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Donald Trump, courtesy of Wiki­media Commons

Days after footage of Donald Trump bragging about his unso­licited sexual advances was released, women gathered in front of Trump Tower, ral­lying against his inap­pro­priate behavior and vul­garity. They weren’t going down without a fight: They were going to “grab back.”

In light of Trump’s impending pres­i­dency, our respon­si­bility as women — and all those who find his attitude toward women offensive — is not to respond to his lewd speech with vul­garity of our own. If we are to argue against his derogatory per­ception of women, we must approach the con­ver­sation with a more sophis­ti­cated vocab­ulary.

The day fol­lowing Inau­gu­ration Day, more than 100,000 pro­testers plan to join the Women’s March on Wash­ington. They won’t accom­plish much if the best they can manage is this level of dis­course.

It’s clear that the future com­mander-in-chief respects women as well as you’d expect from a former reality TV star who marries and remarries models and actresses.

Trump implied in August 2015 that Megyn Kelly’s men­strual cycle dimin­ished her per­for­mance as a mod­erator during the first GOP pres­i­dential debate, and before that, he retweeted a post calling Kelly a “bimbo.” In 2006 Donald Trump said Con­doleezza Rice may have been a “lovely woman,” but not an effective sec­retary of state.

But Trump is not the only one to employ crude lan­guage to press a point.

Last March, Indiana res­ident Laura Shanley was so infu­riated with Gov­ernor Mike Pence that she incited a slew of mass prank calls to the future vice president-elect’s office.

After Pence signed a bill that placed restric­tions on abor­tions, Shanley launched a Facebook page called Periods for Pence, which encouraged women to call the governor’s office and spell out the details of their men­strual cycles to protest the law. His phone lines were so belea­guered that they shut down, which Shanley announced tri­umphantly on the page.

During the vice pres­i­dential debate, the trend res­ur­rected, with women tweeting him mes­sages like, “Watching #VPDebate & thought you’d want to know that my men­strual cramps are rather severe tonight.”

The Periods for Pence page, now expanded to Periods for Politi­cians (so not to limit its vitriol to the vice pres­ident-elect), has more than 91,000 likes on Facebook.

But pranking politi­cians isn’t exactly a win for women, or any group for that matter. Policy opinions aside, this sort of protest amounts to nothing more than raising a feeble middle finger. The offending politi­cians might hear the voice of the people, but will they listen? Repeating vul­garity or dis­cussing men­stru­ation for the sake of the ick factor will make a point, but neither will change a point of view, and rather than pre­senting an alter­native, it merely rein­forces defining women in merely sexual terms.

When we resort to shock factor to make our case, our argument relies less on the strength of reason and more on the pungent force of a cheap shot. That’s good news for the opponent: It’s easier to fixate on an ill-man­nered method than to debate an argument.

Instead of embracing this type of lan­guage, we should call out his lan­guage for what it is — base, offensive, and lazy — and demon­strate a higher form of rhetoric.

We may never engage in important dis­cus­sions — such as abortion policy and pun­ish­ments for rape or work­place harassment — unless we can openly discuss these sub­jects rather than attacking our oppo­nents and wal­lowing in slime.

As we face Trump’s upcoming pres­i­dency, let’s not adopt reac­tionary lan­guage that sinks to his level. Let’s elevate our speech.

 

Ms. Fry is a junior studying French and jour­nalism.