Humanism in the Trump Era

Emily Newman is the Development & Communications Assistant for The Humanist Institute and Communications Coordinator of the American Ethical Union. She has been a key organizer of the Future of Ethical Societies since 2011 and helped develop the IHEYO American Working Group.

Introduction

The Trump Administration has shown itself as a, if not the, major concern for citizens in the United States, as well as the rest of the world because the US is the most powerful nation in military might, economic power, and international soft power.

In the final 2016 presidential debate, current President Donald Trump proclaimed “no one respects women more than me.” However, later in the debate, he interrupted then Secretary Hillary Clinton over 35 times, once to refer to her as “such a nasty woman.”

The deliberate slanders on the campaign trail were numerous, and quite conscious — and even at times non-conscious and highly impulsive — in trying to muddy Clinton’s representation as an activist for women’s rights.

Trump keeps telling us that he respects women. But has he been showing us? Has he treated women with respect and encouraged others to do so as well? Do we trust that he will support and defend women throughout his term? How much can he really respect women?

He previously bragged about grabbing women in their privates and shows little indication of a change in his perspective that women are inequality in physical treatment as objects to him, as things to be objectified.

He may think that he respects women because he has done some good things and could be worse, but there is not enough evidence to show he truly respects women. Besides, the standard for treatment of women and female empowerment is not thinking, “It could have been worse,” or, “He’s done a little.” It’s an inappropriate benchmark, especially for leader of the free world.

Trump can highlight how he hired and promoted women in his businesses, listens to his wife and daughter about “women’s difficulties,” and invites women to meetings at the White House. His administration can boast that he signed a proclamation designating March as Women’s History Month, and tweeted something nice for International Women’s Day.

He can claim that he has matured from previously made rude comments, which are insulting to many women, “locker room talk,” and actions that caused him to be accused of sexual assault by 11 women.

But his past actions should at least prove that he does not respect women more than everybody else, certainly not more than the many people who have fought and continue to fight for women’s rights around the country. The fact that he continues to praise himself in this regard and not acknowledge other people’s dedication to supporting women is strong evidence against his claim.

Putting aside our issues with his hyperbole (and grammar), let’s look at how Trump could show he respects women. The Center for American Progress prepared an issue brief that “highlights 100 ways in which Trump’s policy actions and proposals fall short of — and often harm — the comprehensive progress that millions of women and their families need.” Please read them all. We highlight a few key issues below:

Healthcare

Women, like men, need reliable and affordable healthcare in order to stay healthy. Trump repealed the Affordable Care Act before having a good replacement prepared and his budget cuts Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, and international support (causing resurgence and spread of diseases that could be treated if detected early).

The proposed healthcare bill, developed by only white men, does not provide needed services to “pre-existing conditions” including rape, mental health issues, and pregnancy. His proposed budget also attacks STEM education programs, which would enable women to get a better education, good jobs, and support health opportunities for all.

Does he not value science, research, and health, or does he not understand how essential they are to improving our country? Either answer terrifies us.

Reproductive Rights

A significant part of a women’s health is her ability to get or avoid getting pregnant. Trump has said (in Presidential debate & August 2015 interview with Sean Hannity) that Planned Parenthood provides vital services for millions of women other than abortion, including cancer screenings, yet he supports defunding it.

In March 2016, he told Chris Matthews in MSNBC town hall-style forum that abortion must be banned and women who seek abortions should be punished, later clarifying that he meant the person who performed the abortion would be legally responsible.

Is this denial of what Human Rights Watch calls a fundamental human right permissible? He is appealing to the fundamentalist and ethnic nationalist base to thrust women into secondary status without the right to choose how their bodies are treated.

The president also reinstated and expanded the global gag rule, preventing NGOs from receiving U.S. aid if they provide abortion counseling or referrals. It is an absurd regrowth of the Reagan-era politics, which will punish women — and especially poor and minority women.

Parental Leave and Equal Pay

Families that have children need to spend time caring for babies, without losing their jobs or being forced back to work soon after the birth. Parental leave is needed for both men and women because it is not only the mother who is raising the child and dealing with this new life change.

On March 27, Trump revoked Obama’s 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplacesorder, which ensured that companies with federal contracts comply with 14 labor and civil rights laws. The Fair Pay order was put in place after a 2010 Government Accountability Office investigation showed that companies with rampant violations were being awarded millions in federal contracts.

In an attempt to keep the worst violators from receiving taxpayer dollars, the Fair Pay order included two rules that impacted women workers: paycheck transparency and a ban on forced arbitration clauses for sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination claims.

Conclusion

On the bright side, many women are acting on the frustration based on the decisions and actions of the Trump administration, where demeaning phrases like “nasty woman” become battle cries. They have been inspired to donate to organizations such as the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, contact their politicians to voice their views, and run for office.

According to a March 2017 post on Emily’s List: “Since November 8, over 10,000 women have contacted the organization about potential runs for office — roughly ten times as many as reached out during the entire 2016 election cycle, from January 2015 to last November.”

We can and must come together to raise our voices for the administration to hear. No matter your gender, sexual orientation, income, race, religious beliefs, or any other distinguishing qualities, we are all humans that expect our government to support its people.

That is the universalist, humanist, credo. Even if you don’t live in America, you are affected by its policies. America should be supporting every person by funding educational programs, protecting the vulnerable populations, using evidence-based information to make responsible decisions, and working towards that universal humanist credo.

Original Publication in Humanist Voices.

Emily Newman and Scott Douglas Jacobsen

3 thoughts on “Humanism in the Trump Era

  1. Trump is not the leader of the free world. I cannot say who is, but not Trump. Merkel perhaps, Trudeau, hardly, May has not been around long enough, but who out of the US would willingly follow trump?

  2. I agree with all your ideas except for Hillary, she was no Angela.
    The Christian women, under the tragic delusions caused by the American creation of “End Days” theology, think Donald is a gift from Heaven.
    From some reports, it seems that Donald is a fairly common specimen of a sociopathic leader. He gets a thrill out of lying and his only remorse is caused by withheld or insufficient adulation.

  3. The measure of a politician is not a single issue (in this case, women).

    I think Trump is a disaster, but I do not see evidence that Trump is sexist. I do see creeping conflation of “sexual” with “sexist” (certain people can’t tell the difference). When the pee video comes out, perhaps then we can finally put a stop to the religion-inspired sex-shaming of men.

    When it comes to healthcare, there is altogether too much focus on women. Just look at the lifespans in our two counties. Men die significantly earlier than women so often that it’s just expected, despite no evidence for this being normal. (But note that men volunteer for the riskiest, deadliest jobs). Further, this means that men are much less likely to reap the benefits of retirement, and because most men are straight, their retirement will go to women. Early death isn’t just a health issue, but an economic one, resulting in a massive transfer of wealth from men to women.

    Men have no reproductive rights whatsoever. They don’t even have any sexual rights. Any sexual encounter with a woman could mean that they’re retroactively determined to be a rapist, or be declared a “father” (read: bank account) for 18 years, even if the kid isn’t theirs! After the failed railroading of Ghomeshi, there’s even a push for a presumption of guilt, and removing the ability of an accused man to defend himself with facts. So, we could start toward equal rights with a simple change of requiring health insurers to cover male condoms (a benefit also for gay men) and vasectomy, without requiring the permission or notification of any woman. It’s time men had some of this freedom that women have enjoyed for decades.

    I will credit Hillary for actually having a fairer parental leave policy. Trump limits parental leave only to mothers. Hillary included fathers in her proposal.

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