Trump’s comments calling athletes like Colin Kaepernick a “son of a bitch” for protesting the national anthem have rightfully provoked outrage and more protest among athletes nationwide. On the surface, his comments are a slap in the face to athletes protesting the oppression of people of color in the United States and those in solidarity with them. Also on the surface, however, is the same misogyny we’ve seen Trump spew time and time again. Trump’s “son of a bitch” comment may have been directed at men like Kaepernick, but it displays his disrespect toward the mothers that raised these protesting athletes, the female athletes who have also been protesting, and the black women who have been killed or assaulted by police.
“Son of a bitch” isn’t just some phrase used by angry dudes in film. It’s a way of insulting a man, but at its underbelly, is an insult towards women. It implies that the man addressed is cowardly but the heart of this cowardliness exists in the woman that raised him – the “bitch” who could not parent because she was too promiscuous. Similarly, Trump’s “son of a bitch” comment implies an attack on protesting male athletes, but at its heart is an attack on women who have raised sons to stand up against oppression. People shouldn’t be clapping when our president manages to belittle black men and black mothers in the same sentence.
Protest doesn’t just concern male athletes either. “Sons” aren’t the only ones taking the knee. Trump’s comments show that he fails to understand the intersection between protesting police brutality and feminism. Rejecting police brutality against black people means rejecting rights for black women, or rejecting feminism. Feminism involves respect of the female body. This respect includes protecting the female body from police brutality, and allowing the female body to protest against police brutality.
Several WNBA teams have protested police brutality in the past. In July 2016, members of the New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury, and Minnesota Lynx donned black warm-up shirts supporting #BlackLivesMatter – resulting in a $5,000 fine per team and $500 fine per player that was later rescinded. These protests came after the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile on July 5 and 6, respectively. In September 2016, members of the Indiana Fever and Phoenix Mercury linked arms and kneeled during the national anthem of their first round playoff series. On Sunday, during Game 1 of the WNBA finals, members of the Minnesota Lynx locked arms during the national anthem. The opposing team, the Los Angeles Sparks protested by staying in the locker room during the anthem. The Los Angeles Sparks had previously protested in August, locking arms with the Washington Mystics to stand against white supremacist terrorism in Charlottesville. With nearly 69 percent of players in the WNBA being black women, the WNBA cannot be ignored as a site of protest, and women of color cannot be ignored as protesters.
Of course, black women also cannot be ignored as victims of police brutality. There have been several instances of police brutality in the past few months. In May, video posted on social media revealed Texas police forcibly restraining a 14-year-old black girl outside of a party, and one officer punching her in the face. In June, Charleena Lyles, a pregnant mother of four who suffered from mental health challenges, was shot and killed by police inside her Seattle apartment after calling law enforcement to report a burglary. In August, Texas attorney Samuel Cammack III released police dash cam footage showing officers searching a black college student’s vagina for eleven minutes. A grand jury had previously dismissed the charges against the officers involved. Belittling protest against police brutality means belittling the lives of black women.
The importance of pointing out the misogyny in President Trump’s statement isn’t about pouncing on yet another presidential rant, or nitpicking. Calling out misogyny in President Trump’s demeanor towards women is important considering this presidency was partially built on comments degrading women. It is also vital under a presidency that thrives on white supremacy, which hurts black women just as much as it hurts black men.