad etiquette to explain how to successfully climb a route unless your advice (colloquially called beta) has been requested. Therefore, I am often frustrated when complete strangers, almost always men, have attempted to assist me without my prompting. Moreover, I have watched as my female friends have gone through the exact same experience. Even more frustrating is the surprise that some male climbers express when a woman climber is stronger or more skilled than they are. Overall, the mansplaining and patronizing aspects of comments in the climbing gym have made a place I love at times feel uncomfortable.

I hate to come across as rude, especially to complete strangers, but I have given up on nicely answering to these remarks. After reading the article on leggings from which this whole blog idea stemmed, maybe I will give up on those next (even though they are cute). I am not really sure how to change any of this, but I’ve found a good first step is pointing out to people when they have overstepped their bounds by making inappropriate or sexist comments.

Aly Raisman and "In Her Own Words"

by Maddy Forbess

Aly Raisman posed for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’s latest project ‘In Her Own Words.’  After her statement against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar last month, Raisman continues using her own voice to protect and to support other sexual assault victims. In the wake of the highly-publicized sexual assault case against Dr. Nassar, Raisman has taken to the media to reclaim her body—to regain control of her own narrative. The ‘In Her Own Words’ project has enabled Raisman to express her own voice and strength by using her body as a canvas. Each participant in the project is allowed to choose words that resonate with her. Aly chose the word “survivor.” Then the words were written across her naked body to convey the powerful and persistent message.

The empowering concept of the “In Her Own Words” project ties into Raisman’s ongoing efforts to dedicate her life to providing women with a strong voice. She told People Magazine that “she won’t be silenced” in her latest cover interview. Aly Raisman is a model athlete, but beyond that, she has given women everywhere the courage to share their stories. In recent interviews about her participation in the “In Her Own Words” project and swimsuit photoshoot for Sports Illustrated, Raisman has made it abundantly clear that her work is not over. In our day and age, in which women feel pressured and judged by numerous forces—social media, their male peers, themselves—to act as if everything is perfect, Aly strives to create a more nurturing environment for women. She is doing just that by exposing her own hardships, insecurities, and personal experiences to the world.

By taking part in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’s campaign, Aly Raisman is spreading awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault in today’s society. She is putting her own body out there in the public eye for a noble cause, despite the fact that it must be incredibly difficult given her own experience. Yet, she makes a point that women should not have to be ashamed of being victims. Women should not be afraid to re-enter society because it was not their fault that they were sexually assaulted. Self-blame will not help anyone, and Raisman speaks to the fact that victim-blaming is a harmful, and disrespectful way of treating women who have been subject to such abuse.

Raisman is a living, breathing role model for the women out there who need a brave soul to pave their way. She has gone one step further with regard to the slut-shaming notion. No one should be told what to wear, how to dress her body, or how to present herself. Each and every girl is entitled to the basic right—the basic freedom—to construct her own identity. It is for no one else to dictate. Another phrase Aly chose to have written on her body, from her shoulder to her toes, is incredibly poignant and speaks to this principle: “women do not have to be modest to be respected”. Raisman continues to voice her opinion that women should not have to dress a certain way in order to garner respect. Women should be entitled to this basic level of respect in their daily lives, regardless of how conservatively they decide to dress.

 The Olympic gymnast vows to keep reminding people that women do not have to be ashamed of being survivors because one moment does not define you. And, she makes it clear that the leotards she wears do not mean she is promiscuous. They are part of her uniform as a world class athlete. They signify something about her passion for sports and her dedication to an athletic endeavor. They do not mean she is slutty or that she “is asking for it.” Women are so much more beautiful than their looks. Women are so much more dignified than the clothes they choose to wear. As women, we have the right to our own happiness and confidence; it is not for anyone else to judge for us. Aly Raisman articulates these powerful themes as a spokeswoman, athlete, and survivor to all the women out there seeking an ally. One word, alone, is not enough to describe her. She represents strength in a time when women desperately need a role model. Turn to her whenever you need a reminder there is always someone out their fighting for you. 

On Toxic Masculinity

by Caroline LaGumina

 

Over the past 100 years, women’s movements have greatly transformed the role of women and femininity in society, particularly when it comes to challenging the stereotypes, norms, and expectations of traditional “femininity.” However, the acceptance of the prescribed norms of masculinity has remained alarmingly steady.  

