By BRIANNA KWASNIK
Given Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s love of abandoning all things politically correct, it should come as no surprise that those involved in his campaign share the same mindset, lack of filter, and, er, empathy towards other individuals.
In August, The Associated Press conducted a review of over 50 social media pages of present and former employees that have been connected to the Trump campaign throughout the primaries.
AP found at least seven accounts that included racially charged views, conspiracy theories, support of violent actions and blatant hostility towards muslims.
The damage, to no one’s surprise, did not end there.
A video which first aired in January 2013 during PBS’s To The Contrary recently resurfaced, showing Trump’s new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway as part of a roundtable discussion on sexual assault in the military. In the video, she starts off by arguing that there shouldn’t be a separate “boy” and “girl” version of fitness tests used to determine combat readiness.
As of Dec. 3, all gender-based restrictions on military service were lifted, opening nearly 220,000 positions previously unavailable to women.
According to The Army Times, the test would be used to assess a soldier’s ability to do their job after leaving training, with a focus on their ability to be “unemotional,” regardless of gender. There was no indication of having separate tests. The test would gauge a soldier’s physical ability to ensure they can meet the qualifications necessary for their position, and potential deployment. There would likely be some men, along with some women who did not meet the necessary physical qualifications to pass the test.
It seemed like her argument was off to a harmless start.
However, Conway goes on to argue that rape wouldn’t exist if women were stronger.
“If we were physiologically — not mentally, emotionally, professionally — equal to men, if we were physiologically as strong as men, rape would not exist; you would be able to defend yourself and fight him off,” she said.
First, Conway overlooks the fact that men, too, can be victims of rape. Being a victim has nothing to do with any kind of strength, whether physical, mental, or physiological. Her comment furthers the perpetuation and stereotype placed on victims: the accusation that somehow they were at fault for putting themselves in a position where they were left vulnerable.
Physiological strength has to do with the body and its systems. A physiological response would therefore be a reaction which triggers a certain response to a stimulus. When a traumatic event such as rape occurs, gender would have little to no factor over how our body responds.
“Rape happens because a rapist chooses to commit a non-consensual act on an unwilling individual. The responsibility for rape solely lies with the perpetrator,” said Kathryn Branch, chair of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at UT.
For those serving in the military, these men and women bravely took an oath to our country to protect and defend as their duty. In taking this oath, they did not sign up to be attacked from men or women within their own group. They took an oath with the hope that their troop would be family; that would look after one another during combat and keep each other safe. A brotherhood, that should be opening its arms to sisters to become one larger force, one that is inclusive, not attempting to exhibit a higher level of strength over any other member.
“The general belief is that rape, although a sex crime, is related to power and domination of a victim,” said Dr. Joseph Sclafani, professor of psychology and associate dean of teaching and learning at UT. “In that sense, a rapist might believe they are stronger or more powerful than the person they victimize,” he said. “But, if you drug someone 100 pounds bigger than you, you manipulate your situation to be more physically in charge, even if that is not the reality.”
Though Conway’s comment initially caught me by surprise, that a woman would make such a comment targeting and blaming female victims of sexual assault, I then remembered who she works for.
In May of 2013, Donald Trump tweeted, “26,000 unreported sexual assults [assaults] in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?”
Three years later, Trump stands by his comment, stating that this is still a huge issue within the military, and that something must be done. If president, he said that he will put a focus on keeping the courts inside the military, rather than outside. These courts, he insists will be run “very tight.” However, much like the rest of his proposed policies, Trump offered no further explanation as to how he plans to carry out changes in military court, specifically on addressing cases of sexual assault.
The comments made by Trump and his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway highlight just one of the many pre-existing myths regarding rape and victims of sexual assault. As people in authority and in the public eye, the two should take caution in educating themselves on the issues they are speaking about, rather than perpetuating myths. The philosophy of the Trump campaign seemed from the beginning to withhold the trend of: “speak now, get scolded later, script weak apology, but don’t take it back.” From here, they move on with the belief they have made well brushing all the bad press under the rug, free to voice their next ignorant, unfiltered, offensive, outdated myths and beliefs.
As a public, why are we so willing to accept these blatantly offensive comments coming from the people who could potentially in a few short weeks take on the role of looking out for what should be our best interest? If the Trump campaign didn’t mind who they hurt three years ago, and they don’t mind now, what do we expect will change after Jan. 20?
Brianna Kwasnik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org