Laura Bennett analyzes Donald Trump’s comments on Megyn Kelly’s questions in last week’s Republican debate in Slate today. To review: Trump complained about the question she asked him regarding his offensive comments about women, saying that “[s]he gets out there and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions, and you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her … wherever.” Bennett writes,
To be clear, Trump sounded like a Grade A bozo throughout the Kelly tirade, and his history of enthusiastic sexism made the period subtext seem like a safe assumption. If you listen to the full segment, though, it is not entirely evident where Trump was going with that “wherever.” At the end of the sentence, he did sort of peter out, distracted by the gleam of his own next thought about how well he was doing in the polls. Several minutes later, he declared that Chris Wallace seemed to have “blood pouring out of his eyes” while interrogating him, too. It is no secret that Trump is a cartoonish misogynist. But the media frenzy over bloodgate also seemed to be missing some key context.
Who knows if Trump meant specifically to reference menstruation? It doesn’t really matter. Anyone with half a brain–even half a lizard-brain like Trump–has to know that talking about blood and the only woman involved in the whole debate was just inviting others to make the connection he apparently pulled back from making himself. (Listen to the recording and judge for yourself. He’s a rude and crude dude. As Bennett suggests, compared to calling Gail Collins a “dog,” talking about Megyn Kelly’s menstrual blood is almost, to use a Trumpism, “world class.”) Trump evoked a taboo with ancient roots and surprising staying power, one that (not coincidentally) recalls male fears of emasculation by the power-sapping mojo of menstrual blood.
Several Native American nations in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries practiced menstrual seclusion because of the fear that contact with menstrual blood or menstruating women in any fashion would jeopardize a successful hunt or battle. (Some even now preserve aspects of this ritual.) Even touching something touched by a menstruating woman–eating food she had prepared, for example–was dangerous to both hunters and warriors, who had their own blood rituals for which to prepare in seclusion from the rest of the community.
I can’t fault Trump (or his half-a-lizard-brain) entirely for feeling like Kelly had intruded on what otherwise would have seemed like a Cherokee or Wabanaki male-only ritual to prepare for blood sports like hunting or warfare. Everyone on the debate stage and 2/3 of the journalists were men. If there were more women involved in American politics (Dems, Republicans, and everyone–it’s not just the Republicans who don’t support women in their party!) and in high-profile journalism, then Megyn Kelly wouldn’t stand out so much.
In her commentary at Nursing Clio today, Lauren Thompson also picked up on the mostly-segregated nature of the debate, with reference to the conversation about lady parts that Republican men just can’t resist:
Despite Kelly and [Carly] Fiorina giving voters hope that maybe the Republican party can shed its image of perpetuating a “war on women” — it was still nearly impossible to not think about this charge as I watched a stage lined with men in dark suits and flag pins. They each stumbled over themselves to prove more eagerly than the last that they believed only in traditional marriage (read — patriarchal marriage), had defunded Planned Parenthood in their state, did not support exceptions like rape or incest for abortion and that they would get rid of federal entitlement programs that benefit poor women and children.
Given that context, I agree with Thompson entirely: “To your ‘wherever,’ Donald, I say, ‘whatever.’ We know what you really meant. Say it with me. It’s called a ‘vagina.’” Yes–VAGINA. Vajayjay, vajazzle, VAGINA. But it wasn’t just Trump–it was every man on that stage who couldn’t stop talking or thinking about VAGINAS, and what’s going into them, and what’s coming out of them, and who’s making those decisions.
So don’t just talk about Trump and his fear of powerful, fertile women. He’s just a beginner. The professional politicians on that stage are already up in our vaginas, all the time.