Sexism Runs Rampant Among GOP Contenders in the 2016 Presidential Race
by Veronica I. Arreola, Truthout | News Analysis –
The Hillary Clinton nutcracker.
“Hillary Clinton reminds everyone of their first wife.”
“You’re likeable enough.”
The 2008 Democratic primary race provided ample evidence of sexism in electoral politics by candidates and the mainstream media. The 2016 campaign is proving to be no different. Yet while the brunt of sexist remarks is being launched toward Hillary Clinton, the campaigns have resorted to sexism in many other cases as well.
The most egregious uses of sexism in the campaign have come from Donald Trump. The former reality TV star and real estate mogul has many years of experience that he brought to the race. Media critic Jennifer L. Pozner summed up his sexist ways on “The Apprentice” in a 2015 article at Politico, writing, “Female candidates’ business experience was often underemphasized compared with their male counterparts, and scenes showing men devising effective moneymaking strategies were juxtaposed with scenes of women wasting time with petty ‘cat-fights’ and insecure second-guessing.”
And then there was the time Trump suggested a female contestant perform oral sex on him, as noted by GOP debate moderator Megyn Kelly. Trump has a black belt in sexism and wields that skill at will.
Trump has been tossing around sexist remarks – including accusations of Clinton playing the “gender card” – as if they were candies at a parade. Most recently he decried, “She’s playing that woman’s card left and right, and women are more upset about it than anybody else, including most men,” when remarking on Clinton’s responses to the sexist insults that Trump had directed toward her.
The GOP men know how to toss the sexism ball around amongst themselves.
What is insulting about accusations of Clinton playing the gender card is that these allegations are tossed at her whenever she dares to mention that she is a woman, has worked on women’s issues or is discussing women’s issues, as well as whenever she accurately describes Trump’s and others’ sexist comments toward her as sexist. When you spend your whole career working on behalf of women and girls, you are going to refer to them when discussing your accomplishments. And that shouldn’t be dismissed as “playing the gender card.”
But the campaign trail is littered with sexism that is not directed toward Clinton. Staying with Trump for a moment, we can see the breadth of his sexist ways in his attacks on Carly Fiorina. Trump’s gross comments about Fiorina’s looks played well into the well-documented bias against women candidates. Research shows that voters look for women candidates to be pretty, “likeable” and damn near perfect. Asking voters, “Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” was a cheap way to trigger voters’ subconscious preference to vote for conventionally attractive candidates.
Candidates have always talked about the office of the president in gendered ways. The office – and, by extension, those who could potentially occupy it – must fit a very specific masculinist framework. One suspects this masculinist line of thought is what propels Clinton to advocate for hawkish stances despite her lifetime of work on behalf of women and girls. Anyone who has worked on women and girls’ issues, especially internationally, understands that they are the most harmed during armed conflict.
This masculinist view of the presidency also puts constraints on the men in the race, requiring them to prove their own hawkishness. It also leads them into lines of attack that question each other’s manliness. The heterosexist media is so puzzled by Lindsey Graham’s status as a single dude and by having women in the race that Dana Bash of CNN actually asked Graham “to choose which woman he would date, marry or make vanish among Hillary Clinton, Carly Fiorina and Sarah Palin.”
Donald Trump, when not lobbing sexist remarks at Clinton and Fiorina, has also focused on bullying Jeb Bush and questioning his manliness. Trump prefers to call Bush “weak.” In fact, “weak” seems to be Trumps main offense against his GOP rivals. He has called Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Graham and Rand Paul “weak” when it comes to their stances on national defense and immigration.
That said, the other GOP men also know how to toss the sexism ball around amongst themselves.
Reprinted with permission from Truthout