Margaret Jones, 12/11/16
Ever since Trevor Noah interviewed Tomi Lahren, the internet and media have had a ton of things to say about it. Many people have strong or mixed feelings about the interview which is completely understandable given the emotionally charged discussion about racism. Most of these articles have done a great job covering the issue, and you can find links to some of my favorites below. So instead of beating the dead horse on this one, I want to point out the one thing about that interview that no one is talking about: how bad Tomi Lahren is for women. This one is for everyone who says that sexism couldn’t have been a factor in the election because of all the women who voted for Trump.
To be fair, I don’t watch her videos. I have no idea what she says on her shows normally, except for a few clips I’ve seen here and there including what was played during The Daily Show. So I’m just going to stay within my field of knowledge and speak exclusively about what was said in that interview. Tomi Lahren rightly pointed out that as a woman, she is also a marginalized member of society and refers to the Suffragettes and their struggle for the right to vote as a proof of that. But of course, she also immediately disregards everything the suffragettes had to go through to procure that right for her by saying she doesn’t feel the need to protest, because she doesn’t “victimize herself.” As though every woman who protests rape culture, who asks for equal pay, who wants to end child marriage, and who fights for a girl’s right to education is just victimizing herself. I’ll keep that in mind the next time a stranger grabs me while walking down the street in New York; I guess if I make a fuss, I’m just victimizing myself.
But that’s almost small peanuts compared to what she said later, which surprisingly no one noticed. Here’s the interview, and the part I want you to pay attention to starts around 25:30.
For those that don’t feel like watching, here’s the transcript:
TREVOR: He was touching people.
TOMI: Yeah, he was
TREVOR: He really was.
TOMI: Hillary could use some of that every now and then; am I right? Bill’s a little busy; Bill’s a little busy.
Now if you haven’t been paying attention since the start of the presidential campaign, let me break it down for you: Trevor Noah was lightly drawing attention to the allegations of sexual assault that were brought against Trump before and during his campaign. When Tomi first responds, it almost seems as though she’s missed his point, but the following dig at Secretary Clinton makes it clear that she did get it. She did know that he was talking about sexual assault. And that makes what she says, so much more dangerous. “Hillary could use some of that every now and then, am I right?” The “that” she is referring to is sexual assault. To make this as clear as possible, Tomi Lahren is casually joking on national television that our former First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State and candidate for President of the United States could benefit from being sexually assaulted. And she’s probably wondering why her joke fell flat.
I’m not sure what’s more disturbing: the fact that she said it, or the fact that no one noticed. The fact that she joked so cavalierly about a political figure being sexually assaulted suggests that Tomi Lahren does not see sexual assault as a real problem. She does not take it seriously, nor does she take seriously the allegations against Trump. In fact, she is implying that the women sexually assaulted by Trump were better for having been assaulted. That maybe someone should just grab Secretary Clinton “by the pussy,” and she’d be better for it. The implication being that Hillary Clinton might just be “frigid” because she is “undesexed,” to borrow some popular phrases from the our culture.
But this is what I think is most important: Sexism is so deeply internalized in our society that a woman casually joked that a candidate for the presidency just needed to be sexually assaulted, and no one blinked. Notably, she even said this in front of a liberal audience – the people who are usually quick to call out sexism and rape culture, and they completely missed it. Are you paying attention, America? I am, and I don’t feel safe.