Imagine if when President Obama was running for President, it emerged that an opponent of his had frequently used the “n” word or other racial slurs or had been involved in lawsuits that were racially provoked or had numerous legal cases of racial violence. Do you think that the RNC would have supported such a candidate? Do you think the media would have tread softly? Made excuses? Normalized it?
Forget all the rest — illegal business dealings, not paying taxes, bankruptcies, business lawsuits and all the rest — and just think about the sheer outrageous quantity of Trump’s trespasses.
- settled multiple sexual harrasment lawsuits
- has a pending case of raping a 13 year old girl
- under oath was accused of marital rape case by his first wife, Ivana Trump
- called women “slobs”, “pigs,” “dogs,” “disgusting animals,” and other slurs
- insisted only beautiful women, according to him, be on shift when he visited and insisted women who were “ugly” be fired at his California golf club
- views pregnancy as an “inconvenience”
- cyberstalked and derided to an obsessive degree women who dare question him, like journalist Megyn Kelly and Philadelphia Inquirer journalist, Jennifer Lin, a “c—“, TV personality, Rosie O’Donnell — and his latest victim, former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, whom he has fat-shamed and humiliated publicly in the past and is now assaulting her via defamation through middle-of-the-night tweets about a non-existing sex tape:
AND ALL OF THIS IS ON PUBLIC RECORD. Meaning, this is just what is known about how he views women publicly. I shudder to think how he behaves in private and how many crimes he’s committed that will never surface. But he’s gotten a free pass on all of it.
If you don’t think this election has been misogynist or at the least, a tinge sexist, then think again — and most major media outlets are admitting that they themselves have been driven by impartial language rooted in sexism (the NYTimes, Washington Post, New York, to name a few).
Hillary Clinton wasn’t just “Gore’d” as this New York Times article finally somewhat admits media ineptitude in covering this election, but Trump’s outright lies, violent rants, and criminal past, particularly his abuses and crimes (not alleged, actual settled cases) against women have been normalized, glossed over, or ignored; whereas Clinton’s normal transgressions have been abnormalized.
None of the above egregious cases has been given the weight it should be given in the media — not in the same way as if an opponent of President Obama’s had the same slurs and lawsuits with a racial tinge to them. If racism cast a spectre over President Obama’s presidency, then sexism has been the sledgehammer that has been ever present during the entirety of this presidential campaign.
One reason for the media and public brushoff is that women themselves are not cohesive in their approach. Whereas communities like the Jewish or Muslim or African American communities have a heritage and shared culture, “women” as a whole are not viewed nor often do not view themselves as a community.
Sexism is so pervasive it’s not even notable. Sexism by definition dehumanizes women but the actions which define that encompasses such large numbers. Statistically women face more violence on a daily basis then men of every community put together. So, if shared experiences make up a community then women most definitely are one.
- One in five girls/women will be sexually assaulted in the US, higher in other countries.
- One third of girls will be forced into marriage in 42 countries.
- Thousands of us, if not literally millions, will be violated in the workforce or simply walking down the street through catcalls and/or gropes
- 84% of women will be catcalled or otherwise harrased on the street before the age of 17
- More than half of stay-at-home moms are doing so out of necessity since it costs more to work than to stay at home given the wage gap, the lack of solid family policies, the lack of maternity leave, the discrimination against women in the work force based on family reasons, and the cost of childcare
- 50-75% of pregnancies will end in chemical miscarriages; 10-25% miscarriages of clinical pregnancies — and most of us will become pregnant, whether we want to or not
- Many of us will be slut shamed often by other women. It’s not just the boys vs girls here; it’s everyone against girls as this Slate article concluded.
This doesn’t include mansplaining and all the rest of what women face in male public spaces and work places, like how even the female staff of self-proclaimed feminist President Obama had to actually have a strategy to ensure their voices were heard. It doesn’t include how many women must choose between career and family when deciding to get pregnant — for those women lucky enough to have had access to education, work, and such a choice. The list goes on, from the heavily nuanced to the outright sexist to the criminal.
To say that how Clinton is treated is not sexist is to not admit how much of how President Obama has been treated had to do with racism. And in Clinton’s case, it’s even more obvious. Her opponent is interrupting her, shaming women, and calling her out for “allowing” her husband to cheat, for goodness sake!
Who wasn’t surprised that Donald Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton at the first Presidential debate 51 times? Women. We’re used to it.
Who wasn’t surprised that Trump attacks any woman who makes him feel remotely threatened? Women. We have to endure insecure masculinity shrouded in aggression from partners, bosses, peers, colleagues, many times through open physical threats — 80% of us have experienced such harassment, some at the expense of their lives.
Who isn’t surprised that Hillary Clinton is being called out for being cheated on, of all idiotic things, but a powerful man having affairs is a given (it’s a rare unicorn if a powerful man isn’t having affairs)? Women. We know that double standard inside out.
So, if “community” is to defined as a set of shared experiences between people, that would make “women” as a community. But we’re not.
Much of it is because whereas a Jewish or African American or Muslim man or woman can stand up for his or her religion or culture clearly (and even among those communities, there was, has been, and will be much dissension as to approach); women have so many other definitions that the gender issue, that gender is a back thought, if a thought at all — though it is for sure foremost on everyone’s minds, even in the minds of the men from their own communities.
