This election cycle earned its fittingly macabre catchphrase early this month when we heard the Republican Party’s choice for president breathe the words “grab them by the pussy” into a hot mic.
The previous candidate for 2016’s most memorable motto, “Make America Great Again,” worked because it was easy to parody. Our mileage varied: There were decent attempts at satire (“Make America Mexico Again”) and bad puns (“Make America Skate Again”) and nihilistic riffs (“Make Baseball Caps Blank Again”). It got tiresome, but it didn’t wring out the soul.
Not so with the most recent attempt to modify “grab them by the pussy” for a good cause. Grab Her by the Brain—yes, GRAB HER BY THE BRAIN—is a new initiative that intends to “confront gender inequality with an unparalleled positivity and enthusiasm” through school programming. “Objectification of females is rampant—from our schools to our media outlets,” the organization’s website says. “It has never been so blatant, and it can no longer be ignored. Awareness must be brought to these realities.”
That’s a great motive! Donald Trump, who uttered the invocation of sexual assault that inspired this woman-empowerment initiative, has certainly exposed our country’s high tolerance for misogyny. But using the phrase “grab them by the pussy” as a jumping-off point for the brainstorm was a poor idea. Let’s see: Maybe we could say “gently caress her by the pussy”? Ew. “Respect her by the pussy”? Does not compute. “Grab her in the pussy”? Hm, no. What female body part can we plausibly compliment without sounding like irredeemable sexists? There’s only one: THE BRAIN.
Except it’s impossible to hear the phrase “grab her by the brain” in any other voice but a zombie’s, and grabbing a woman’s brain would surely cause critical neurological damage, if she even survived the required head trauma that would expose her brain in the first place. Hurting a woman’s brain would likely limit her cognitive capacity, and that’s not very feminist! The proprietors of Grab Her by the Brain seem to have taken notes from Ivanka Trump, who posited this week that her father’s boast of sexual violation was troubling because of its “crude language,” not the horrifying prospect of grabbing women by literally any body part at all.
Who knows how successful this campaign will be? The organization already has one pseudo-celebrity endorsement, from Gregg Sulkin, and it’s selling an affordable $21 “Grab Her by the Brain” hat modeled after the “Make America Great Again” topper that’s made me immediately hate, from a mile away, any man in a red baseball cap. Perhaps it’s meant to provide some defense against the grabby man hands making their way through her skull toward the center of her nervous system. But if we know anything about the practices of the world’s most committed brain-grabbers, it’s that a thin layer of canvas won’t last long against an onslaught of zombie fingers. This is not a danger we should have to consider when we look at a hat inspired by two different Donald Trump slogans. Isn’t heteropatriarchal fascism frightening enough?