A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Stormy Daniels has told her story. She, like perhaps many other women, was driven to Donald Trump’s preferred bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The purpose of the visit ostensibly was to talk about business: Trump wanted Stormy as a contestant on his TV show The Apprentice. She went, and as she told Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes Sunday night (3-25-2018) sometime in the evening she asked to use the bathroom–which necessitated her passing through the bedroom. As she was coming back, he was sitting on the bed. She thought “girl, you brought this on yourself.” She did have sex with him, it seemed not to have been her preference, but she consented. We already knew about the sex because it’s all over the news since the story broke about her being paid $130,000 a couple of weeks before the 2016 election by Trump’s attorney to keep her mouth shut. For giving this interview she risked being sued for $1,000,000 for violating the terms of the non-disclosure agreement. A new twist to the story came out in this interview. A man “walked up behind” her as she was removing her infant daughter from the back seat of her car while she was on her way to a workout class. He said: “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story” and “It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.” This was terrifying to Stormy.
Stormy Daniels’s story is notably similar to the story told by ex-Playboy Playmate of the Year, Karen McDougal just a few days earlier, also to Anderson Cooper; right down to the non-disclosure agreement that she too wants to get out of. Karen McDougal also was picked up and driven to Trump’s bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where she was to have dinner with Donald Trump. But she was surprised that they were not eating in the hotel dining room (too public.) She also was surprised that Donald Trump wanted sex, but her biggest surprise of the evening occurred after the sex–when he offered her money–which she declined saying: “I’m not that kind of girl.” Each of these stories has their own sordid details—Stormy and the threats of bodily harm, Karen and the offer of money. But they also have a dreary sameness. Each woman was a conquest for Trump, a “win” for him in the stud department. And as the election approached, he wanted to silence both women. Now, each of them faces possible lawsuits from the highly litigious Donald Trump since they have spoken aloud about their relationships with him. In his efforts to silence them, presumably because cornering porn actresses and former Playmates of the Year in your hotel room and getting sex from them–while married to another woman, who recently gave birth to your fifth child, is not compatible with being the darling of the evangelicals.
Here the story becomes more the same old thing, and something interesting and new. There is a long history of men silencing women. The poet and classicist Anne Carson, in her essay The Gender of Sound, says “High vocal pitch goes together with talkativeness to characterize a person who is deviant from or deficient in the masculine ideal of self-control (119).” Perhaps the reader chuckles at the thought that Donald Trump has any claim on the virtue of self-control, but Carson does refer to the “ideal.” In a better world the President of the United States would not be so openly out of control. I think Carson is arguing that women speaking publicly are regarded as dangerous to the appearance of decorum in the public sphere.
The public sphere has traditionally, and to this day, been the masculine sphere. It may not be as clear in Western culture where women are free to go about in public without male escorts, but not so in many Muslim nations. Saudi Arabia only in recent weeks has required state officials to allow women to obtain driver’s licenses, but the guardianship system for women remains intact. Adult women are required to have the permission of a man, be it father, husband, uncle, brother, or even son to enter into marriage, to travel, obtain a passport, or sign a contract. Women in India are subjected to rape if they travel alone in public. As recently as 2012, a woman traveling with a male companion was murdered by rape after being penetrated with a metal rod that had been used to beat her male traveling partner death on a public bus in the capitol city of Delhi.
Women in the West fear less to go out in public, but the prohibition to speak out publicly and assert our point of view remains. Carson cites Sophocles who describes the nymph Echo as “a girl with no door on her mouth (121).” Carson then says: “Putting a door on the female mouth has been an important project of patriarchal culture from antiquity to the present day. Its chief tactic is an ideological association of female sound with monstrosity, disorder and death (121).”
Stormy has been attacked by Trump followers for speaking freely and openly on Twitter. Doing a rather spectacular Wonder Woman imitation, she has flung off the Trump trolls like @inkedskindawg who tweeted to her on 20 March 18: “Why don’t you just disappear? No one cares you were a slut and slept with POTUS 12 years ago.” Her response: “Technically I didn’t sleep with the POTUS 12 years ago. There was no sleeping (hehe) and he was just a goofy reality TV star. But I digress…People DO care that he lied about it, had me bullied, broke laws to cover it up, etc. And PS…I am NOT going anywhere. Xoxoxo.”
@inkedskindawg is using a contemporary measure for putting a door on a woman’s mouth, “slut shaming.” But really, Stormy is an adult-film actress whose credits include Nymphos, and Nothin’ but Trouble, how are you going to embarrass her about her sexuality?
Stormy has “brass” as they say. She will not be silenced in order to allow Donald Trump to maintain a patina of order. To the extent that Stormy speaks for herself she speaks for many of us who want the truth spoken boldly and brashly about the hypocrisy that currently resides in the highest places in our land.
Copyright 2018 Phoebe Cirio