Donald Trump has been on the receiving end of many an impression, over the course of his life in the public eye, and he hasn’t enjoyed it much.
He has famously called SNL sketches featuring Alec Baldwin impersonating him “unfunny” and “really bad television!”. Trump is not a man who enjoys being the butt of jokes. When the UN chortled at his claim that his administration had “accomplished more than almost any... in the history of our country”, it was one of the few times that the 45th President of the United States has appeared flummoxed.
Yesterday, Trump did his own impression. At a rally in Mississippi, he impersonated Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. He mocked her account and how she was unable to remember certain specifics of an event, which took place more than 35 years ago, but lived with her every day.
Trump riffed on the questions asked of Ford and pretended to deliver her responses, while laughing off her claim that she “only had one beer”. “How did you get home?” Trump said, before replying to himself, “I don’t remember.”
“How did you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember. How many years ago was it? I don’t know. What neighborhood was it? I don’t know. Where’s the house? I don’t know.”
Nothing the president does is surprising, but it’s still stinging to watch the most powerful man in the world ridicule a woman who has, by her own admission, put herself in the spotlight out of “civic duty” and remains “terrified”.
Laughter has rung in [Ford’s] ears for more than three decades and, with Trump’s callous re-enactment of one of the most difficult moments of her life, today it echoes all the louder
Of everything in Ford’s testimony, the moment when she was asked for her strongest memory of her alleged sexual assault was the moment that much of the media seized on. Her answer – “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense” – illustrated the cavernous gap between how the parties involved experienced that night.
What would, for the woman assaulted, become life-defining, was merely entertaining in the moment for the men. The laughter has rung in her ears for more than three decades and, with Trump’s callous re-enactment of one of the most difficult moments of her life, today it echoes all the louder.
And not just for Ford. Women are constantly told that we can’t take a joke, and, all the while, humour and laughter are used to undermine our voices and reinforce our shame.
But this is not a joke. In the same rally, Trump claimed that the result of the interrogation of Kavanaugh’s behaviour is: “A man’s life is in tatters. A man’s life is shattered.”
He urged women present to “think of your son, think of your husband”, echoing his own son’s comments, this week, that, in the current climate of sexual-assault cases being brought to light, he is more worried about his sons than his daughters.
Like the misguided belief, held by some white people, that being accused of racism is worse than experiencing racism, the Trump men appear to believe that it is worse to be accused of sexual assault than to be sexually assaulted.
And, most chillingly, in response to his speech, Trump’s supporters repurposed their old favourite battle cry, “Lock her up! Lock her up!”, this time referring to Ford. It used to be yelled at or about Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign. Sometimes, it was in reference to emails, sometimes Benghazi, but, mainly, the crime that Trump and his supporters held Clinton responsible for was that of being a woman, and a woman obstructing their path. There aren’t many parallels between Ford and Clinton, other than this: Ford is not running for office or even speaking out against Trump, but, right now, she is as much of an obstacle as Clinton was.
And thus, her ordeal continues, as she is forced to live out some of women’s worst fears, realised – of being disbelieved, misunderstood, scrutinised, attacked and, now, fodder for a man’s cheap comedy routine.