We are heading toward six months since the ubiquitous hashtag #MeToo was re-popularized by Alyssa Milano. It’s been six months since the Harvey Weinstein scandal; six months that have been marked by triumph over abusers in positions of power such as politician John Conyers and news anchor Matt Lauer and by inspiring activism across the nation. The past six months have also included a confusing rollercoaster on a plethora of crucial issues such as immigration, healthcare, Russia, the Iran nuclear deal and so on. So while some powerful abusers have been justly defeated, another has reaped the benefits of a 24-hour news cycle that cannot seem to remember what atrocities occurred the week before.
President Donald Trump has been accused of sexual assault by 21 women. His response has largely been to dismiss and disregard their allegations, once calling them all “horrible liars.” For those who found the testimony of more than a dozen women to be unconvincing, a video of Trump himself bragging about groping women surfaced on Oct. 7, 2016. On Oct. 13 (less than a month before being elected President), he said “Look at her . . . I don’t think so” about an accuser, implying that there is a correlation between a woman’s appearance and her likelihood of being assaulted. And yet, the stories and his reprehensible responses to them managed to get lost in the chaos that has been the past 14 months.
There are many reasons to dislike Trump. There are many reasons to call for his impeachment. I feel that this particular aspect of his existence should be covered with the frequency and deference that it deserves. Our president is a serial sexual predator. We cannot claim to be the beacon of democracy and human rights as long as this is true. It is a grotesque reflection of a society that looks past criminal behavior if the criminal is a wealthy white heterosexual male who will work to maintain the hierarchical system that has privileged him. Members of Trump’s team left because of steel tariffs, but did not bat an eye at these accusations.
The allegations were also largely ignored at the height of #MeToo movement. Whether it was because our collective memory could not stand to hold any more Trump scandals than we already had or if in our hearts we knew that he was one predator we weren’t going to topple, I don’t know. I know that as I watched in awe at the brave women coming forward to speak their truth and be heard, there were at least 21 women who were watching while their abuser sat in the Oval Office. While I rejoiced as large, powerful institutions finally held their leadership accountable, the Free World couldn’t do the same.
That image disturbs me: millions of survivors feeling hope for the first time in so long, while simultaneously being governed by an accused rapist. It also makes me feel a little hopeless. When 21 women’s stories aren’t worth any formal investigation, when evangelical Republicans can back a candidate who said, “I just grab ‘em by the pussy,” when even the anti-Trump feminists seem to forget that in addition to being a racist, sexist, homophobic bigot, he is also a violent criminal, the state of justice in this country feels quite bleak.
But recently, there has been a glimmer of hope on the topic. One of the “horrible liars” is fighting back against our "Predator in Chief." Summer Zervos is filing a defamation suit against Trump for calling her a liar about the accusations. The Trump team responded by claiming that a sitting president cannot be sued. A New York Supreme Court Judge rejected that notion, saying, “No one is above the law.” In one of the most ironic plot twists of the Trump era yet, this precedent was set after Paula Jones sued former President Bill Clinton in 1998.
This could end in Trump being forced to speak under oath about the allegations as Clinton did 20 years ago when he famously said: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman (Monica Lewinsky).” First of all, poor Hillary Clinton. When will this nightmare end for her? Second of all, I sincerely hope that #MeToo has evoked something strong enough in this nation’s conscience to lead us to justice for Zervos and the 20 other women who have been brave enough to come forward with their stories. I am not quite optimistic about the prospects of that, but these recent developments have certainly made me less hopeless.