“Nobody has more respect for women than I do,” said Donald Trump, defending in a presidential debate comments he made about grabbing women “by the pussy” without their permission. It’s safe to say now that if you believed him then, you’re a sucker.
After a wild few days of sweeping orders, bizarre public appearances and unhinged Twitter tirades, it’d be easy to paint President Trump as “unpredictable.” But he seems pretty simple. He is a man driven by the desire to reward those who love him appropriately and punish those who don’t. Last Saturday, women marched with “Fuck Trump” signs, this week, Trump gave the pink hats his own “fuck you.” It’s safe to say that there are many people who have more respect for women than Donald Trump.
On Tuesday, Trump showed his pro-life bona fides with his first, albeit expected, swipe at women. He signed an executive action reinstating the so-called Global Gag Rule, an order that restricts usage of U.S. aid money to public health organizations that don’t provide or even discuss abortion with patients. Initial news reports on the action passed it off as routine, something that essentially put back in place an order the George W Bush administration had enacted in 2001, something that administrations had been enacting and repealing, over and over, since Ronald Reagan first applied it in 1984. But Trump’s version is much broader in scope, affecting all foreign public-health organizations that receive U.S. aid, not just those that provide family-planning services. On a practical level, the new Trump’d up Mexico City Rule may govern up to $9.458 billion in U.S. funds and all public-health organizations the U.S. funds abroad. The Bush version encompassed $575 million and affected only family-planning health providers.
Trump signed the Global Gag rule in the Oval Office, days after the millions-strong Women’s Marches around the country made his inauguration look like a midseason Tampa Bay Rays game. He signed the order surrounded by men, which made the signing of a legal document pertaining to women’s health look a lot like a ‘fuck you’.
But the new president was just getting warmed up. Today, he took it even further, targeting the United Nations for its own gag rule. Now, the only UN agencies eligible for U.S. funds are those that never promote “abortion or sterilization as a method of family planning, or to motivate or coerce any person to undergo an abortion or sterilization.” It’s the global gag rule, but on steroids, and on a larger scale.
One of the groups singled out, the United Nations Population Fund, fights female genital mutilation, child marriage, and maternal death. The global scourge of child marriage means that in some places, girls as young as 10 or 11 face life-threatening pregnancies. Sterilization is a crucial aspect of reducing maternal death, as women in many parts of the world don’t have regular access to birth control, even if a pregnancy would be high-risk for them. Around 300,000 women die during childbirth globally every year. The world we live in is not a world that can humanely exclude abortion and sterilization from discussions of women’s health.
The Trump iteration of the pro-life agenda makes sex something that should have potentially dire consequences for women, whether she’s an American teenager, an African grandmother, or a Syrian refugee. There’s nothing pro-life about letting women die.
On the same desk he signed the global gag order, the President is expected to sign another executive order. While it stops short of a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S. for any reason, it does target countries with majority populations that adhere to one particular faith, while making exceptions for persecuted “religious minorities” (Christians). The order calls for a 120-day ban on admitting nearly all refugees, and stops the issuance of visas from several majority-Muslim countries, including Syria.
In a master stroke of irony, the order states that the U.S. will not give visas to individuals who commit “acts of bigotry” such as honor killings and violence against women, or discrimination against somebody based on their sexual orientation. Maybe Team Trump should take a glance in one of those big, beautiful White House mirrors. According to reports, slashing funds to domestic violence shelters here in the US is on the table for the Trump administration. And regarding sexual orientation, you’d be hard pressed to find somebody with a richer history of gay antipathy than Mike Pence. In 2006, Pence and some congressional allies attempted to push an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment. Gay marriage, he said, would lead to social collapse. In addition, Pence has supported Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and opposed anti-gay discrimination laws. It sure seems like Donald Trump only pretends to care about women or the LGBTQ community inasmuch as it justifies bigotry against brown men. If either of those men applied for an American visa, they’d both be denied by their own administration’s standards.
The people fleeing bloodshed in Syria aren’t cartoonish jihadists of the dark crevices of a Breitbart writer’s holy-war fanfic. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, 73 percent of refugees from Syria are women and children. The likely-soon-to-be-embattled United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that 360,000 women directly impacted by the Syrian conflict were pregnant. Of those, 80,200 have fled to neighboring countries, many of which lack resources to provide maternal care to an influx that size.
A final, cruel twist of the knife seems to be the mental gymnastics routine required to understand how Trump can characterize Syria as a humanitarian disaster while praising Vladimir Putin, who, alongside Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad, is arguably responsible for much of the slaughter. Trump has allied himself with an ally of the man who has turned Syria into Hell, and then turned his back on those who wish to escape. Children. Women. Pregnant women.
Beyond that, it’s tough to fathom the mutual exclusivity of the beliefs that a fetus is a person worthy of being protected at all costs, but a pregnant refugee is something less than a person, something we can turn our backs on. How can a person who calls themselves an advocate for the unborn be so callous about the lives of the post-born? He only approves of abortion that occurs after the third trimester.
None of this makes sense unless you think of it in terms of reward and punishment. Trump distributes rewards to the people who have loved him to his satisfaction. Those who showed up to Donald Trump’s rallies dutifully doffing their MAGA hats, those who surround him in the Oval Office, bloated with smugness as he signs orders restricting women’s choices. Those who know what Trump means when he says “we” and “them.”
Those who shield the President from the truth about crowd size, to protect his ego. Those who once screamed LOCK HER UP, who now don’t mind that he didn’t lock her up, but will scream LOCK HER UP anyway, because it’s fun. Those who want to stick it to the blue states, who, like Trump, cannot fathom a country so full of stuck-up cultural snots trying to make them feel bad about their choices. Those who clean up after his irresponsible barking during humiliating Sunday show appearances, visibly aged after months of lying and deflection. Those whose eyes feign delight as they dutifully clap in the front row of his speeches in an attempt to gain favor with him. Those who tweet Pepe memes at him. Those nearby sycophants and far-flung self-identified deplorables. Those are the people he loves, those are the people he rewards. He is with them.
In Trump’s America, everybody else can go fuck themselves.