Bill Proudman… Trump, Sexism and the Alt-Right

by | May 23, 2017

At the JUMP Forum in Brussels recently, I was fortunate enough to get a chance to interview Bill Proudman, CEO and co-founder of WMFDP (White Men as Full Diversity Partners). Beginning in the 90's, [Tweet "Proudman has pioneered workshops that bring white men into the diversity conversation"], not as the bad guys, scapegoats or by standers, but as fully invested partners who also benefit from a diverse workforce. His work addresses sexism, racism, bias and other inequalities in the workplace.

Read: “Manbassador” hero of gender equality or sop?

Bill Proudman addresses the 'Alt-Right', Trump and his effect on everyday sexism.

To start off with Trump, why do you think he has such a wide appeal amongst men?

Bill - Well I think it’s a multifaceted answer right so; he appeals to working class, white men and white women because they’ve largely felt disenfranchised from the political process. Our process was supposed democracy has been owned by a group of about, there’s a suggestion that 25 thousand people run our country, which is large and that you know when you got two families of large who controlled the president’s seat for the last twenty plus yeas so he tapped into that and he’s a showman so he knows. And so the frustration level with the inability of our democracy to work he just came along at the right time, so in some ways he’s defiantly shaken up the status quo.

But not in the best way?

 No the downside is I believe that the man is not mentally well and that this behaviour is not going to change, its not like he going to step into been different what we're seeing is what we are going to get, that’s who he is that’s in his DNA that’s how he operates, he needs help.

There's the implication that a lot of it was an act in order to win and then he would have some how changed?

 No it's just the man. Now the scary part is that there’s other people [Steve] Banner and others who he put in charge who are basically deconstructing our government and I’m hopeful that two of the republican senators Lindsey Graham and Jon McCain are going to actually start a movement to actually either start to impeach him or at least to blunt the damage that is being caused right now.

You're from Portland which is a democratic state anyway, but in terms of things diversity, racism, sexism in the States in the day-to-day life have things actually changed or is it just what we see on the media and social media?

 No. I think at the corporate level things have absolutely changed. And it’s a yes no answer cause, I watch my kids now they’re grown in their 30’s and 40’s that the conversations they were having in their 20s was unlike anything I had when I was that age so it tells me we’ve made great progress. The statistics in the US on college campuses the date rape incident is still high,  my 35-year-old step daughter was in Mexico with her husband and two of my grand kids and she got slipped a date rape drug and ended up in the hospital blanked out, I mean that stuff is still prolific. You know the video gaming and particularly for the young boys their socially two to three years behind young woman of that age, online pornography all that stuff is really impacting their emotional state, so in that way it's actually regressed and were making progress, it's both.

So unfortunately have to bring up the Alt Right, I think we should be allowed to call them Nazis but hey ho we'll call them the Alt Right that is what they asked for. Do you think they’ve been emboldened recently, in that they are a new movement or that they’ve always been simmering under the surface and they’ve just [begun] to speak out?

 The scab has been torn off and they might be attracting to some other crazies, but it's also because of the media. The way the media operates in our country, I don’t know about Europe, is that because of the advertising rates our media is drawn to all the [far] ends of any spectrum of anything so they stay away from the normal 85% in the middle, and go to the 5% crazies on either end and they give them a lot of air time. They make it look like that’s normal and so this is a small group of people who are in the spotlight and are lapping it up. And you know as I said in there [in his key talk] with this black gentleman saying “hey this is nothing new" now finally we have other people who see it so can make some progress rather than thinking that ended with Martin Luther King and the marches from the sixties when I was a kid.

So it's not that they are this huge new scary movement but they’ve been there and they’ve suddenly got the spotlight more than anything else?

 I think they attracted new folks and I think part of that is because people are disenfranchised

 They want something to cling to and that’s an option?


Dorothy [Dalton] mentioned earlier about the rise in social media misogyny and young men having their ear turned by some of these groups and this way of thinking. Is there anything you could recommend that we can do with the young men in our lives to protect them from that sort of input? [For example] I have a 17-year-old brother who spends a lot of time online, and I have a fear his friends will share sexist memes and posts. I don’t like that he’s being exposed to this and I worry he will start to agree with their logic. What can we do if we’re concerned about the men in our lives?

Engage them, talk about how that stuff impacts you. And so get them engaged in a dialogue, and have them figure out so its more than simply 'don’t do this because I’m telling you not to do it'. They need to know how it impacts people they care about, starting with his sister.
You got to make it have a point at home and move on from there? Brilliant.
And just finally going back to Trump. We semi-touched on this, do you think he is normalising such things as sexism and racism and he’s getting away with it because it is becoming normal? Or is he just an exception to the rule and he’s managed to get away with it for this long?
After he got elected I started writing a piece that I put one piece up online and I still have another piece I’d like to do. I believe his is the focused amalgamation of just really misogynistic behaviour that’s to the extreme. But I think the thing I’m really trying to work with other men on is that there’s a piece of him in every one of us that we’ve been conditioned about since from when we were 17 and adolescents, that I think that we have to look at. So its easy to sort demonise him because he’s a really easy target and what that does is it takes our eyes off how we’ve colluded with some of the very same behaviour and so that’s what men can do with each other and themselves. And in some ways Trump is an opportunity to be able to have this conversation, so it more or less depends on who you are talking to.
This interview has been edited only for clarity.
Thanks to Bill Proudman for his time and insights.

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Esther Myers Contributor
Esther Myers is a Drama graduate who teaches children with disabilities and is heavily involved in women’s rights movements. She lives in London but often travels back to Yorkshire to see family and friends. She enjoys going to the theatre, being involved in feminist forums and Motown music. She works in a pub part time and wants to write about work and online issues facing modern women, as well as about intersectional issues.

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