The outpouring of support for one’s “own,” however that may be defined was extensive in President Obama’s case. Unlike Hillary Clinton admittedly, Obama happened to be the rare charismatic individual who didn’t have much by way of qualification frankly (one term as state senator and two books published) but he was embraced for all he represented and embraced by his community by-and-large.
The sitcom “Blackish” featured a heartfelt monologue in which the African American male lead speaks to his fears for the President because he knows what it’s like to be a black man in the US.
In “Americanah,” Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie writes of a bond the main female character, a Nigerian studying and working in America, and her black American boyfriend have due to President Obama’s nomination:
They clutched each other in front of the television when Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses. The first battle, and he had won. Their hope was radiating, exploding into possibility: Obama could actually win this thing. And then, as though choreographed, they began to worry. They worried that something would derail him, crash his fast-moving train. Every morning, Ifemleu woke up and checked to make sure that Obama was still alive. That no scandal had emerged, no story dug up from his past. She would turn on her computer, her breath still, her heart frantic…Sometimes, in chat rooms, she wilted as she read the posts…She did not blog about the vileness that seemed to have multiplied…because to do so would be to spread the words of people who abhorred not the man that Obama was, but the idea of him as president.
This isn’t a battle of the oppressed. This is simply to state that Hillary Clinton has had no such outpourings, no such solidarity on a public level despite having faced as many systemic bias and attacks except in her case, the inherent bias is about her gender.
From his own account and his biographies, Obama has never been alone on his political journey. He had “unabashed ambition” as per many of his Chicago supporters. It was not a negative, but a positive quality in a man. He didn’t really speak much on issues passionately; he was a quieter sort of politician, but his silence meant fortitude, strength of character, not passivity. Clinton’s unabashed ambition has always been an Achilles heel for her, causing her to be perceived as untrustworthy for having political ambition.
Obama didn’t have scandals nor was he associated with “the establishment” because he had been in public office less than a decade.For an executive position in most companies, Obama wouldn’t have even been hired. Yet, he was viewed as a rebel and outsider compared to the 35+ years in which Hillary Clinton had despite his politics being assessed by political experts as being more conservative than the Clintons.
As per his books and his biographies, Obama had always been charismatic, popular, and the difficult journey he underwent was a private self discovery. Hillary Clinton’s journey has been public since the start in Arkansas. She has had no reprieve from relentless attacks, not on her personal demeanor and looks; not from exhaustive Congressional hearings that led nowhere; not for embassy tragedies that have happened under at least two dozen Secretary of States (many much worse); not even an FBI exoneration has given her the slightest benefit of the doubt.
There has been no Obama-like outpouring for Hillary Clinton by women — and she deserves it. It is so easy to dismiss that she was the first this or the first that until you live it. Strong women are brought to tears and leave workplaces even now for what they have faced; we can imagine how it was for her when there were no other women or role models.
She has been given much homage for the aplomb with which she handled the first Presidential debate. But that was no feat for a mere mortal, man or woman. Hillary Clinton didn’t have access to almost anything personally or professionally that women do today. She was part of the generation that either paved the way so women don’t have to face certain issues at all (the right to go to college, birth control, work), or don’t have to face them as harshly (choosing career and motherhood), or are still facing them.
To get that steely nerve and core of iron, you had to have lived a life and fought battles most of us would either have lost or wouldn’t choose to fight. As a woman, I can’t imagine what she may have gone through but my whole life has given hints. She was definitely condescended to and silenced professionally. She may have suffered personally through abuse or attack given the number of women in the public eye who admit to this.
If she has handled publicly personal assaults with such class, I would entrust her in the political arena negotiating with tough dictators and terrorists. So do generals, former Presidents, world class athletes, and anyone who knows what it takes and that she has it. This is why after the debate, independent and Republicans and conservative organizations, including the Arizona Republic for the first time in over a 100 years, backed a Democrat.
This is my ode to her, my heartfelt words for the torch she has blazed and the scars she hides, my expression of the fear that she may have faced abuse that she hides as so many of us do, my solidarity for her marital woes she must publicly bear only due to her gender, and the intensity of attacks on her looks and demeanor that she would never have had to hear if she were a man.
Just as a black man or woman doesn’t want to think about being black, and in fact, can ignore it…until the day a bad apple police officer pulls you over. A woman doesn’t want to think about her gender, until she or her daughter or her mother are slut shamed, or fat shamed, or get eating disorders due to being labeled as ‘ugly,’ or abused or assaulted and face a legal system not on their side, or face an accidental pregnancy or pregnancy that must be terminated for medical reasons, or be the one to leave a career to raise children.
Any of those scenarios will be most of us women. Some of those circumstances can’t be regulated but many can through law and policy. Many can bring justice and healing and reprieve. A man like Trump — so easily offended that it makes you shudder to think how he’d handle international or domestic crises, how he’d handle policy briefs before making important decisions where he’d have to admit the opinions of those much smarter than him, a man who would have to deal with women daily whom he believes are no better than objects — he will not be progressing the issues women face, and may even set back the clock.
Which is why women need to be a community when it comes to civic engagement because laws matter; policy matters. Laws and society are in a tango in a democratic society. Grassroots movements may bring an issue into light, like the LGBT community’s fight for the right to marry, but laws must be passed only then can hearts and minds as a whole will change.