Many of Donald Trump’s comments about women made waves during this year’s presidential campaign.
Reno Public Radio’s Noah Glick sat down with a local therapist who specializes in gender and human sexual issues to discuss Trump’s language on the campaign trail.
KUNR: Let’s talk about the Presidential election. Donald Trump was often criticized for his language toward women, including calling a Miss Universe winner “Miss Piggy,” as well as comments over the years calling women dogs, fat or ugly. A lot of people have countered that criticism, saying those are just words. What is your professional opinion?
Steven Ing: “I think that most of us would agree that it reduces our civil discourse to a more vulgar level. I think Donald Trump, if for nothing else, we’re going to be talking about sectarianism regarding Muslims and others, we’re going to be talking about sexism in depth in the years to come. I think that’s going to be a good conversation for America.”
So even though he’s a polarizing figure, you’re saying this is an opportunity for us to have those conversations?
“Absolutely. It requires everyone to take a stand one way or another. Either this sort of behavior and this sort of language is OK, or it’s really not OK—and there’s really not a lot of middle ground.”
“Although I do think some people do tend to minimize the significance of the language. ‘Well he doesn’t mean it,’ or ‘It’s not really that big a part of his message.’ The problem there is that we normalize this language, and the entire population becomes systematically de-sensitized to the language, and then the language, to make the same impact has to get a little more severe.”
During the campaign, audio surfaced of Donald Trump talking about groping and kissing women without their consent. He later called the footage “locker room talk,” but that phrase has caused some confusion and controversy. Are these comments an example of “locker room talk?”
“I don’t think we can call it locker room talk except in the sense that sometimes in the locker room, vulgar things are said. Most men I’ve met have a mother and that means that we have a connection to the world of women. And we really don’t feel comfortable with the idea of someone treating our mothers the same way that Donald Trump was talking about treating other men’s daughters.”
“And when we embolden the most vulgar elements among us who have the least restrictions, I think for them it’s a wonderful opportunity to regain a sense of power where they have felt like they have been losing ground. And for these individuals, power is a zero sum game. So that if women are getting more power through having some kind of progress regarding gender issues in the workplace for example, then it must mean that I as a white male must be losing power.”
Do you see examples of these power struggles in your daily practice?
“Generally when people in a marriage are having problems, often the underlying problem is the lack of equality in the relationship. That ends up creating a situation where his partner feels a lot less power in the situation. Therapy tries to get the couple to where they’re both of equal power, so they can begin to negotiate problems.”
“The problem for some people who are very afraid, is that as they lose power, they feel even more afraid. If they were somewhat abusive in the earlier days, they become increasingly abusive.”
“And now putting that same kind of thinking into the body politic, we’re dealing with a group of people who feel like they’ve been losing power for a long time. So it’s very threatening, and the potential I think for increased violence is pretty great as well.”
What can we do as a community moving forward?
“We all need to be cognizant of we’re all in this together. And whether we’re conservative or liberal, male or female, or gay or straight, we have a need for all of us to make sure everyone in the community feels like they are a legitimate member of the community, with all of the rights and protections that our law offers.”
Steven Ing is a Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in human sexual issues. He works primarily with families, the LGBTQ community and sex offenders. He’s also the founder of sexualfuturist.com.