Sexist comments show Kasich is no GOP savior

By Associate Editor

At an April 15 town hall in Watertown, New York, a woman in her first year of college at St. Lawrence University asked GOP presidential candidate John Kasich what he would do as president to protect women like her from sexual harassment and assault, according to a Politico article published the same day.

Kasich initially responded with sympathy for sexual assault victims, even pointing out he has teenage daughters, but his warning to women that followed was problematic.

“I’ll also give you one bit of advice: Don’t go to parties where there’s a lot of alcohol,” Kasich said in the video livestreamed on his Facebook page.

Public backlash in reaction to his comment ensued, and Kasich—or his team, most likely—tweeted a statement the same day backtracking on his earlier remarks.

“Only one person is at fault in a sexual assault, and that’s the assailant. That’s why John Kasich has worked so hard to provide campuses with the tools they need to make sure victims have the necessary support. Victims need to know we’re doing everything we can to have their backs, and that’s happening in Ohio under John Kasich’s leadership,” as the statement put it in three consecutive tweets.

However, the candidate’s halfhearted recant does not excuse his earlier comments, which perpetuate rape culture. Kasich’s original advice insinuated that it is a woman’s job to avoid sexual assault by avoiding places on campus where male students and alcohol may be present. This kind of misogyny is embedded within our society and promoted by essentially all of the GOP candidates. Even Kasich, who is supposedly the most moderate among them, portrays the same attitude when it comes to sexual misconduct.

Perpetuating rape culture is an issue that doesn’t begin or end with the out-of-touch GOP candidates. In a February 2015 study published by the journal “Sexuality and Culture,” researchers analyzed more than 40 college websites and their tips to help students avoid sexual assault. The research revealed that approximately 80 percent of those tips were directed toward women protecting themselves and a mere 14 percent of the tips advised men not to assault or harass women.

Studies like these prove Kasich’s admonition is part of the larger issue of rape culture in the United States, as demonstrated by the country’s inability to educate potential offenders instead of potential victims.

Throughout the presidential primaries, sexism has been rampant among GOP candidates. Trump alluded to Megyn Kelly’s menstrual “bleeding” after she grilled him during a debate in August, and Ted Cruz publicly condemned abortion, Planned Parenthood and, in general, women’s reproductive rights.

Kasich supporters praise him for being more reasonable than Trump but still willing to make tough decisions. The Chicago Sun-Times and the New York Times, as well as celebrities like Tim Allen and Charles Barkley, have all endorsed him.

“We urge a vote for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, knowing perfectly well that his odds of winning the nomination are remote,” the March 4 Chicago Sun-Times endorsement stated. “At least you’ll be voting for the biggest grown-up in the room.”

The New York Times also praised him as the only “plausible” choice in its Jan. 30 endorsement.

Republicans and Democrats alike talk about Kasich as the GOP “grown-up” because of his ability not to succumb to other candidates’ childish games, but his comments about sexual assault and abuse show he has far to go in understanding how sexism is perpetuated in this country.

Kasich’s opposition to abortion except in cases of rape and incest, his work in defunding Planned Parenthood in his constituency of Ohio and his prohibiting elective abortion in public hospitals all shows that he is not a champion for women’s reproductive rights. 

However, the fact that Kasich’s gut instinct—advising women to make avoiding sexual assault or harassment their responsibility—shows his disconnect from women’s issues.

That a GOP candidate made a sexist comment is not shocking. However, Kasich is always represented as the party’s beacon of hope among his far more inflammatory competitors. This kind of comment proves even the best option for a Republican president would still be extremely problematic for women.

If the GOP candidates want to appeal to the broader female population, they must educate themselves on the details of rape culture and victim blaming to avoid perpetuating an oppression they will never personally understand.