From afar, it can be all too easy to poke fun at the way the US plays politics. As surreal and implausible the theatre of the American presidential campaign appears from the other side of the Pacific Ocean, as fatigued as we’ve become with our own elections, there is something utterly compelling about this year’s race for the White House. Like a train wreck, it’s hard not to watch – harder still, not to cringe.
Centre stage, of course, is Donald Trump, whose earlier inflammatory statements on trade, immigration and foreign policy have been completely overshadowed by his comments about women and his lame apologies for what he calls “locker room talk”. What would normally be a campaign about policy and the direction the world’s most powerful nation should take has become a discussion about sexual harassment and respect for women. And that is by no means a bad thing.
The objectification of women is certainly not limited to the ludicrously coiffed Trump. He has copped global howls of criticism for bragging about advancing on women and for ranking them according to looks because he is – or at least was – poised to become the most powerful man on the planet. But what of those among us who do exactly the same thing? The blokes who accord women they pass in the street a number based on their looks? While we might pour scorn on Trump, we should also be making it plain to those who brag of “moving on” women the same way, who show disrespect the same way, who objectify an entire gender that it is unacceptable.
Billionaire presidential candidate or ordinary bloke in the street, there is no excuse for demeaning women or reducing them to objects.
This week, a survey of 600 girls aged 15-19 from across Australia revealed half of them felt they were never or seldom valued for their brains or ability over their looks. Only 14 per cent felt they were given the same opportunities in life as boys.
One respondent said when she was in Year 7 the boys had opened an Instagram account on which they rated the female one to 10 according to their looks.
In the same week, former PM Julia Gillard told a memorial for murdered British MP Jo Cox women in public life could expect regular threats of violence and rape.
Clearly, we have a long way to go before respect and equality are achieved.
Donald Trump has starkly reminded the whole world of that sad fact.