A lot of people, women in particular were deeply traumatized by Sunday's presidential debate. The experience of watching with abuse survivors in the audience as a woman stood on stage next to a man who, the day before, had bragged about sexual abuse, was a more offensive scene than anything I have ever witnessed in American politics.
While I disagree with Hillary Clinton on many issues and I did not support her when she ran in primaries against Barack Obama or Bernie Sanders, on Sunday I watched her, not as a candidate for President, but as a woman who could not simply just do her job. Instead she had to fight for all women, defending us against this so instantly recognizable kind of predator. A predator many of us have known in our own lives. I watched with tears in my eyes, so angry that in 2016, this is what women still, so constantly experience. I was unable to watch her as a competent politician defend and assert her positions. And that's what was so depressing about this. After 5 minutes I could not watch any of it anymore. It was too painful.
This debate was a national trauma. This whole perverse scene was a horror that was inflicted, not just on the women who were in the room, in the presence of this depravity, but on all of us watching from afar.
At some point the media, and perhaps all of us are complicit. We watched with intrigue as this ridiculous wild-card entertainer walloped his way through our political system, through the primaries to get to this incredible position and we all just continued watching. Eager to see what happened next. And maybe we got what we deserved. But Sunday's debate was a scene that none of us should have had to endure and I don't believe in censorship, but I believe that something needs to be done.
So many writers have shared these sentiments. Many people are applauding Anderson Cooper for calling Trump out during the debate, but all of this constant degradation of women really does do damage to the psyche. How can it not?
When Trump discussed his uncontrollable compulsion to kiss women on the lips a terrible memory came flooding back to me. I was fresh out of art school, when a powerful dealer approached me at an art fair. He walked right up and kissed me, sticking his tongue in my mouth and holding my head so I could not move. I remember thinking - what was that? Was that mouth rape? In my confusion, I did nothing. Not doing anything is something many many MANY women do. Ironically, one of the artworks I created around that time was a sculpture called "Kissing President Bush." It came from this idea of being forced to kiss a President who felt impossibly removed from my reality. The image came to me out of nowhere and it sickened me to the point that I felt the need to sculpt it. How ironic to now have a presidential candidate who literally talks about doing this thing exactly.
Trump's attitude and behavior is so frequently encountered in women's lives as to be ubiquitous, and as Kelly Oxford's recent Twitter thread has shown, sexual violence is something hardly any of us have been able to avoid.
Sarah Mirk from Bitch Media eloquently states: "Seeing him pace, creeping behind Clinton and calling her a liar, is like watching a deeply troubling stage play of experiences many women endure during our regular lives"
We Americans must collectively look at what has happened with Donald Trump and see the violence that we have tolerated for so long has now truly come to be manifested in a presidential candidate. When Trump had the gall to imply that his supporters should resort to gun violence with "nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people... maybe there is" I feel the need to counter was this. There is something we can do. The First Amendment - speak up. Now and forcefully.