If there is a bright spot in this sad, awful election year, it is that Michelle Obama is campaigning for Hillary Clinton, and she is a brilliant, powerful speaker who owns a podium like few politicians before her. On Thursday, she spoke in Manchester, New Hampshire, and her speech addressed Donald Trump’s recent comments about women–that he could “grab them by the pussy,” among other things–and it was a blistering response.
Obama’s speech is worth watching in its entirety–just click the video at the top of the page–but for those who don’t have 30 minutes, here is an excerpt:
Watch this from Michelle Obama on the Trump tape. It is quite something. “It has shaken me to my core” pic.twitter.com/ke3LrPrwna
”” Colin Jones (@colinjones) October 13, 2016
“I can’t believe I’m saying that a candidate for President of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women,” Obama said, continuing her tradition of not mentioning Donald Trump’s name in her speeches. Her voice shakes with emotion as she says that–like most of us, probably–she’d love nothing more than to pretend like this isn’t happening, but this is happening, and we need to address it.
“This was not just a lewd conversation. This wasn’t locker room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior,” she said.
She was talking about Trump’s comment that if he saw a beautiful woman he liked, he could just “grab them by the pussy” because he was rich and powerful, but it applies just as much to the video released Wednesday of Trump pointing to a 10-year-old girl and boasting: “I’m gonna be dating her in 10 years. Can you believe it?”
Trump was 46 years old at the time, and that was creepy as hell. It’s predatory, and it is illustrative of a world view in which women are just status markers for men, and little girls are just future trophies. Actresses are attractive objects that can be groped and kissed without permission, and then boasted about to gain credibility with other dudes.
“If this is painful to us as grown women, what do you think this is doing to our children?” Obama asked. “What lessons are they learning about their values as professionals? As human beings? About their dreams and aspirations?”
Obama’s words apply to all our children. Little girls listening to this are hearing that they will be treated like possessions and judged on their looks and their bodies. Little boys listening to this are hearing that this is what a powerful man acts like, and that the signs of power are possessing beautiful, younger women and demeaning them to other men. Neither is acceptable.
“Strong men ”” men who are truly role models ”” don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful,” Obama said. That needs to be in lights on a billboard somewhere.
”Too many of us are treating this as just another day’s headline,” she said. ”As though our outrage is overblown or unwarranted. As though this is normal, just politics as usual. But this is disgraceful, this is intolerable… None of us deserve this kind of abuse.”
She’s right; this isn’t normal. It’s not normal that parents are worrying about letting their kids watch the election coverage. Even in 2008 and 2012, it was generally safe to let a child see the electoral process in action, but now parents feel like they have to vet the news before letting their kids watch. This should not be the new normal.