Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Jackson Katz: A Plea to Men in the 2016 Election

October 28th 2016

Earlier this month, we were disturbed to see Nate Silver’s forecast that if only men voted in this election, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would win big.

Silver’s projections raise an important question: Will (white) men continue to participate in a regressive culture of toxic masculinity, or will they join with women and people of color to fight for a more just and equitable future?

Donald Trump epitomizes toxic masculinity, an issue we explore in the film "The Mask You Live In." In his long, colorful career, Trump has repeatedly sought power through dominance, control, and aggression at the expense of empathy, care, and collaboration. Born into immense wealth and privilege, he has nurtured a public image based not only on his financial success, but also on his aggressive bullying tactics, the routine shaming of his adversaries and critics, and boasts of sexual prowess.

trump-sexual-assaultAP/Ronen Zilberman - apimages.com

His self-perceived superiority spills over into ethnic and racial bigotry. He slanders Mexicans as rapists, Muslims as terrorists, and refugees as criminals. He mocked a reporter with a disability and reduces African Americans to “inner city” caricatures.

Trump also thinks of women as objects to be controlled: to be assessed and used for his pleasure or to be ridiculed and dismissed at his whim. His disparagement of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton plays into tired stereotypes that label women as bossy, bitchy, weak, and nasty. His many stints on the Howard Stern Show and his role in the Miss Universe pageants reveal a man who relishes policing beauty standards and attacks women who don’t sit at home and satisfy their husbands' every need. Let’s not forget, he bragged about being able to grope women.

billy-bush-donald-trumpWashington Post - washingtonpost.com

Trump, who exhibits this endless misogyny, racism, and narcissistic grandiosity, has been rewarded with 24/7 media coverage, public endorsements, millions of votes, and a major party endorsement. Yes, presidential politics have historically been masculinity contests but rarely this degrading and regressive.

As a nation, we have given him platform and amplified his voice. We have normalized his deep-seated bigotry, and by so doing, we are all living in a giant “locker room” that condones and even rewards masculine aggression and dominance.

Trump is certainly not the world’s only misogynist with power, but he is currently the loudest. And by seriously entertaining his candidacy for the presidency, we are all complicit.

So will we regress as a nation? Will our long national march toward racial and gender justice be reversed?

We do have a choice here. Women are making their choice and are resoundingly rejecting Trump. So what will men — and especially white men — choose?

This is the ultimate "bystander" moment. What are these men going to do?

donald-trumpAP/Evan Vucci - apimages.com

Will they hold onto some romanticized and narrow vision of American “greatness” and resist the forces of democratic change? Or will they jump into the arena and join the fight to make ours a more perfect union?

Men: your children are watching. Do you want to make America truly great?

The choice is yours.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom is filmmaker of "Miss Representation" and "The Mask You Live In" and founder and CEO of The Representation Project.

Jackson Katz is the author, most recently, of "Man Enough? Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the Politics of Presidential Masculinity."

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