Women are people, not possessions. It seems an odd statement to have to make. Perhaps especially in the United States. In 2016. But here we are.
And so we are glad for men like Cedar Rapids Kennedy Principal Jason Kline, who took to Facebook last weekend to remind students, especially boys, that presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s widely circulated remarks about touching and kissing women without their consent are, to put it mildly, “not ok.”
“It’s not ok for a 60-year-old man, its not ok for a 13-year-old boy,” he wrote. “It’s not ok for anyone.”
Kline’s post, which was later shared on Kennedy High’s Twitter account, elicited more than 51,000 reactions. More than 31,000 people shared his words with their own social media circles.
“Women are not a conquest,” Kline wrote. “Women are not something you can just take as your possession. Women are not objects. I know you know this. But I want to be sure you aren’t getting mixed messages.”
And how could they not be getting mixed messages, with the deflections and excuses flying in every direction? First, there’s Trump’s own apology for the words that were caught by the live microphone, which he characterized as “locker room talk.”
Then there are the apologists who argue that Trump’s remarks, made 11 years ago, caused no real harm. Or those who point to other politicians and prominent men who, they contend, have said and done far worse, including Hillary Clinton’s own husband.
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This is hardly the first time a sex-related scandal rocked political circles, and it won’t be the last. Yet unlike past allegations, this revelation brought something more sinister into public view; The perception that there’s nothing unusual or even particularly wrong about a person in a position of power jovially boasting of his ability to lay hands on another person’s genitalia without consent. That somehow, that kind of behavior is ok.
We thank the men who have spoken out against this type of thinking in recent days, including local leaders like Rep. Ken Rizer and 2nd District Congressional candidate Chris Peters. More should follow their lead.
Because, clearly, it isn’t only students who need Kline’s clear-eyed reminder, as he wrote last weekend:
“Real men don’t treat women this way. We don’t talk about women this way. We don’t cheat on our spouses. We don’t force ourselves on women. We don’t joke about assaulting women. We don’t make light of assaulting women. We don’t strategize about assaulting women. Rapists do these things. Not real men.”
Like Jason Kline, we must clearly and unequivocally state these actions and “locker room talk” will not be tolerated by men or women of any age. They are the aberration, not the norm.
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