So we are now in a Trumpian era. I do identify with this. In the late eighties and early nineties, I worked for a man who was similar. He was rich, very persuasive and rather charismatic. He was popular with the men, and women would flutter in his presence. He exuded confidence and wealth, which is always a draw. He was also narcissistic, misogynistic and an arrogant egomaniac. His pride would not allow him to take much criticism, even less so from women. The only way to persuade him to do anything was to pander to the very characteristics you abhor. Making baudy jokes, flatter his ego, plant ideas subtly and if he liked it, he’ll take it on and you can then commend him for thinking about it.
Thus is the moral dilemma of Trump and many of such men I have had to deal with in my lifetime, for women like me. Do I pander to his ego to achieve the outcomes I want or do I stay with my principles and tell him off when he behaves badly, thus guaranteeing that I will never be effective in influencing him? Are the outcomes important enough to justify the detestable means? Would I be happy that he was persuaded to do the right thing even though I despise myself for it?
For many, this dilemma does not exist. I have a friend (let’s call her Abigail) who would always be confrontational when faced with such a character. She cannot bring herself to act in any other way. And I have another friend (we can call her Penelope) whose skills in persuading the narcissistic misoginist have been honed to such a degree that she can persuade the devil himself to leave hell. And she would think nothing about employing these said skills, believing that this is just the way you handle men. For both Abigail and Penelope, there is no dilemma, because their behaviours are rooted in their beliefs. For some us whose behaviours can be restrained according to context, and who might be a bit more strategic in managing others, this is a moral dilemma. And a difficult one to resolve.
In both cases, the outcome is not reassuring. For Abigail, misogyny and narcissism must be struck down, yet the very act of it will almost guarantee its persistence as the man dig in his heels. For Penelope, her skill will reinforce the normality of such traits. If I could speculate, Abigail personifies the liberal woman; Penelope personifies the conservative and traditionalist woman. Both have contributed to why the likes of Trump could endure.
For all the challenges in the world today, the moral dilemma of managing Trump just makes everything even harder.