Tuesday 25 July 2017

Deplore Trump-talk by all means but don't pretend to be shocked

Trump's sexism is odious, but can women in their 50s be surprised, when we came of age with the real thing

RESPECT? Donald Trump and Miss USA Erin Brady at the 2013 pageant. Photo: Jeff Bottari/AP
RESPECT? Donald Trump and Miss USA Erin Brady at the 2013 pageant. Photo: Jeff Bottari/AP

Miriam O'Callaghan

It's more than 30 years ago. Just before summer exams in UCC. After a long day and night with John Milton, a student is leaving the reading rooms in the Maltings, at the elbow of the river Lee. She's looking forward to the trek home: turn left, pass George Boole's house, cross the Bailey bridge, up the Rock Steps. She loves that walk: the loamy smell of the May night on the North Mall, the dreeping riverbanks she knows are emerald, equatorial in daylight; the truculent swans, quiet now, head-under-wing, luminous in the black, satiny water.

At the gate though, she changes her mind. Turns right for Washington Street. It's bright, ugly, but she reckons it's safer. It is. Until she is grabbed by the hair, punched in the head and ribs, hauled into a doorway by a man possibly in his 30s. She fights but can't scream: she's winded. In a reek of salt-and-vinegar, two male students tackle the attacker. They say she was "haunted" he was so drunk. Their chips are mashed on the ground.

Does she report it? No. All she wants is to get home. And what was the attack, only a violent iteration of the contemporary consensus on the myriad lures, faults of girls and women? Breasts too big, eyes too dark, lips too full, hair too shiny, clothes - the uniform of Levi's and oversized lumber shirts - too "skimpy", "sexy" "revealing". In that time, girls and young women were mercilessly "teased" by men. If they demurred? Christ, what was wrong with them? Had they no sense of humour? Didn't they know they'd never get a fella with all that touch-me-not? I see why our fathers were so alert, protective.

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