In the recent weeks we’ve seen a lot of a presidential candidate’s so called “sex scandal”. Let me preface the rest of this rant by saying this is not about whether or not you support Clinton or another 3rd party candidate. This is not even entirely about Trump. This is about the importance of word choice when it comes to the news media and our perception of what is happening.
Many news sources and surrogates for Trump have declared that the American people are tired of all the focus on the sex scandal. It’s been very effective, a lot of people agree, mostly because we do get tired of sex scandal. The problem is Sexual Assault is NOT a sex scandal. A sex scandal is a grown person making questionable decisions when they have sex. Perhaps they had sex in public, perhaps they had an affair, perhaps they have multiple partners – Sex scandal.
Admitting on a live mic that you grab women without their permission and they just have to deal with it because you are famous is assault. Having this confirmed by multiple women is further confirmation of assault. Denying that it is assault does not change the context of what it is. People like to present assault scandal as something less than what it is in order to shift public opinion and to help them get away with it. This is especially effective when it comes to sexual assault.
By using the words “sex scandal” over and over what is happening is that people are slowly yet surely getting over it. They are less likely to picture a violent crime against women and more likely to picture a guy just “being a guy” as we like to say. This is all apart of rape culture and it WORKS. Even openly liberal media has backed off the fact that Trump does not see assault as assault to move on to other things. Why? Because we keep framing it as a sex scandal instead of multiple cases of sexual assault.
Trump is not a playboy who was caught with his pants down after a night of drinking while he was married. He is a man who believes that grabbing women without their permission is a joke and has done it many times, and will do it many times more. He does not believe it’s a crime, and he never will. Trump is NOT involved in a sex scandal.
So what’s the point of this rant? Consider your words in the future, and the words being used to describe incidents in the media. Non consensual sex is not a thing, don’t use that term. It’s consensual or it’s assault. Assault scandals are not sex scandals. Think about this. Think about it when you hear the words on the news you watch. Think about it when you read them online. Think about it when you use them yourself. Remember that public perception is very easily shifted based on word choice.
Then as you remember this demand that there be a change in yourself and others. Also know that it goes well beyond the issues of rape culture. It is how we describe victims of police brutality. Pro-oil companies calling themselves “pro-energy”. The way the media often negatively describes protesters. Many aspects of the world and important issues are shifted by a few simple words and our way of thinking based on those words.
Word choice matters.