Societal Standard On Behavior

In the end, if we accept this behavior as normal, the greatest threat will be not to a few select women but to all of our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters.
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As a doctor often I am encountered with the dilemma of trying to tease out normal from the abnormal or "pathologic" as we call in medical lingo. For example, depression after the death of a loved one is normal but if it leads to suicide or years-long isolation then it is pathologic.


So last week, Donald Trump's lewd comments caught on a hot mic made me ask a question. Is this normal "locker-room" behavior or is this abnormal behavior? More so, how do the comments reflect on Donald Trump as a future president and on us as a society?

The first step is to categorize Donald Trump's conversation. Was it:

Normal-public banter - things we would say at a water cooler conversation at work or at a party with friends; normal-private banter - a bedroom conversation or locker room talk- as Trump asserts it was; sexist - prejudice or unfair towards women; misogynistic - abusive towards women; sexually assaulting - predatory towards women.

Labeling something or as we say in medicine "making a diagnosis" can help predict the future pattern of the disease or the diseased person. Based on that diagnosis or label we develop a treatment plan, a lasting relationship or quick rejection of the person.

Next step is to draw a wider conclusion on Trump's personality. While the conversation maybe a single event, is it corroborated by other incidents or case reports? Additionally, what does the conversation tell us about the thinking of the person? Undeniably how a person thinks is at the root of his or her future words and actions.

In the recent and distant past we have judged many men on their behavior towards women, the likes of Bill Cosby, Dominique Strauss-Kahn (International Monetary Fund president and leading contender for French presidency) and Bill Clinton. Each has paid a heavy price (maybe not heavy enough) with one on bail pending a trial, another losing his prestigious position and another being impeached.

While we can define a behavior is various categories, who decides if a behavior is normal or abnormal?

In the case of Donald Trump, our legal system can determine if his words and actions are sexual assault. However we as a society, define "societal standards", and determine if his words are normal conversation, locker room talk, sexist, or misogynist. In Saudi Arabia, for example, it is acceptable to place restrictions on women as drivers, something that would be sexist in our country. In other societies female genital mutilation is a common practice, something that would be sexual assault here.


So how shall we label Donald Trump's words and behavior as a societal standard for 2016 in America. Maybe an ancient text can help us. The verse from the Bible Luke 6:31 "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Each person will come to their own judgment, but I believe, if we do not define such behavior as misogynistic we lower the bar of decency and respectfulness in our society. Furthermore we "normalize" such conversation and behavior. We say to our fathers, husbands, brothers and sons that it is acceptable to talk and behave in such vulgar ways.

In the end, if we accept this behavior as normal, the greatest threat will be not to a few select women but to all of our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters.

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