 

Like many, I was outraged by the most recent school shooting in Florida.  I knew it wasn’t an anomaly and I wanted to explore how this system of culturally promoted violence is produced and maintained.  I wanted to unpack why, since 1982, 92 of 94 mass shooters have been male. It is important to focus on the fact that boys and men are often forced into a prescribed identity of hyper-masculinity that then contributes to the normalization of violence in our culture today. Emotionality is seen as a quality that could strip one of his manhood.  Consequently, men are taught that the anger is the only acceptable emotion.  

This acceptance of anger is often transmitted through any of the various mediums of technology young men tend to use.  Boys spend 15 hours a week playing video games and 40 hours a week watching TV, movies, or sports.  Further, 90% of games rated appropriate for children over 10 contain violence, exposing boys to this type of behavior as a way for of resolving conflicts from a very young age.  In these games and shows the heroes are often silent (usually white) men who violently lash out at their enemies.  The characters rarely reveal any inkling of sadness.  This in turn suggests to young men that they should translate any emotion they may have, from anxiety to tenderness, into anger or even silence.                

Many gender-psychologists call this “the great set-up.”  This essentially means that, while we teach young boys that their very identity as a man is contingent upon their rejection of anything feminine, we are often surprised when men do not view women as equal.  We are setting boys up for failure by raising them to define their masculinity in a “toxic” or “hyper masculine” way. Toxic masculinity reveals itself in shockingly high rates of domestic violence and on-campus sexual assault. It is important to note that our culture is the culprit; it teaches that men must have identities that are naturally aggressive, sexual, and superior.

This process is not only detrimental to women, but also to the men who go through it.  Less than 50% of boys and men with mental health challenges seek help, often because they have been taught to reject emotion and further they have been taught to see it as a weakness.  This constant policing of masculinity, by both men and women, prompts men to have to constantly prove that they are ‘man enough’.  Admitting emotionality, or mental illness, could potentially strip them of their masculinity and thus prompt disrespect from other men.  Furthermore, internalization of mental health concerns can lead to a translation into externalized violence or coping mechanisms.  A study done by the National Institute of Health found that prevalence rates of alcohol-use disorders are twice as high for young adult men as compared to women, and further that 68% of male college students equated the ability to physically consume and tolerate large amounts of alcohol without adverse reactions as being characteristic of “masculine” behavior.  Self-destructive behavior like this is characteristic of the toxic masculinity that culture has created for boys.  It tells them that they cannot cry for help, and they cannot admit weakness.  The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention found that men die by suicide 3.5x more often than women.  This is to say that toxic masculinity is killing men.

Sources

Grant BF, Dawson DA, Stinson FS, Chou SP, Dufour MC, Pickering RP. The 12-month prevalence and trends in DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence: United States, 1991–1992 and 2001–2002. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2004;74(3):223–234.

The Representation Project

The American foundation for Suicide Prevention

 

Lady Bird and the Work of Our Mothers

By Brooke Claflin

Although it has been a couple of months since I first saw the movie Lady Bird, the experience has stuck with me to this day. The main character of the movie is a high school student from Sacramento who has less means than her fellow classmates. In fact, she often refers to herself as being from the “wrong side of the tracks.” Throughout the movie she goes through some of the average struggles of any high school student: she navigates love, friendship, her first job, prom, and college applications. However, what really stuck out to me during this movie was the development of her familial relationships.

Lady Bird, AKA Christine MacPherson, struggles to understand her mother and vice versa. Her mother desires for her to be happy and Lady Bird strives for that same thing, but they have very different visions of how to achieve this ever elusive goal. Lady Bird wants to grow up quickly, go off to college, leave Sacramento behind— but this desire feels almost like a betrayal to her mother.

I think that watching this movie, which portrayed the complexities of a mother-daughter relationship artfully and subtly, was extremely valuable for me (especially as a daughter who has always looked up to her mother as a role-model). It simultaneously acknowledged the importance of exploring these bonds and also revealed their sometimes tenuous nature.

As we grow older we desire to be increasingly independent from our parents, but at times our eagerness for this independence can come across as a dismissal of their love. I think this movie did an incredible job of revealing the work of parenting and the heartbreak that comes with it. Only as we grow older do we truly start to understand how much we owe our parents, or whoever else raised us, both for their patience and for their strength.

