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Column

The GOP's misogyny problem is bigger than Trump

There's something almost sweet about the way Democrats and establishment Republicans are coming together over their shared disgust with Donald Trump. Unable to find common ground on even the most basic issues (for instance, the constitutionality of nominating a Supreme Court justice during an election year), they have finally identified a mutual enemy and are piling on with rare bipartisan vigor.

Trump's defects by now can be recited as easily as the alphabet. He's a bully, a blowhard, an unabashed liar and a race baiter if not an actual racist. He appears to know little about domestic policy and less about foreign policy. He incites violence at his rallies. On Tuesday, his campaign manager was charged with misdemeanor battery for grabbing a reporter at a campaign event in Florida.

But his signature bad quality, especially lately, is misogyny. Trump hates woman, we are told. Unless they are stuck to his arm like voluptuous lollipops, he has no use for them. Last week, Trump tweeted an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz, wife of his rival Ted Cruz, with a glamour shot of his own former-model wife. His feud with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly is now almost a plank in his platform. Married three times, he has bragged about his affairs and he wrote in “The Art of the Comeback”: “If I told the real stories of my experiences with women, often seemingly very happily married and important women, this book would be a guaranteed bestseller.”

But is Trump a misogynist or just a cheesy blowhard who values in women the same gaudy qualities he values in everything else? His tastes in home décor, for instance, seem to have been shaped chiefly by “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” (He has a penchant for marble, gold and reproductions of Greek statues.) His hair and complexion suggest a weakness for infomercial products.

What's more, his claims of championing and promoting women in his company aren't necessarily wrong. At the very least, there are apparently well-paid women in executive positions in the Trump Organization, and there's no getting past the fact that he puts great stock in his eldest daughter. As the Trump Organization's executive vice president of development and acquisitions, Wharton Business School grad Ivanka Trump has been her father's right hand on “The Apprentice” and appears to have received far more professional grooming than her brothers, who also work for him.

For some, the definition of misogyny might be as slippery as former Justice Potter Stewart's definition of pornography: “I know it when I see it.” But to me, the Oxford Dictionary's definition — “hatred or dislike of, or prejudice against women” — seems pretty accurate. And it doesn't describe Trump, who is merely prejudiced against women he finds unattractive or who cross him.

Is being a crude, shallow boor when it comes to women tantamount to being a misogynist? Not when you're also a crude, shallow boor when it comes to men as well. Trump's grotesqueness is an equal opportunity deal. Besides, being a genuine misogynist would require having a genuine point of view, which Trump seems to lack about everything except his own superlativeness. In fact, labeling him a misogynist almost gives him too much credit; it assumes some kind of core belief system.

But here's who does have a core belief system about women: Many Republicans who are hypocritically calling out Trump as a woman hater. They're men like Cruz, who has consistently voted against laws that would allow women access to reproductive health services. Or like Glenn Beck, who compared Clinton to a dog and pretended to vomit at the mention of Nancy Pelosi and Meghan McCain.

And then there's Fox News itself, which, by way of defending Kelly's honor, decried Trump's “endless barrage of crude and sexist assaults.” Keep in mind that this network's paranoia about powerful women extended to the Disney movie “Frozen,” which it suggested was a vehicle for mocking and demonizing men.

Misogynist or not, there's little dispute that Trump is an opportunist. He may not hate women, but he sure is tapping into the anger and anxiety of many who do. That's dangerous, but so is allowing the overt, clownish sexism employed by Trump to obscure the more insidious brand of his GOP counterparts. Because bullying comments are nothing compared to bullying laws.

mdaum@latimescolumnists.com

Twitter: @meghan_daum

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Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 31, 2016, in the Opinion section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "The GOP's misogyny" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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