Political Correctness Run Amok? Nope. Nope. Nope.
“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.” Donald J. Trump
By now, you know the story of the Access Hollywood tape in Donald J. Trump brags about sexually assaulting women. He passed it off as “locker room talk” and as “politically correctness.”
On December 1, 2019, the Brexiteer Nigel Farage — who has appeared at campaign rallies alongside Trump — held an interview on BBC TV. He was asked about Trump and Trump’s crude comments about grabbing women “by the pussy.” Farage said that “It was crass and it was crude and it was wrong.” He really should have stopped right there. But, of he didn’t, did he? No, he then mitigated the condemnation by adding “Men say dreadful things sometimes. If all of us were called out for what we did on a night out after a drink, none of us would be here.” While he was called out on live TV for that “defense,” Farage laughed it off.
In another interview from a year earlier, Farage decried political correctness. He blames a LOT of things on political correctness, in fact. But on this occasion, he stated that
“I’m not going to bow down to political correctness or be told I can’t do this or can’t do that,” Mr Farage said. “We need politicians to reflect the same values and, you know what, the same flaws we have too.”
Clearly, Donald Trump is one of those politicians with the same values and the same flaws. They appear to be cut from the same cloth.
Political correctness has a complicated and twisted history. Begun as a sort of joke on the political left, self-mocking a kind of litmus test within the left. But the term was picked up and, as these things do, took on a life of its own, with no fealty to its origins or intentions. It a very short time, it became a battering ram of the right, quashing discussions, largely about issues of identity. For example, should we use the term “African American” or “Black?” For the left, it was a question of empowerment and self-determination. For the right, it was a question of intervention and statist control. They would dismiss the very question by calling it “PC,” and then never have to engage in the actual debating about autonomy.
Now, the political right claims that the left quashes discussion via the deployment of political correctness. For example, when students ran Milo Yiannopoulos off Berkeley campus, the right said that PC students were quashing a debate of ideas. Similarly, when Ann Coulter cancelled her appearance (also) at Berkeley, she blamed PC students and culture.
Now, Farage passes off Trump’s grabbing women by the pussy as political correctness run amok. Is it? Really? I would argue not.
What Trump has confessed to is a crime. Can someone legally say, “I want to grab women?” Of course. If that was all that Trump had done, then it would be inappropriate. It was be crass, and crude, and vulgar. And even then, people would be correct to call him out on it. It is not how I want my children behaving. Any of them.
Later, Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said that Farage was wrong to defend Trump: “It can never be acceptable for a man to talk about grabbing a woman’s pussy. If you think it is you should be ashamed.”
But that’s not all, is it? Trump has dozens of outstanding sexual assault claims. Claims by women that he did “move on her like a bitch.” Which is an assault. Which is a crime. Which is decidedly not political correctness run amok.
Trump’s words, and Farage’s defense of those words, are exactly why we need to continue to redefine cultural, social, and legal standards. They are exactly why we need to continue to redefine masculinity. We cannot continue acting as though the words and actions of Donald Trump represent manhood or masculinity.
It’s not PC; it’s decency. It’s not PC; it’s respect for another person. It’s not PC; it’s life and death. Trump and Farage need to be prepared to relegated to the trash heap of history.
Ritch Calvin is an Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at SUNY Stony Brook. He is the author of Feminist Epistemology and Feminist Science Fiction and editor of a collection of essays on Gilmore Girls.