The White Male Privilege of Trump, Giuliani, and Gingrich

Yesterday in Quick Takes I quoted from an excellent article by Adam Gopnik in which he captured the utter depravity of Donald Trump’s racism and sexism. Here is what he wrote about the Republican nominee’s birtherism:

Yet Trump continued last night his self-congratulations for compelling the President to do this [release his long form birth certificate], along with the grotesquely racist notion that it was “good for him” (i.e., for the President). It slowly dawned on the listener that this was all of a piece with the rest of Trump’s racial attitudes: he believes that, as a rich white man, he had a right to stop and frisk the President of the United States and demand that the uppity black man show him his papers. Stop-and-frisk isn’t just a form of policing for Trump; it’s a whole way of life.

I was reminded of that when Trump and two of his most prominent spokesmen – Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich – decided that they would go after Hillary Clinton for her husband’s infidelity and fat-shame former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. That these three men think it is OK for them to “stop and frisk” these two women is the ultimate example of what we mean by male privilege.

A quick rundown shows that the leader of this little pack is just a few pounds shy of obese, loves to brag about eating fast food and revels in the fact that the only thing he does to get exercise is wave his arms at a campaign rally. He’s also the guy who bragged that maneuvering the dangerous landmines of women’s vaginas was his own private Vietnam.

Giuliani is they guy who called a press conference to announce his divorce without telling his wife and went on to praise his employee – with whom he was having an affair and later married. And yet yesterday he said that if Hillary Clinton didn’t know about her husband’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, she is too stupid to be president.

Gingrich – who is anything but svelte – got in on the act of fat-shaming Alicia Machado. If you’re wondering how these guys have the balls (crude, but appropriate reference at this point) to do that kind of thing, take a look at how Gingrich’s second wife told the story about what happened when he said he was having an affair with Callista – who eventually became his third wife.

He asked her to just tolerate the affair, an offer she refused.

He’d just returned from Erie, Pennsylvania, where he’d given a speech full of high sentiments about compassion and family values.

The next night, they sat talking out on their back patio in Georgia. She said, “How do you give that speech and do what you’re doing?”

“It doesn’t matter what I do,” he answered. “People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.”

There is a way that this kind of behavior fits the profile of a sociopath – who elevates himself as a great savior, but has zero capacity for self-reflection. But it is also profoundly sexist. As Gopnik went on to say, “His cruelty to Alicia Machado was unleavened by any apparent respect for her as a human being in any role other than as an envelope of flesh.” That is how these men see women – and are therefore able to hold them to completely different standards than they do themselves.

As we saw with Trump’s self congratulations for getting President Obama to release his long-form birth certificate, he now thinks he should get credit for doing Machado a favor.

Trump sought to put the controversy to rest Wednesday, stating during an interview several times that in fact he had “saved her job.”

“I saved her job because they wanted to fire her for putting on so much weight,” Trump told Bill O’Reilly on Fox News on Wednesday. “And it is a beauty contest, you know. I mean, say what you want, they know what they’re getting into. It’s a beauty contest. And I said don’t do that.

“And you know what happened? Look what I get out of it. I get nothing,” Trump added later.

In just the same way, both Trump and his surrogates are very busy congratulating him for not bringing up Bill Clinton’s infidelities in the first debate – a blatant attempt to actually make them the story.

Some people thought that in 2016 perhaps our country was beyond this kind of sexist male-privileged thinking. It’s true that “we’ve come a long way, baby!” But for some men, women are still merely “an envelope of flesh” to be used for their own pleasure and degraded/discarded when they don’t go along. It just so happens that one of them is the current Republican nominee for president.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.