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Donald Trump Laughs About Sexual Assault as Designers Call for Feminism

“Wake the Fuck Up!”

“Make America Hate Again,” read a poster plastered on a stone wall outside the Sonia Rykiel show during Paris fashion week. The street art depicted a tangerine Donald Trump dressed as Uncle Sam, and mimicked J.M. Flagg’s 1917 “We Want You” propaganda. This iteration had “LOSER #UncleDon2016” scrawled across the bottom. A life-size image of a woman in jeans and a tank top, flipping off passers by with both hands, was posted next to it with a speech bubble that screamed, “Wake The Fuck Up!” 

At once amusing and troubling, this work by NexLev, whose art you can find on Instagram here, pretty much sums up how the rest of the world views America’s presidential race—absurd, embarrassing, disgusting, and quite frankly, unbelievable.

After last night’s debate, it’s not hard to understand why. 

Between uncomfortably swaying back and forth behind Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, interrupting her, and creepily stalking her as she spoke, Trump made numerous attempts to divert the focus from his latest sexist fumble, the 2005 video published by the Washington Post on Friday in which he made lewd comments about women to Access Hollywood host Billy Bush. 

“I did try and fuck her,” he said of TV host Nancy O’Dell, not realizing his mic was recording. (Hey, look! Robert Durst isn’t alone!) “I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.” he continued. “I’ve gotta use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful ― I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Trump later brushed the comments off, calling them “locker room banter.” Rightfully, Anderson Cooper took issue with this flimsy defense during yesterday evening’s town hall. “You called what you said locker room banter — kissing women without consent, grabbing their genitals. That is sexual assault. You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?” he asked. 

“No, I didn’t say that at all,” Trump retorted. “I don’t think you understood what was said. This was locker room talk. I’m not proud of it. I apologize to my family. I apologize to the American people. Certainly I’m not proud of it. But this is locker room talk.” He then went on to make some ill-conceived argument about how ISIS is worse than him, because they cut people’s heads off. Great. We have a presidential candidate whose only defense is “I’m better than ISIS.” What a proud moment in our country’s history. 

Also, his wife, Melania, decided to wear—wait for it—a Gucci “pussy bow” blouse while sitting in the audience. That’s a real thing that happened. Obviously, the media has had a field day with that, questioning whether her fashion choice was a ridiculous coincidence, or a wink to Trump supporters. Honestly, to assume this was some considered joke would be to give team Trump too much credit. Remember, these are the people who failed to catch that Melania (read: Melania’s people) plagiarized Michelle Obama’s convention speech

But back to Trump’s repulsive “pussy grabbing” statement. Given the sexist remarks and ideologies he’s pushed throughout his campaign and career (calling women pigs, assigning them numerical ratings based on their looks, calling former Miss Universe Alicia Machado fat, musing about his then one-year-old daughter Tiffany’s breast size in a 1994 episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, I could go on but I honestly don’t think we have enough bandwidth to list them all), Pussy Gate isn’t even all that surprising. (Good god, how sad is that?)

All of this is particularly troubling considering, according to statistics, nearly one in five women in America have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime. If those numbers don’t shake you to your core, you should visit author Kelly Oxford’s Twitter feed. After Trump’s comments went public, she shared the details of her own experiences with sexual assault, and invited other women to do the same. Thousands of victims replied, using the hashtag #NotOkay. 

Perhaps Donald Trump’s blatant misogyny (and the fact that, you know, America has its first female presidential candidate in Hillary Clinton) inspired the feminist overtones in Paris this past month, the most obvious being the “We Should All Be Feminists” t-shirt that Maria Grazia Chiuri sent down the runway during her Dior debut. T-shirts are great and all (seriously—look at all the conversations and think pieces Chiuri’s spawned), but as an industry that is largely for women, but not necessarily pro-women (see: Sweatshop labor, the ratio of men to women executives, the ratio of men to women fashion designers, the way we treat and display models, the messages we send to young girls), we need to do more, especially at a time like this, when Trump’s unrelenting sexism is sending a message that mistreating women, degrading them, and treating them as objects is a-okay. Sure, he claimed, “Nobody has more respect for women than I do,” during Sunday’s debate, but all one need do is listen to him speak to know that—like so much else that comes out of his mouth—that is a bald-faced lie. 

It was somewhat ironic to see NexLev’s graffiti outside the Sonia Rykiel show, given that the late designer is somewhat of a feminist icon, and that feminism is so deeply ingrained into her house’s DNA. But mainly, it was embarrassing. It was embarrassing for me, as an American woman, to see people walk by that imagery and laugh. It’s embarrassing that our country has let a man with such disregard for and hostility towards women and minorities get so far in our political process. It’s embarrassing that he represents our country and its ideals in any way, shape, or form. We need to prove that we’re better than this. We need to realize that Trump’s delusional approach to leadership is no longer a joke—it is this close to becoming our nation’s reality.  And above all, we need to wake the fuck up.

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