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We don't need to have daughters or wives to find Donald Trump appalling

Claire Zulkey wonders when she'll ever get used to the idea that she has two boys. She is the author of two books for young people, An Off Year and Best Frenemies. She and her filmmaker husband live in Evanston, IL. You can find out more...

Politicians don’t need to be related to women to care about women

I guess I, as a woman, appreciate the male politicians who have finally decided to stand up to Donald Trump now that his “locker room talk” has made the rounds.

They’re not denouncing Trump’s character because of me, of course, but because of the women they have chosen to incorporate into their lives — their wives and daughters. Aren’t we lucky so many politicians have wives and daughters? Otherwise nobody would speak up on behalf of us.

I’m being sarcastic, of course. Frank Bruni summarizes all of this nicely in today’s New York Times column, where he points out, “In this version of Take Our Daughters to Work Day, the work is displaying concern for women, and the daughters are less protégées than props.” Meanwhile, Bruni is not married to a woman, nor does he have daughters, yet he is still able to recognize and censure Trump’s gleeful misogyny.

Similarly, I too am not married to a woman, nor do I have daughters. I plan to teach my sons how to speak to and about women not because their mom happens to be a woman, but because we’re all humans in a society.

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Some may argue that it doesn’t matter why many high-profile male politicians are criticizing Trump, but it actually does, because it reveals which politicians seem to have a disconnect between the women in their lives and actual women’s issues. As Bruni points out, Scott Garrett, a Republican congressman from New Jersey, invoked his wife and daughters when criticizing Trump’s remarks, yet “he has taken positions against insurance coverage for mammograms and medical privacy for rape victims.” Similarly, Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, similarly busted out the “husband and father blah blah blah” response in regard to Trump’s talk, yet in April he signed a bill forcing women to disclose their reasons for terminating a pregnancy and criminalizing doctors who provided the service. Would he stand behind his daughters should they ever need an abortion or come out to him as gay?

Those of us with kids have a great opportunity right now to teach a type of unconditional empathy that is not on display on the political stage. I am not going to teach my sons lessons like “you should stick up for girls because your mommy is also a girl.” Not only does that teach them to consider women unrelated to them to be some sort of secondary person they don’t have to worry about, but it also sets up a dynamic where I’m teaching these tiny men whose butts I still wipe that they are somehow my protector. I don’t want them to stand up for me. I want them to stand up for people.

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It’s ironic that a child-free writer like Bruni is providing a good example to those of us with kids, but his point is valid. We shouldn’t need wives and daughters to show us the kindest way to speak and to act — after all, having wives and daughters of his own didn’t seem to stop Trump from so casually objectifying women. We don’t teach right from wrong because we are wives and daughters and mothers. We teach right from wrong because we’re humans.

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