I was in class a couple of weeks ago when a student announced some breaking Trump news. People around me expressed their frustration, and the person next to me exclaimed, “I hate that Cheeto!”
I don’t remember the exact news story, since President Donald J. Trump has been making headlines since his campaign began, but the reaction is often similar. While some of Trump’s opponents call out his actions and words, many still choose to attack Trump’s physical appearance. Since the start of his campaign, people body shamed him and focused on features like his hands, hair, penis, and skin tone.
I understand people being angry at Trump, and I even understand people not giving power to him by saying his name, but body shaming him doesn’t have any positive effect. In fact, it makes matters worse.
Focusing on Trump’s body shifts public attention away from his words and policies to his appearance. In addition, these jokes that attack his appearance intensify body shaming culture by encouraging others to laugh at those who also share similar features.
When people attack someone’s personal traits in an attempt to undermine their argument, it's misleading because it redirects attention toward trivial details. When people attack Trump’s looks, they take away the importance of his actions to his looks, which are not nearly as significant.
During protests against Trump’s policies, many people mocked the size of his hands, chanting “Hands too small! Can’t build a wall!” A reporter for Slate wrote that she even heard some protesters replace the word “hand” with “dick.” While this slogan was supposed to be about Trump’s immigration policies, the larger underlying meaning attacks his masculinity by focusing on physical insecurities. Likewise, at the Women’s March on Washington, many chanted: "We don't want your tiny hands anywhere near our underpants." The emphasis of Trump’s “tiny” hands takes away from the focus of the chant, which targets his rape accusations and alleged sexual assaults. While some might argue that this chant empowers women, especially those who were sexually assaulted, I think it could do with some more nuance.
The size of his hands isn’t important. What is important is what he is doing with those hands and the bills he’s signing with them.
Attacking the size of his penis won’t do anything either. Before the election, naked Trump statues appeared in major cities throughout the country. The point of the statue was to make fun of him and his appearance, but while doing so, the statue came off as transphobic, shaming people for having small penises. The bottom of each statue had a plaque with the words “the emperor has no balls,” reinstating harmful and outdated ideas that relate masculinity to a person’s genitals. The size of someone’s penis, or whether they have a penis, doesn’t make them a better man, or even a man at all.
Granted, Trump has shown he is not above body shaming people. He rates women on their looks, critiques people’s appearance, and fat shames people. But just because Trump judges people on their physical appearance doesn’t mean his opponents should do the same to him. It does not solve anything. It doesn’t give liberals power, and it doesn’t change his impact.
Insulting Trump’s appearance during his campaign didn’t stop him from becoming president. In a way, it took away the focus from more important things like his policies and ideas to how his hair looked. So the next time you’re at a protest, or the next time you talk about Trump, focus on how his actions impact immigration, the LGBTQ community, healthcare, and so much more. Don’t let your anger of Trump get in the way of talking about what matters.
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