Just hours after President Donald Trump arrived in France for an official state visit, the seasoned misogynist deemed it appropriate to a) yank the arm of the country’s first lady, Brigitte Macron, b) give an unsolicited opinion about her body, and c) reiterate this opinion to her husband, President Emmanuel Macron.
No, we’re not joking – although, quite honestly, wish we were at this point: with every passing day, we feel as if we’re zooming closer towards the dystopian nightmare described in The Handmaid’s Tale, where men are given positions of power, and a woman’s value to society is based on nothing more than her body.
Trump met Macron and his wife at Hotel des Invalides on Friday 14 July, where Napoleon Bonaparte and other French heroes are buried.
Upon being introduced to the French first lady, Trump leaned in for a greeting. However, instead of shaking her hand (like, say, a normal person might do), Trump instead decided to yank Brigitte’s arm towards him and grasp her other arm at the same time – an odd move which didn’t go unnoticed by eagle-eyed viewers on social media who believed it was something of a power play.
After a tour, Trump turned to the French first lady, gestured with his hands toward her and said: “You’re in such good shape.”
He then looked back at President Macron, and said appraisingly: “She’s in such good physical shape.”
Then, to further outline his stance as a beacon of objectification, Trump stared at Brigitte again and told her that she was “beautiful”. Because approval from Trump on the way one looks all that matters to any woman. And because he’d definitely, definitely comment on a man’s appearance in exactly the same way upon meeting.
Her response was inaudible, although she was seen taking hold of Melania Trump’s arm and stepping closer towards her (ever so slightly away from POTUS, we can’t help thinking).
Unsurprisingly, Twitter has erupted with people condemning Trump’s behaviour as “gross”, “inappropriate” and (obviously) “sexist”.
Alex Berg, a freelance video producer and writer who works on feminist and gender issues, perfectly nailed the problem with the interaction when she tweeted: “Trump telling France's First Lady ‘you're in such good shape’ epitomizes men towing the line between compliment & sexual harassment.
“People will shrug and say, ‘Trump was just offering her a compliment!’ It's creepy and over the line to comment on a person's body.
“The comment is like catcalling — never about beauty, it's about power. It's a reminder that Trump and men have power over our bodies.”
Berg continued: “It's a reminder that the body of France's first lady isn't her own.
“It's a reminder that her body is up for public consumption and she's not powerful enough to shut him down in a public setting.
“Her hands were tied. She has to make nice. So, she is forced to take an unsolicited compliment about her body.”
The writer added: “Pretty sure that most HR departments would not be okay with male bosses walking around and telling women they are ‘in shape.’
Catcalling is exactly it: it’s awful, it’s demeaning, it’s a power play (whether conscious or not) and it’s yet another example of the patriarchy doing its best to reduce women to the sum of their body parts.
The one thing it isn’t, sadly, is surprising: after all, Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign was seemingly a celebration of misogyny and objectification, with the POTUS publicly insulting a woman’s physical appearance once every 51 days. And, despite those horrifying, now infamous “grab them by the pussy” comments, the reality star was still elected president over experienced politician Hillary Clinton.
Yet we will continue to report on his misogyny, his sexism – both everyday and jaw-droppingly shocking – because although it feels daily, although we fully expect it, although it happens again and again and again, the very moment we allow it to become normalised (“Oh, that’s just Trump”), we give him a free pass to say and to do whatever the hell he wants to women everywhere.
We're never, ever, ever going to be OK with that. We don't ever want the world at large to be OK with that. So keep banging that drum with us, womankind, keep calling him out on all his vitriolic misogynist bull whenever you can. Because. It. Is. Not. OK.
Main image: Rex Features