IF 2016 will go down in the history books as the year of celebrity death, 2017 will surely be remembered as the year irony finally snuffed it.

Each day I read the headlines, and am more convinced that our current political milieu is being crafted by Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker. “Trump declares April National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month” the headline read. Is this some kind of sick joke? An early April Fools prank? No. This is sickeningly real. “Man who grabs them by the pussy says stop grabbing them by the pussy”. It’s the ultimate display of sententious hypocrisy from an elected official. Plus ça change.

Of course, a month dedicated to sexual assault awareness is on the whole a positive action. According to Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, more than 321,500 are sexually assaulted in the US each year – that’s one every 98 seconds – and we know that women are disproportionately affected. Since 1998, over 17.7 million women in America have suffered rape or attempted rape. It’s rather galling that it’s taken this long to have a campaign coming from the top. But this is rather complicated by the fact that the “top” in this case is Trump – a man with a well-documented history of his problematic and deeply troubling treatment of women, who stands accused of assaulting at least ten. 

The misogyny Trump has displayed preceding and during his presidency so far is emblematic of an endemic attitude towards women and girls that we know makes them more likely to suffer sexual violence. It also makes them more likely to be disbelieved and unsupported when they try to talk about it or report it. America does need a Sexual Assault Awareness month – we all do – but that’s because of men like Trump. An estimated five million joined the Women’s March on January 21, globally, because the threat to women’s safety he not only represents, but has actively contributed to in words and both political and personal action.  

To borrow a term often used against folks like me, Trump’s virtue signalling here reminded me of an article I read earlier this month: The Woke Misogynist. It was posted across friends’ social media spaces, each followed by a thread of women saying, “I know that guy”. The piece argued that since feminism has found it’s way back to the mainstream, some men are using the language of the movement to couch their behaviour and access women. Being a male feminist has almost become fashionable. It can — and is — being exploited to get social justice cred with women who switch off to commonplace laddish advances. 

It's become a way to game women, with some men using safe language to mask their behaviour. Many women dating right now have as story like this, including myself. I was assaulted by a man who studied gender – an irony that made processing it all the worse. 
It’s hard not to view Trump’s move cynically as a scaled-up version of this woke misogyny. This is the sort of thing you need to say to get women on side (you know, while you’re busy rolling back their reproductive freedoms). 

This is no confession or admission of past behaviour, it’s not even public atonement. It’s lip service: paper thin and completely transparent to all women who’ve survived sexual assault. To have Trump now claiming real estate in recovery space for political gain is unbelievably painful. It’s staggering, confusing, rage-inducing and compounds the sense of powerlessness women often face when trying to confront or report their abusers. 

In declaring this awareness month, Trump is using proximity to women to declare himself “safe”. This is something that can be wheeled out again and again to shut down conversation about his behaviour, and will be used to position himself alongside the voters his administration have done a sterling job of alienating so far. This is just another version of that well-used closeness card – I have X friends so I can’t be X-ist – and we all know how risible that excuse is. Same goes for this considered positioning alongside victims of sexual assault.

Edit Trump out of it, and Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month is a positive thing. It’s our job now to move it as far away from the president as possible, and to consistently hold him to account for his part in the culture he’s denouncing. He is and always will be part of the problem, and has no right to claim any part in fixing it until he addresses his own behaviour. Look beyond the empty words and do not let him claim responsibility for the important work of others.