The backlash against Donald Trump’s sexism only continues to grow. But how about the possibility of some positive action? There are a hundred things Billy Bush could have done to interrupt Trump on the spot during a now-well known conversation from 2005 in which Trump talked about grabbing women “by the p***y” and getting away with it because he’s rich.
Bush failed to do any of them.
Instead, he actively encouraged Trump’s grandiose sexual boasting. He fed right into Trump’s “alpha male” delusions of predatory, aggressive sexual entitlement. That cost Billy Bush the prime job he had–and it may now cost Trump the much bigger job Donald wants.
It’s not clear whether Bush welcomed the conversation, was personally afraid to alienate Trump, or was just too cowardly to speak up about assault. But Bush could have cut off Trump’s sexist trash-talk with a simple one-line interruption: “Whoa, let’s not go there.” Or: “I don’t want to hear that.” Or: “Stop right there, that’s enough.”
He could have nipped Trump’s comments in the bud with “What did you just say?” Obnoxious sexist bragging sounds doubly stupid when you make the harasser actually repeat it out loud. Even the total idiots tend to get embarrassed and back off.
Even better, Bush could have interrupted with a question: “Does anyone really still do that?” Or: “Hmmm, what do the women think when you grab them? What makes you think they like it?”
He might have asked Trump to consider: “Why do you suppose they put up with it? Are they afraid of what you might do if they don’t go along?”
He might have mentioned the law: “I think that’s called sexual assault and battery.”
He could have acted like a serious reporter and asked, “Well, how many women have you done that to? Can you give me some names?”
He could have put Donald on the defensive by asking him to explain: “You know, that’s very interesting behavior–can you explain why you do that?”
He could have responded with a warning: “Boy, treating women like that is pretty risky these days. You’re really over the line when you put your hands on someone.”
Or Bush could have just changed the subject: “Actually, I want to talk to you about the program – what do you think about the opening segment?”
He could have used a low-key tactic like a time-out or a stop sign. (Put your hands in a time-out T, as you say, “Time out. We’re not going down that road.” For the stop sign, put your palms in front of your chest, facing out.)
At the very least, Bush might have said, “You realize your mic is live?”
If he’d been thinking with half a brain, he could have done more than interrupt. He could also have taken some proactive steps on behalf of his female colleagues: “Well, you’d better not try that stunt with anyone here.”
But unlike so many bystanders who can and do speak up, Bush went spineless.
Participating in egregious sexism, as Bush did, is no way to stop it. Sexist trash-talk does real damage to women and girls–so does assault–and the good guys have been tolerating this behavior from other men way too long. Saying nothing is a passive, fear-driven response–harassers take it as approval and consent. Some people try a weak little “heh-heh” laugh – but that’s just an uncomfortable, dishonest reaction, an attempt to minimize the behavior and paper over it.
So I’m talking to the good guys here, the people who do have moral integrity: Don’t just get angry – do something that works. Interrupt the harassers, the sexist bigots who rate women’s bodies, the predators bragging about abuse. Do the unexpected–take it seriously. Step up with a little clarity. Most harassers fold immediately. It takes only seconds to interrupt a jackass.
I bet Trump wishes now that Billy Bush had done that.