Anna Holmes is a contributing columnist for the Style section. She is the founder of Jezebel.com. This is her first column.
Column: Anna Holmes on Donald Trump’s sexism
Ever heard of the Trump Rule?
In 2009, Carrie Prejean, the beauty queen who became a household name after she told a nationwide audience that she didn’t believe in the rights of gays and lesbians to marry, published a book. In it, she detailed the Miss USA pageant’s requirement that contestants parade in front of pageant co-owner Donald Trump so he could separate those he finds sexually appealing from those he does not.
“Many of the girls found this exercise humiliating,” Prejean wrote. “Some of the girls were sobbing backstage after [Trump] left, devastated to have failed even before the competition really began . . . even those of us who were among the chosen couldn’t feel very good about it — it was as though we had been stripped bare.”
Strong stuff, made even more provocative considering it comes from a woman who made her career participating in events known for their focus on aesthetic appeal. (For what it’s worth, the competition’s official rules for eligibility make no mention of appearance.)
Of course, the Trump Rule predates both the pageant — “Her level of arrogance has grown steadily worse in recent years. The bottom line is, I don’t want to create another Leona Helmsley,” the New York Post quoted Mr. Trump as saying about his first wife, Ivana, whom he cheated on, and then divorced, in 1992 — and, of course, the reality-show star himself. It’s an attitude, an ideology, a worldview akin to “The Bachelor” in which women are objects to be appraised, admired and then discarded when they get too big for their britches or outlive their usefulness. Naomi Wolf, in her similarly titled 1991 book, called a version of this bias “The Beauty Myth.” Many people recognize it by its other name, i.e., “sexist nonsense women have been subjected to for decades.” And Trump, who is threatening to run for president, is one of its most prolific practitioners.
The world was reminded of the Trump Rule earlier this month, when New York Times columnist Gail Collins published a piece detailing how “The Donald,” in a fit of pique worthy of gossip blogger Perez Hilton, once sent her a copy of her column with the words “Face of a Dog!” scrawled on top of her picture. Collins, it should be noted, is just one of many targets of Trump’s gender-specific hostility: Last year, the master media manipulator was accused of asking the men on “The Apprentice” to rate their female peers, based on appearance, just one of a number of sexist decisions he’s made over the show’s 11 seasons. (“I bet you make a great wife,” one contestant says he told her in 2005.)
No one is above his reproach. In 2007, commenting on a spat Angelina Jolie was having with her father, Jon Voight, Trump disparaged the actress’s sexual history (“she’s been with so many guys”) and told Larry King, “I just don’t even find her attractive.” That same year, he signed a deal with Fox to develop a television show called “Lady or a Tramp?,” in which he would school “out-of-control young women” in the art of becoming modern-day Eliza Doolittles. (Thankfully, the show never made it to air.) In 2006, Trump called Rosie O’Donnell, then a host of “The View,” a “big, fat pig” and an “animal,” after she took issue with his defense of troubled Miss USA Tara Conner.