Maybe Donald Trump has done us a favor. What he has said and done is not pretty, but it has been instructive and may cause positive change.
There's now an emerging army of empowered women who are saying no to misogyny in record numbers.
At a recent speech, pollster Michael Berland, CEO of Berland Strategy & Analytics,
explained why the tipping point for turning against Trump didn't happen over a litany of other outrageous actions -- taunts to build a wall, discrediting a U.S-born judge because of his family origin, calling war heroes losers, or fighting with a Gold Star family.
No, it finally happened when he mocked beauty queen Alicia Machado for gaining weight.
"Body shaming became the trigger point for women," said Berland, noting how a Dr. Oz health report showed how the vast majority of women think about body insecurities at least a few times a day. (Compare this to studies showing that men think of sex almost 20 times a day but not their bodies.)
Berland believes Hillary Clinton strategically baited Trump for this outcome and then the slam dunk happened when the "Access Hollywood" tape was released. In defensive mode, Trump then dug deeper into political quicksand -- and tried to drag Bill Clinton into it with him.
However, the difference between consensual marital infidelities and sexual assault is clear. Infidelities are often predicated on love; husbands or wives leave spouses because they fall for someone else. Other times, it is a Faustian bargain to keep the family intact.
As Trump's infamous bus speech noted, he doesn't -- and his supporters don't -- understand the distinction. He's the unbridled id, all instinct. What he lacks is a super ego, the moral part of fully evolved people that stops us from doing certain things the id desires.
By Trump implying that Jessica Leeds -- with her short grey hair and prim glasses -- wasn't attractive enough to be groped by him in 1980, Master Media Manipulator once again tapped into the dark recesses of unenlightened psyches to deflect criticism. In that twisted scenario, powerful men should get beautiful women -- indeed, are entitled to them. In this arrangement, women are prizes, not people.
Conversely -- and this is what annoys so many of my friends -- women who become strong in their own right -- a cardiologist, lawyer, or financier -- don't believe success means they can pursue the pool boy. Nor do they want to -- and here's the rub. Women seek equality in their relationships.
It is why, I believe, Hillary Clinton has stayed with Bill for decades and feels so paralyzed to speak out against Trump's predatory behavior. He appreciates her ambition. They are partners and parents. She wants the brainy guy, even if he likes the occasional bimbo and goes "low."
Michele Obama's guy takes the high road. Her husband values intelligence, grace, smarts and style. It is why she can eloquently and forcibly denounce Trump's comments as an "insult to all decent men" everywhere. Because she got the decent guy who adores her and who doesn't seek out the company of supermodels.
For years to come, we'll be hearing Obama's "When they go low, we go high" slogan. But sometimes, there are those who zig-zag between high and low -- and those voters are now veering toward Clinton.
The horribleness of Trump's comments forced many to confront the sexual violations that were often explained away or dismissed as part of everyday life
What was once permissible will no longer be accepted. Author Kelly Oxford's #notokay asked women to share stories of sexual harassment, generating a staggering 27 million entries in the three days after the "Access" story broke.
A line was drawn. A movement was born.
And yes, we can wonder if this tape had been released early in the campaign would the outcome have been as transformative -- shedding new, additional light on women's issues.
What's important is the result. Hearing privileged executives spew such unguarded vulgarity galvanized a nation. And it may have turned the Trump tide.
As Christina Cauterucci wrote in Slate, a powerful man who victimizes women can cause a lot of damage but he has accomplices. "Trump's rise also brings a secondary wave of recognition: that millions of Americans will vote for a man they know to be a cruel misogynist at best and a sex criminal at worst."
This realization is making more people speak out -- the strength of a democracy.
Ad executive and MSNBC commentator Donny Deutsch noted that Donald Trump's "Access Hollywood" tapes unleashed "gender wars" in this campaign. That's true. But it's more than that. I'd call it gender engagement.
Trump is now in defensive mode, sensing as historian Barbara Tuchman would say, his "march of folly." The irony of course is that to CNN's Anderson Cooper, Trump claimed: "I have great respect for women."
After he loses the election, due to the women's vote, he may finally come to truly respect the power of their opinion.
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