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They are not “just words”

October 13, 2016

Rachel Maxwell

Editor-In-Chief | ram049@latech.edu

MAXWELL

MAXWELL

 

When the second presidential debate started Sunday, the nation watched to see how Donald Trump would respond to the now infamous tape leaked by The Washington Post last week.

 

The Republican nominee admitted he was wrong, and then followed his apology with, “It’s just words, folks, it’s just words.”

 

The question of whether it was “just words” or if Trump really did sexually assault women the way he brags about in the tape is not totally clear. Trump said, after much prodding by moderator Anderson Cooper, that he did not actually engage in any of the activity he describes in the tape.

 

So let’s give Trump the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he did not actually “just start kissing” women he thought were beautiful, maybe he didn’t do “whatever he wanted” to them because he was a “star,” and maybe he didn’t actually “grab them by the p****.” Maybe this was, as Trump has continuously insisted, just “locker room talk.”

 

Even if they aren’t reflective of any actions actually taken by Trump, his words matter a great deal. Different words carry different connotations. Language is the only tool we have to express our perceptions of reality. So when Trump uses words that suggest power or money leads to sexual entitlement, that perception of reality is reinforced, even if he didn’t carry out any of the actions he described. The more this attitude is perpetuated, the more comfortable powerful men are with treating women this way.

 

The idea that the words we use don’t matter is popular among Donald Trump’s supporters. Ironically, it is the words he uses that gain him so much of his support. Much of his appeal lies in his willingness to “tell it like it is” and his disregard of political correctness. He has been able to make offensive remark after offensive remark without much consequence in the polls because of this.

 

Trump knows his words matter. He knows that the words he uses make many people feel validated in their sexism, racism or xenophobia. That validation has, unfortunately, carried him this far into a presidential election.

 

Most people who believe words are “just words” are not negatively affected by the attitudes perpetuated by those words. My hope is that, come November,  America will make a choice that does not further legitimize that oppression that Trump’s language has validated from the beginning of his campaign.

 

Rachel Maxwell is a junior journalism major from Benton who serves as editor-in-chief for The Tech Talk.

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