The Common Good

Zero Tolerance: Trump, Schwarzenegger, and Strauss-Kahn

Sojomail - May 26, 2011


"We can blame Obama and Republicans and Democrats all we want, but the only way that the Latino community is going to get respect is if we become consistent primary-election voters, as well as general-election voters."

- Belinda "DeeDee" Blase, a spokeswoman for the National Tequila Party Movement, a group aiming to raise Latino voter participation. (Source: Christian Science Monitor)

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Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

Zero Tolerance: Trump, Schwarzenegger, and Strauss-Kahn

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It's a constant storyline in the media involving powerful men in politics, sports, business, and even religion: Men behave with utter disregard for the dignity and humanity of women -- using and abusing them at will, and somehow believing that they are entitled to do so. These men seem to think that the ordinary rules of decent behavior do not apply to them. We have a never-ending cavalcade of disgusting stories about men cheating on their wives and mothers of their children; abandoning old wives for new ones; serial philandering as a way of life; sexually harassing and assaulting women; and even committing rape. But when all is said and done, the perpetrators are still playing basketball, football, and golf; they are still running for political office, and are still at the helm of the institutions of the economy, and even the church.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Donald Trump, and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the (now former) chief of the International Monetary Fund, have all been in the media lately for sins and crimes past, present, and accused. The stories have now come out about a long-time affair Schwarzenegger had with a member of his house staff, Strauss-Kahn’s alleged assault against a hotel maid, and Donald Trump’s long and blatant history of sexism.

As the secret stories are revealed, there is great interest and perverse excitement in the media. The pain and suffering from the women involved, and the invisible hurt of the children, are brushed aside. Instead, the women are subtly, and sometimes directly, blamed. And sometimes, in all-male circles, there is a wink and a nod, and, most disgustingly, even a little envy of the powerful men who get to break all the rules when it comes to women. The primary outcry is from other women who, in the name of equality and dignity, lament this continual pattern of abuse.

What has been missing from this too-often repeated narrative is the condemnation of these behaviors and attitudes from other men -- especially men who are in positions of power, authority, and influence. While the primary blame lies with the perpetrators, we should look next at the good men who say nothing. It’s time for good men to hold accountable those who abuse women. Those who abuse, assault, and rape are not real men. They distort and destroy any sense of healthy manhood. It’s time to tell our sons that they must never act like these abusers and perpetrators, and to make sure to raise our own sons to love, respect, and be faithful to women.

While Schwarzenegger and Strauss-Kahn have provided ugly caricatures of the moral corruption of men in power, Donald Trump sums it up well. For example, the “Trump Rule,” according to a book by a Miss USA pageant winner, required that all contestants parade in front of Trump, the co-owner of the pageant, so that he could separate out those he found attractive. Trump once said this about his own daughter, Ivanka: “She does have a very nice figure … if [she] weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” And to show how oblivious to criticism he really is, Trump told Esquire in 1991, “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of [expletive].”

The best use I know of for men who treat women this way are as anti-role models for my two sons. They exemplify what I hope my boys will never become. So here is my little contribution to condemning men who need to be condemned for not behaving. When T.V. shows with these unrepentant men come on, we will change the channel. When movies come out with them on the big screen, we will stay home. When sports games are played with them as stars, we won’t be buying tickets. When another media story erupts because of more bad behavior, my boys will be told that men who abuse women are not real men. They might still have money and power, but their abuse of women diminishes their humanity.

Women are already speaking out, and now it’s time for other men to also say that this bad behavior is no longer acceptable. Other men must condemn these men, not only as immoral and sometimes criminal, but also as the worst examples of what and who we are supposed to be. These men have given their humanity over to their animal impulses. We should publicly point out their bad and unacceptable behavior, and punish their acts as an example to others. We need to establish a new principle: that the abuse of women by men will no longer be tolerated. And the voices of men need to be louder to make that perfectly clear.

Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

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