In the UK, our strange customs include cheese-rolling, Morris dancing and compulsive passive-aggressive apologising. Over in the US, one of their more unusual national traditions is the annual White House ‘turkey pardon’. What happens is this: every Thanksgiving, the sitting president steps out onto the White House lawn in front of a bank of cameras, and tells a turkey that it won’t have to become dinner that day.
Normally, the turkey pardon is just a bit of fun. It’s a chance for the president to show their more human, lighthearted side, and a guaranteed fluffy story for the press. But this year, the event took a darker tone after one journalist made an important observation on Twitter.
Liz Plank, a producer and correspondent at American news website Vox, was watching the pardon on TV when she noticed something about the way President Donald Trump was behaving around the turkey. He was deferential, almost cautious.
“Am I allowed to touch it?” he asked, standing a respectful distance away from the bird.
In other words, Trump’s treatment of a turkey was significantly more courteous than the way he has historically treated women.
“[That feeling when] you realise Trump respects turkeys more than women,” Plank wrote, alongside a screengrab from the TV broadcast of the pardon.
Plank was referring, of course, to the president’s own admission that he has touched women without their consent.
“I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait,” Trump said, in the now-infamous 2005 Access Hollywood tape that surfaced last October, shortly before the US presidential election.
He continued: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
The president has also been accused of sexual misconduct by at least 16 women. These women include Jessica Leeds, who says that Trump touched her breasts and put his hand up her skirt when they were sat next to each other on a flight in the early Eighties, and Natasha Stoynoff, a magazine reporter who alleges that the now-president pushed her against a wall and “[forced] his tongue down [her] throat” while she was working on a story about him in 2005.
Responses to Plank’s tweet ranged from the humorous to the really-kind-of-sad.
Give it a little lipstick then he won't care 🙄— The Velvet Dress (@thevelvetdress_) November 23, 2017
He wouldn't have asked permission if it was wearing a dress.— Treboros (@TreborosLive) November 23, 2017
Saw this yesterday. It's funny in that truly sad & disgusting sense of the word, you know?— Sara Marie (@Ms_SaraMarie) November 23, 2017
Several Twitter users also noted that Trump appeared to be treating the turkey well because he was afraid of it. Maybe, they observed, women should take heart from this.
He won't touch the turkey without asking because the turkey might bite him. As women, let us take the appropriate lesson from that.— Joy of Resistance (@JoyofResistance) November 23, 2017
Images: Rex Features