By Anya Sostek Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Heather Arnet, CEO of the Women and Girls Foundation, found a silver lining in an "uncomfortable" yet productive conversation she had with her 14-year-old son in showing him the video prior to him watching the debate. "If this horrible video can inspire more parents to have conversations with their young sons about how they can treat women with respect, that is a positive outcome," she said.
They are surely some of the most uncouth comments from a presidential candidate to be aired publicly.
But experts say there may be one positive in the backlash and condemnation that have arisen following the release of a 2005 video in which Donald Trump brags about kissing and groping women: an increased awareness of sexual assault.
The topic has dominated media coverage for several days and spawned millions of anecdotes on social media in which women share their own stories of groping and sexual assault.
"It is an educational moment," said Dana Brown, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University. "It is sending a positive message to women and girls that sexual assault is unacceptable, and that talking or bragging about it is unacceptable, and that is a move in the right direction."
Trump and campaign surrogates have downplayed the comments as "locker-room banter" that did not reflect his actual behavior, and have questioned their characterization as assault.
Sexual assault is a topic that has played an unexpectedly large role in this presidential campaign, from Trump appearing with those who have accused former President Bill Clinton of non-consensual sex, to the 2005 videotape in which Trump boasts that "When you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything" in reference to kissing women and grabbing their genitals without warning.
"He has certainly ignited a conversation about sexual advances on women," Brown said of Trump's comments. "He's saying that it's just words, but actually those words are quite powerful. We want to make sure our students will have an opportunity for discussion. Our hope is that some student-athletes might speak out about locker-room talk, that this is not reflective."
Heather Arnet, CEO of the Women and Girls Foundation, found a silver lining in an "uncomfortable" yet productive conversation she had with her 14-year-old son in showing him the video prior to him watching the debate. "If this horrible video can inspire more parents to have conversations with their young sons about how they can treat women with respect, that is a positive outcome," she said.
Trump's comments launched powerful reaction on social media, noted anupama jain, an adjunct professor in the Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies program at the University of Pittsburgh.
On Friday, Canadian author Kelly Oxford asked women to share their personal tales of sexual assaults, using the hashtag notokay on Twitter, drawing nearly 30 million responses as of Monday afternoon and widespread media attention.
To some extent, said jain, it's unfortunate that it's taken such unpleasantry to draw attention to the issue. "People have been trying to draw attention to this for a long time," she said. "Maybe it needed to be so blatant, so distasteful, so incontrovertible for people to say, 'This is so inappropriate, this has crossed a line.'"
She also questioned the fact that this is the issue that seems to have turned some of Trump's high-profile supporters against him, rather than his previous derogatory comments about Mexicans or Muslims.
"It's white women and now they are taking a stand," she said. "To say, 'This could be my daughter' ... it could also be some random woman you don't know. You don't have to be sympathetic just because she could look like you."
But to the extent that the publicity about it increases empathy for those who experienced groping or assault, she said, that is progress.
"I wonder if it could lead to people being more sympathetic in general," she said. They may now think, 'I haven't experienced sexual harassment, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.'"