America’s favorite “large adult son” and “very good boy” Donald Trump Jr. took a page from his father’s book this weekend, taking to Twitter to blast left-leaning politicians and celebrities alike for failing to immediately comment on sexual assault allegations against Hollywood producer and Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein.
“Thoughts on Harvey Weinstein?” he tweeted at public figures ranging from comedian Jimmy Kimmel to former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, a beneficiary of Weinstein’s political fundraising.
Put simply, the younger Trump reacted to news of the suffering and oppression experienced by dozens of women in the entertainment industry the way children react to Christmas morning. And sure, there’s a lot to unpack here, but for starters, if you’re going to pretend to care about societal misogyny and the sexual subjugation of women, it would be a lot more convincing if you actually showed some remorse. The president’s oldest son certainly wasn’t this happy — nor this loud — at this time last year when leaked Access Hollywood tapes revealed his father had boasted about how his celebrity status allowed him to nonconsensually grope women, and over a dozen women came forward to accuse the then-Republican presidential nominee of sexual misconduct.
But the president’s son is hardly alone in taking this episode reflective of a larger epidemic in patriarchal society and leveraging it for political gain. Following reports from The New York Times and The New Yorker detailing Weinstein’s actions, the National Republican Congressional Committee called on Congressional Democrats to return all funding from Weinstein. Indeed, perhaps Democrats should, but the demand is ironic coming from the party that rewarded a man with the same record as Weinstein with its nomination, and then with the presidency.
It’s important to remember allegations against Weinstein have nothing to do with party politics, where allegations against President Donald Trump dominated and continue to dominate the national political dialogue because the way our president and elected representatives view women affects us all. But where Weinstein is concerned, revelations against the influential Hollywood producer speak to an issue that transcends politics — that is, whether or not we as a society trust and respect women. And as dismal as this may sound, the dark reality is that we continually fail to. There’s no shortage of people and historical traditions to blame for this, but the decades-long Republican war on women is one starting point.
There are a lot of reasons that women who experience sexual harassment and assault don’t come forward. A crucial one is that despite the exhaustiveness of the reporting process, many cases often go dismissed or are swept under the rug. This is exponentially more likely when the assailant is male, wealthy and powerful. Weinstein and Trump may not be united by party, but they are united by the extent to which male privilege — in a society built on the social and political disenfranchisement of women — has allowed them to act without consequences.
For years, that social and political disenfranchisement has been propagated by the party that unapologetically handed Trump the presidency, where, at the very least, Democratic stars and politicians have come out in droves to unequivocally disavow Weinstein. For years, policies and rhetoric by Republican lawmakers related to American women have been united by a common theme — that women cannot be trusted.
Following core conservative ideology, women cannot be trusted to make basic bodily decisions; instead, the government must make these decisions for them and hamper their access to the resources requisite to their autonomy.
In both the House and state legislatures across the country, bills to invest in rape kits and provide survivors with additional resources have repeatedly been shut down by Republican lawmakers. Republican lawmakers in the state of Texas recently passed legislation that would require women to buy separate insurance plans in order to receive abortion coverage, with no exceptions for cases of rape. The bill was widely criticized for ignoring the fact that women have no power over whether or not they are subjected to rape and sexual assault. And that is the core of the right wing assault on women’s rights — a ruthless approach that involves not only victim-blaming, but also the punishment and neglect of women with unwanted pregnancies and of women who are abused by men.
Trump said in 2016 that if his daughter Ivanka faced sexual harassment, he hoped “she would find another career or find another company.” His son Eric said “strong and powerful women” like his sister don’t “allow” workplace sexual harassment to happen to them. In her 2009 book, The Trump Card, Ivanka Trump said that women complaining of sexual harassment just need to learn how to take a joke. The unifying theme of the first family’s approach to sexual harassment is that women must either quietly shoulder the burden of harassment, or come forward and accept the blame for it.
Exploiting the Weinstein reports in an attempt to mock the Democratic Party is disgraceful in its opportunism, but the problem at hand is deeper, even, than that: Those in positions of power often either abuse women or distrust and silence women who come forward. And whether these influential figures are billionaire presidents or billionaire Hollywood producers is irrelevant because, for women, the outcome is the same.
And as for Donald Trump Jr. and all those who have joined him in his equal-parts smug and ironic anti-Weinstein Twitter parade, perhaps Death and Taxes managing editor Maggie Serota put it best when she tweeted on Saturday, “If you only care about sexual harassment and women’s safety when it’s the opposing side doing it, maybe you don’t actually care about women.”
Kylie Cheung is a sophomore majoring in journalism and political science. She is also the editorial director of the Daily Trojan. Her column,“You Do Uterus,” runs Thursdays.