Now that the political crazy season is in full swing, you can’t miss it–one rule for the men, another for the women. If you haven’t noticed, the sexist attacks are reserved solely for Hillary Clinton and other female candidates as they are for every woman who has ever had the temerity to run for office. Secretary Clinton has been accused of screeching, yelling, and screaming when she speaks to rallies of her supporters. Reporter Bob Woodward accused her of “shouting.” Really? When is the last time you heard anyone accuse a male candidate of “shouting” or “screeching?” The words conjure up banshees and witches and frightening female night creatures. Obviously, men are scared to death of powerful women.
Clinton has also been criticized for being “too serious.” Joe Scarborough, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, suggested Clinton needs to “smile more.” Can you imagine him suggesting that to a male candidate? And this is a campaign for the most important, powerful job in the country, not to mention the world. Our leaders need to be serious in a very serious world.
Clinton, like all other female candidates, is forced to navigate on uneven ground. She must be aggressive, yet soft; tough, yet nurturing. Ultimately, what this means is that, no matter the seriousness of her message, she must please. And all women candidates are judged on their looks. But not the men. They can look like day-old bread, mold on a mushroom, or Methuselah–it doesn’t matter. But let a woman appear tired or even slightly rumpled and the word goes forth–NOT FEMININE!
Not only are female candidates considered fair game for attacks, the wives of the two leading GOP contenders are being used as battering rams in a contest between their husbands that appears to get nastier every day. Photos of Melina Trump posing nude were circulated to Utah voters shortly before the Utah GOP primary, with the caption, “Meet Melina Trump, your next First Lady, or you could vote for Ted Cruz.” The photo campaign was paid for by a PAC that supports the Ted Cruz campaign. In response, Donald Trump threatened to “spill the beans” on Heidi Cruz, attached to a photo of Mrs. Cruz looking as if she were in a rage.
The trading of these accusations and photos have absolutely nothing to do with political expertise, or the ability to deal with the complex problems of a complex society in an even more unstable and complex world. But they do reveal that in a male-dominated political field, even wives who are not political figures themselves are objectified as either “sexy” or “bitchy,” and the media eats it up and spews it out twenty-four hours a day. When Donald Trump stated on Fox News about his daughter, Ivanka,” She does have a very nice figure…if (she) weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her,” Trump was treated by the media as a slightly dirty, but very amusing, clever man. The fact that Ivanka Trump graduated cum laude with a degree in Business from the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) was not worthy of mention.
Women like Hillary Clinton who refuse to “stay in their lanes” are penalized and often with demeaning, obscene and suggestive language. Early in the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump tweeted, “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?” That this sort of blatant objectification is tolerated and even cheered by the public, says more about the uneven playing field and the misogynist mentality of the American public than it does about any single candidate.
Ultimately, as women, as feminists, we must give kudos to all women who have the courage to run for public office in a sexist world. They bear a burden no man experiences and few men understand.
Presidents Judith McCarrick and Lynn Wenzel