The internet was ablaze this week with leaked audio from 2005 in which Donald Trump and Billy Bush objectify and disgrace several women. In the tape, Trump brags about using his celebrity as leverage to sexually assault women. Trump and his supporters were quick to defend his words as no more than “locker room” talk. Just guys being guys.
Former New York Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey further justified Trump’s disgusting rhetoric by comparing his conversation to Beyoncé lyrics. On CNN, McCaughey claimed Hillary Clinton was being a hypocrite for listening to Beyoncé’s “Formation,” which contains inappropriate language. What Betsy McCaughey, Donald Trump and so many others are failing to understand is that the actual swear words were not what outraged the nation. When Donald Trump brags that he can “grab [women] by the p****,” the outrage is not centered on the lewd word. Sure, it is unprofessional for a presidential candidate to be caught using swear words. It does not make him look any more intelligent. But the issue actually comes with the word “grab.” Had Trump boasted that he can “grab them by the genitals,” Americans would still be outraged.
The excerpt that McCaughey quoted from Beyoncé’s “Formation” on CNN goes: “I came to slay, b****. When he f*** me good I take his a** to Red Lobster.”
Beyoncé is a strong, powerful woman who inspires millions of people with her artistry and talent. When Beyoncé chooses to put certain potentially offensive words in her songs, it is not simply for shock value. “Formation” is about Beyoncé reclaiming her agency as a black woman and encouraging others to do the same. It is a social and political statement about independence, police brutality and American injustice towards people of color. “Formation” features an interlude by Big Freedia, a New Orleans bounce artist, asserting her southern blackness and agency as a self-identifying gay male. Big Freedia says “I came to slay, b****”—a proclamation which Beyoncé echoes throughout the rest of the song by singing “I slay” and “We gon’ slay.”
“When he f*** me good I take his a** to Red Lobster” is an assertion of Beyoncé’s agency and empowerment as a woman. She is eschewing traditional gender roles and historical oppression of women by placing herself in charge of her relationship with her husband, Jay-Z. Beyoncé also recognizes her economic success as a woman, which allows her to buy things for her husband and take him to dinner. When Beyoncé uses the word “f***,” she is referring to consensual sex between her and her partner.
When Donald Trump uses the f-word, it means something entirely different. In the leaked Billy Bush tape, Donald Trump describes his attempts to persuade a married woman into having sex with him. “I moved on her, actually,” he says. “You know she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it. I did try and f*** her. She was married.” Trump refers to this woman in a way that completely strips of her any agency. Rather than being a consenting partner, the woman is a conquest to be won and object to have sex with.
Furthermore, the woman was married. Donald Trump was aware that she was married and still tried to persuade her to have sex with him. Trump’s attitude towards sex with women—“moving” on women and trying to get them to sleep with him regardless of their marital status or interest in him—is what is truly disgusting about this encounter. His choice of words just makes him look unintelligent.
Later in the conversation, Trump describes how he uses his fame to sexually assault women. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. I just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything…Grab them by the p****. You can do anything.” Again, the word “p****” is not the worst thing happening in Trump’s egotistical declaration. The worst part about this is that he admits he doesn’t wait for consent. He admits to using his celebrity as a tool to get away with sexually assaulting women. News flash, Donald: “letting” you do something is not the same as enthusiastic consent.
Trump’s disgusting objectifications are not “locker room” banter, just as respect for others is not “stifling political correctness.” The ways in which Trump demeaned and disrespected the women in his conversation with Billy Bush reveal his internal misogyny and complete lack of respect for women.
But wait! This was ten years ago! He’s a changed man now, right? Ten years ago, Donald Trump was 60 years old. Any 60-year-old adult is certainly old enough to be expected to know how to respect women and ask for consent. When we look at the leaked conversation in conjunction with the dozens of other disrespectful, racist, sexist and xenophobic comments by Donald in just the past year, it is clear that this old dog has not learned any new tricks.