You know that Donald Trump actually got more speaking time than Hillary Clinton did in Sunday’s presidential debate, don’t you?
He whined that she got more, but that’s because he was using man-time, believing he should automatically get 17 percent more than any woman. It’s like man-money or man-years: It’s the math enabling Trump to justify having a wife just a decade older than his daughter and a son who’s not as old as some of his jokes.
Man-math is a concept I discovered 30 years ago when having to defend the placement of women authors on my course lists. On a syllabus with 13 authors, male colleagues would see only the names of the six female novelists.
“You have more women than men?” they’d say through clenched teeth.
I’d reply, “No, I don’t. It actually lists toward the masculine side.” But the simple fact of having almost as many women represented as men made my reading lists seem freighted by estrogen.
I’m not just talking about mansplaining here — that would be too easy. I’m talking about the dialogue that drove Anderson Cooper to sound like a day care provider when he was forced to instruct the genius from Wharton: “Please don’t talk while she’s talking. She didn’t talk while you talked.”
Other moments illuminated grammar, not just manners.
For example, Trump used the passive voice when asked about the sexual assault tape from “Access Hollywood,” the one that got Billy Bush suspended from the “Today Show.” In that tape, Trump explained that if you took a woman furniture shopping, she owed you sexual acts on whatever La-Z-Boy you picked out at what my friend Julia Marrinan calls the “Great Deal, Now Take Off Your Pants” store.
My students always ask, “What is the passive voice?” Trump’s “Things were said” is a perfect example. Had he used the active voice, he might have said, “I spent years doing horrible things to women, even after I married my incredibly gorgeous third wife,” or “I am a lizard-brained unfit horror-show of a misogynist racist.” That would be an excellent use of the active voice. It also would have been the truth.
When a black member of the town hall audience asked Trump whether he would be a devoted president, Trump answered by referring to the miserable lives of black people. Trump simply assumed this middle-age citizen wanted to talk about hellish, crime-ridden urban landscapes. Why does a question from a black man take Donald Trump without hesitation to the discussion of criminality?
Perhaps it’s for the same reason that a question from a Muslim woman asking about how most effectively to integrate people of all religions led Trump within nanoseconds to terrorism, and how it was her personal responsibility to make Muslims spy actively on all other Muslims to guarantee bombs aren’t being built in their rumpus rooms.
Just as not every German is a Nazi, not every Muslim is a terrorist, but Trump doesn’t realize this. Dave Hanley suggested that Trump’s new motto, revised to soften his image, might read: “Not every Muslim is a terrorist, not every Mexican is a rapist, not every woman is a 4.”
And as for those folks who tell me and other women that we shouldn’t use humor to make our political points because Hillary is taking the high road, I say: Good for Hillary! Now stop telling us that we can’t say whatever the hell we want.
The previously disenfranchised have been told for too long to be good and be quiet. I am honored to have Hillary Clinton represent me, but I don’t have to behave exactly the same way she does. It took hundreds of years to earn the right to speak, and we’re not going back to the silent, subdued or submissive position where we just nod when you tell us what’s funny or what we can say. Here’s to the tribe of loud, smart, funny troublemakers.
And remember, Mr. Trump: You can’t put us in prison because we’re not on your side. This is America. America doesn’t work that way. Also, Mr. Trump: Please stop talking while we’re talking. Your time is up.