Trump serves as a living cautionary tale and "how not to be a good man" guide.
I'm a guy, and I grew up thinking there were certain things most men did and didn't do — a sort of basic code of behavior that we all observed. Sure, people's idea of what's "manly" varies a lot, and that's fine, but I naively thought that most American men tried to behave in a somewhat civilized manner.
Then Donald Trump ran for President and it made me question a lot of the things I thought I knew about being a man in this country.
Donald Trump has had a colorful public life prior to his political rise but until recently, I never considered his abrasive, larger-than-life personality to be a indicator of more widespread problems with dangerous sexism in this country.
Sure, he's always come across as a creep. But as his fame grew over the decades, I sometimes questioned if "The Donald" persona was entirely real, or if it was some sort of abominable caricature of rich and powerful men, created in part to entertain the public. He just seemed too awful to be entirely real.
If that were the case at one point, the Trump cartoon is no longer funny because now we're stuck with a sexist bully who has been accused of rape on several occasions, trying to become our next President — and millions of people support him.
How is such a thing possible? What does that say about our country?
It says a lot of things, but one of my bigger realizations is that we still have deeply ingrained problems with toxic masculinity in this country, and a lot of folks don't seem to be bothered by that. Everyone now knows that Trump was recorded several years ago saying horrible stuff like:
"I'm automatically attracted to beautiful women — I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything... Grab them by the p*ssy. You can do anything."
That sure sounds an awful lot like a quote from a sexual predator rather than someone we might want in the Oval Office. Yet, lots of people defend him.
I've heard plenty of men (and even a few women) say that 'all men talk like that' or dismissing it as 'locker room talk.' To me, it's troubling that that's even a defense. If people truly think it's normal for men to talk about grabbing the genitals of women they're attracted to without getting consent to do so first, that's chilling.
Sadly, to a lot of people, a sexist, racist, fear-monger like Trump probably seems like someone to emulate. He's rich, he's always surrounded himself with beautiful women, and he seems to be able to say and do pretty much whatever he wants with impunity. To some folks, those sorts of traits make him seem like a winner — and we like winners in America.
The thing is, men have it pretty good in this country; particularly straight, white men. Recognizing that we benefit from unearned privileges that others don't should be part of maturing from boys to men. With that understanding of privilege comes a responsibility to treat others fairly, to show respect to women, and to get their consent before making any sort of sexual overtures.
It's a sad state of affairs that men who speak out about these issues are often portrayed as emasculated, self-loathing Social Justice Warriors or as trying to earn their "good guy badges." In reality, though, it's far more difficult to make a stand against the kind of out of control toxic masculinity that seems to fuel guys like Donald Trump, than it is to resist it.
Being a dude doesn't mean victimizing others and doing whatever it takes to get what you want. And pointing out social injustices doesn't make a man weaker; it means he's stronger than those who just go with the flow, unconcerned that the status quo needs improving.
As a politician, Trump seems to represent some peoples' fears and negative feelings of the worst kind. Viewed as a man, it's hard to fathom a better representative of bullying or out of control impulses.
It's as if every rich, preppy assh*le character from an '80s movie grew up and turned into an orange hobgoblin, manifesting the worst masculine traits possible. It seems accurate to portray Trump as an impossibly arrogant, sexist jerk, who might be a rapist, and who definitely possesses predatory tendencies.
He's not a "winner," he's just a rich, privileged monster who has been able to bully and con his way through life so far. That so many Americans seem to think his actions are OK shows that we desperately need to work harder to fix our society.
Trump is not a great man. He's a failure as a person, and not one who should be emulated by anyone aspiring to greatness.
Fortunately, Donald Trump is useful in one key way: He's an almost perfect model for men who don't want to turn into creeps on how they should not conduct themselves. From now on, any of us can ask "What would Donald Trump do?" and then just do the opposite.
I've never heard any of my male friends talk about grabbing women by their genitalia or anything else "rapey" sounding. Hearing Trump's recordings was a well-needed shock out of my comfort zone; a reminder that rape culture is real, and that men who don't want to be awful people need to be aware that guys like The Donald exist.
Trump serves as a living cautionary tale and "how not to be a good man" guide. For that, he serves a useful purpose. It's probably his only one.