Over the last 48 hours, members of the Trump administration have embarked on a stunningly tone-deaf campaign.
After a presidential campaign rife with blatant misogyny, President Donald Trump spent his first months in office contemplating anti-woman policies surrounded by groups of white men. Now, Team Trump would like the public to believe that women’s empowerment is an administration-wide priority.
Before you crawl into a corner to laugh and/or weep, let’s review the events of the last two days:
On Tuesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Ivanka Trump held an event at the National Air and Space Museum, extolling the women of NASA featured in “Hidden Figures,” as well as the Trump administration’s apparent commitment to NASA and STEM education writ large. Meanwhile, the budget that President Trump has proposed would completely eliminate the NASA Office of Education ― which funds programs to get kids from marginalized communities involved in STEM.
On Wednesday morning, First Lady Melania Trump gave remarks at the State Department honoring the 12 women who received the 2017 Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Awards. “As leaders, we must continue to work towards gender empowerment and respect for people from all backgrounds and ethnicities,” she said, adding: “Wherever women are diminished, the entire world is diminished with them.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Press Secretary Sean Spicer echoed the First Lady’s remarks, and then took her sentiments quite a few steps further.
“The president made women’s empowerment a priority throughout the campaign,” he said earnestly, theoretically hoping his audience wouldn’t remember this president called his female opponent a “nasty woman” during one debate and alluded to how big his dick was during another.
A few hours later, President Trump joined a White House Women’s Empowerment Panel to deliver a speech filled with platitudes about women entrepreneurs, working mothers, affordable child care and Susan B. Anthony. “Only by enlisting the full potential of women in our society will we be truly able to ― you have not heard this expression before ― make America great again,” he said.
And yet President Trump has done nothing to support women (other than his daughter) who want to see their full potential enlisted.
Apparently, members of Team Trump believe that if they say that they care about women’s empowerment enough times, that makes it so. That’s not actually how reality works.
Before becoming president, reality star Donald Trump was caught on tape bragging about grabbing women by the pussy without their consent. He said that Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever.” He spoke to reporters about both of his daughters’ bodies. He made demeaning comments about the looks of famous women. He held rallies where his supporters cheered and chanted “lock her up!” He suggested that sexual assault was a natural outcome of allowing women to serve next to men in the military. He faced more than a dozen public accusations of sexual assault. (He is currently trying to use his position as POTUS to get out of a defamation suit filed by one of his accusers.)
This is not a man who was ever going to be a credible spokesperson for women’s issues.
Since entering office, the Trump administration has done little to indicate that the needs of women are a priority. The president reinstated and expanded the global gag rule, which prevents NGOs from receiving U.S. aid if they provide abortion counseling or referrals ― in a room full of white men. The (now defunct) GOP health care bill included a provision to defund Planned Parenthood, and would have eliminated maternity care from many insurance plans. The administration sent two women who have spent their professional lives opposing LGBTQ rights and reproductive rights to represent the United States at the UN’s annual summit on women. Experts say that Trump’s proposed budget would be devastating to poor victims of domestic violence. And the “affordable child care” he says he wants to fight for has not made its way into any meaningful legislation.
Donald Trump became president by tapping into men’s fears that equality for women would mean less power for them. He’s spent his time in office proving to those men they have nothing to worry about. When he chants “Make America Great Again” to a room full of women, the irony is completely lost on him that the “again” he’s referring to means a returning to a time in which women had fewer opportunities, rights and seats at the proverbial table.
Nice-sounding words about women are just nice-sounding words. When you’re (a known misogynist) leading a nation, actions speak a whole lot louder, and no faux feminist speech tour is going to change that.