 I often reflect upon how much I am indebted to my mother for her love and support, but now I also thank her for her strength in respecting my need for space and independence. All relationships have their difficulties, but mothers arguably have the hardest jobs in watching their children grow up and often apart.

Fertility in the Workplace

by Emma Claire Geitner

Despite movements to make family planning, parental leave, and childcare more inclusive, gender-neutral institutions, these burdens often fall on women regardless of their sexual orientation, relationship status, or even ability to conceive. A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center found that roughly 40% of women had either taken significant time off or reduced their work hours to care for a child or family member, compared to only 24% of men surveyed.1 The survey’s findings support the age-old pattern that women are confined to a more limited, domestic sphere by nature of their fertility and its implications while men enjoy the nearly invisible evidence of male potency. Although fertility is at the core of childcare and family planning discussions, it is rarely explicitly mentioned, or even realized. The importance of recognizing fertility as the root of such social debates around reproduction rights is immediate because it provides a basis for men to also assume responsibility instead of a forgotten, undercover role. In turn, this can lead to increased gender parity and a recalibration of how women of supposed childbearing age are perceived in the workplace. While efforts are made to neutralize responsibility after childbirth, women are externally encumbered in the hiring process before any aspect of pregnancy is realized, independent of their personal decisions and capacity to conceive. In stark contrast, men exist outside of this reality in a sphere that only tangentially recognizes their role in conception. Thus allowing men to traverse professionally without a consciousness of impending pregnancy and its imagined effect on a company.

Fertility is a two-way street; it takes two to tango, but given the more obvious manifestations of female fertility—breasts, menstruation, pregnancy, nursing—coupled with gender biases dating back to the classical ages, a duty or standard of fertility is placed on women that can translate into workplace discrimination. Although such considerations are illegal when used to justify termination or an employer’s decision not to hire someone, a woman of a certain age can be flagged for her possibility to bear children. Such expectations assume a plethora of factors while neglecting to consider, a. a woman’s desire to conceive and the effort put into that goal, and b. her ability to do so, both physically and financially. Fertility is a construct placed on women that can lead to workplace discrimination without any mention of an impending pregnancy; assumed fertility allows pregnancy to be a persistent option and perhaps deterrent for employers, and this preconception limits or blatantly disregards the experiences of female-identifying individuals who may not be able to or choose not to conceive. Men do not face this dilemma, they are granted more privacy and objectivity when considering their virility, because it is not so readily evident or manifested, and there is a less enduring tradition of male childcare.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964, stipulating that employers cannot discriminate “because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes.”2 By ensuring that women are protected from a kind of fertility-based profiling, the United States acknowledged that, given the connection between the female body and fertility, such an issue existed for women. The amendment includes language that protects both the already pregnant and those who “may get pregnant,” safeguarding against discrimination based on the perception of fertility as it relates to the possibility of future pregnancy, again pointing to a heightened awareness of female fertility.3 Furthermore, workplace accommodations for pregnant women are justified as “temporary disabilities,” because pregnancy may preclude an individual from doing her job for an interim period. I would argue that given the commonplace nature of childbirth and loaded meaning of “disability,” pregnancy should stand alone with its own set of legislation.4                   

Although women are now protected from fertility’s systematic prescription, its codification proves that fertility is an additional onus placed almost exclusively on women. What makes this particular discussion so intriguing is that fertility is not a singularly female responsibility or experience, and it is another way to problematize female reproduction and decisions akin to birth control and abortion issues. Assuming a woman’s fertility negates experiences and choices separate from a societal standard that associates fertility solely with woman when it is a shared experience. This rigid school of thought contributes to disparate parental leave policies and even the wage gap, because it decides that women will work less given their capability to procreate. As is the case with other societal constructs that infringe upon gender equality, an imbalance in fertility responsibility will prevail until individuals are recognized as having jurisdiction over their own bodies.                        

1 http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/03/gender-pay-gap-facts/ The narrowing, but

persistent, gender gap in pay

2 pregnancy discrimination act http://employment.findlaw.com/employment-discrimination/

pregnancy-discrimination-act.html

3 Ibid.

4 https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/pregnancy.cfm Pregnancy discrimination