The offensive video of Donald Trump talking with Billy Bush and other men is the latest reminder that the work being done to end violence against women is never-ending. These vulgar and egregious conversations about women happen regularly throughout this country: What’s unique is that Trump and Bush were caught on tape.
And the backlash is heartening: Women have taken to social media and in some cases the streets, to protest this language and make their voices heard. Republican politicians are fleeing their nominee.
But despite the overwhelmingly negative response, and the immense progress women have made over the past 40 years, the threat of violence against women is still a very serious problem in this country.
While many have jumped to condemn Trump, others have sought to dismiss his comments as mere "locker room talk" or, even more disturbingly, just "what happens when alpha personalities are in the same presence." These excuses illustrate how this violence is perpetuated when powerful men are not held accountable for it.
When high-profile white men assert what they see as their right to do what they want to women, it sanctions all men to do the same. This type of behavior becomes normal, excused as a “boys will be boys” phenomenon. It transcends race and culture because it’s about dominance over women, but more often than not, it is the most marginalized women who suffer the most. Men may not be able to degrade a famous actress to her face, but if they feel free to speak in such vulgar terms about her in private, imagine what they might feel they could say or do to another woman without the same visibility. Or, more broadly, imagine if Trump's defense of "locker room" language is accepted by judges or those who end up on the jury of a sexual assault case.
This "locker room" talk has trickle-down consequences.
Not only do attempts to brush off Trump's comments minimize the everyday experiences of survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault, but it buries our fight under an extremely dangerous excuse — that this is just how the powerful talk.
Wealth, privilege and power are never excuses for any type of violence, against women or otherwise.