Melissa McEwan writes for Shakesville:
She had to face him. She had, to finish this test, confront him about his abuse of women, which every woman knows is a dangerous proposition. She had to stand on that stage, in front of millions of viewers, locked in a battle with a man who was pacing like a caged beast with a rageful expression, telling her he'd throw her in prison if he could, and stalking her around the stage to intimidate her with his physical presence.
Clinton has learned that, for women, being human means denying parts of your humanity around dangerous men. And so she faced her opponent, a man who has harmed women and been capricious with her very life, with the obligation to show only the parts of her humanity that she could. Accessible for the audience, but not vulnerable for Trump.
Close off this part, but not that one.
It's an absurd and horrendous ask. And somehow she navigated it. So expertly, in fact, that I've not heard a single pundit—or anyone else, for that matter—even comment on the fact that she had to do it at all. That maybe it was quite unsettling for her to face Donald Trump and all his grotesque misogyny and incitement.
She is formidable as fuck. And she is brave.
And she's done it for so long, so successfully, that hardly anyone even notices how extraordinary it is anymore.Rebecca Traister writes for New York:
And what of Hillary Clinton? As of Friday afternoon, before the tape was published, the first woman who’s ever gotten this close to the presidency was back up to a five-point lead in averaged national polls — and was predicted even by Eeyorish Nate Silver to have an 80 percent chance of electoral victory. Before the weekend was out, she would wind up on a stage in St. Louis, speaking in the careful, controlled tone of a woman who does not want to provoke the restless, snorting man looming menacingly over her shoulder, while enduring the embarrassment of her husband’s accusers looking down on her from the stands.
Her victory, if indeed she wins, will be attributed to Trump’s flameout. Little thought will be given to the horror of being a woman who, on her way to the White House, was forced to publicly confront the specter of her husband’s alleged sexual misdeeds. That’s not just about Trump. It’s about a country in which the first women to gain political offices have been the kind we can discern as valuable — wives and daughters, extensions of the men who have held those offices first, men who have had outsize power over women — making the very fraught circumstances of Clinton’s perch a grim historical inevitability. Her circumstances on Sunday night were an almost grotesque manifestation of the forces that have, until now, left us with 43 male presidents, 42 of them white.
The press conference Trump held before the debate was soul-scorching, a cartoonish vision of what it means, in the mind of a misogynist and his vindictive fans, to punish the woman who’s beating you: by sexualizing her, humiliating her. It wasn’t even the coherent feminist argument we’d been promised — Trump laying out some of the more plausible claims of assault that have been lodged against Bill Clinton and holding Hillary to feminist account for having stood by her husband. That complaint would require a comprehension of feminist thinking on these very thorny matters, an ability to parse sexual and political power dynamics within marriage and between women. Donald Trump has never spent a millisecond entertaining feminist thinking; he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the women he invited in front of cameras on Sunday night. He’s been on record in the past calling Clinton’s accusers “terrible people” and “an unattractive bunch.” And so Trump lodged no cogent critique; he simply tried to imply that if he was bad, Bill Clinton was worse, and embarrass and shame Hillary by saying the worst thing he can imagine saying about a woman — that she failed to hold her husband’s sexual attention.
Michelle Goldberg writes for Slate:
Clinton, despite rumors to the contrary, is a human being. She had to speak fluently about policy while being flayed for her husband’s sins before an audience of tens of millions. She had to appear unruffled while Trump, stewing and pacing, loomed behind her, physically menacing her with his bulk. He threatened to have her imprisoned if elected; she betrayed not a hint of rage or shock. She made, I think, a strategic decision not to fully engage with him, even if that meant letting some of his outrageous assertions hang there unchallenged. To me, she seemed a model of grace and poise, smiling through a disgusting ordeal.
Trump, it is true, almost certainly thrilled his base on Sunday night. Indeed, they nominated him so he could give just such a performance. For decades, they’ve pined for someone to get in Clinton’s face and call her a liar, a failed wife, and a criminal. Trump did that. BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith tweeted that, in the spin room, British right-winger Nigel Farage compared Trump, favorably, to a silverback gorilla: “He dominated her.” Maybe men will find this impressive. I suspect that women will not. On MSNBC, Republican strategist Nicolle Wallace said that if a man on the street walked behind her the way Trump skulked behind Clinton, she’d keep 911 dialed on her cellphone, just in case. A postdebate YouGov snap poll found that women thought Clinton won, 50 percent to 38 percent. Men narrowly gave the advantage to Trump, 46 percent to 43 percent. Luckily, there are more women than men in the electorate.Rebecca Ruiz writes for Mashable:
Donald Trump made clear on Sunday night that he won't be satisfied with just competing for the presidency — he must also humiliate Hillary Clinton in every way imaginable while running for the nation's highest office.
Hillary Clinton is no average politician. She inspires in many a deep animus, and for people who feel that way it's not enough to strongly disagree with her record and positions; she must be humbled and punished instead. Never mind that threatening to jail one's political opponent to audience applause is as close to authoritarianism as one can get without declaring himself a dictator.
That Clinton has long been a target of this well-documented dynamic comes back to a simple fact: she is a transgressive woman. If that sounds like a simplistic explanation, try to envision a male politician who is labeled an "enabler" of his wife's sexual misconduct. Or imagine a male politician who has lived her reality for the past three decades. Even Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), perhaps one of the most loathed mainstream politicians, isn't so inexplicably reviled.
This tactic isn't just dirty politics. When he repeatedly lies to Clinton's face about her motives and record, Trump is engaging in a form of gaslighting her and the American public. That style of psychological manipulation forces people to doubt what they believe to be true. Trump's intended message in this regard is clear: Clinton says she wants to help you, but she is really out to destroy America.
"She" appeared to be one of Trump's favorite terms of the night. In one response about Clinton's email practices as secretary of state, Trump referred to Clinton as "she" at least 14 times within the space of about 275 words. At a certain point, it might have felt more authentic had Trump literally begun referring to her as "that woman," a rejoinder that would have more accurately conveyed the source of his disdain.Jill Filipovic writes for Cosmopolitan:
Of course the first woman running for president of the United States is running against the mother of all sexists; what’s astonishing is that she’s winning. It was in hindsight obvious that the Republican Party’s conservative male base, realizing that Clinton was the likely Democratic nominee, would pick a notoriously misogynist dirtbag to be their party’s own candidate – many of these voters are men who like seeing more-accomplished women taken down a peg, and Trump gives voice to their worst impulses. So it’s particularly delightful to watch that kind of sexism work against him, his misogyny so crude that even members of his own party who aren’t exactly feminist firebrands are fleeing so they aren’t tainted by him. They’re smart to do so. Trump’s boasting about assaulting women (he would “grab them by the pussy,” he bragged to entertainment reporter Billy Bush in a 2005 conversation that was caught on tape) has even further alienated women, and many men: Nearly two-thirds of voters now say that Trump doesn’t respect women, up from just over half before the release of the tape. More than half of Americans say the video made them less likely to vote for Trump. Forty percent say he should withdraw from the race.
Misogyny like that is particularly notable because Trump’s opponent is female, but Trump’s style of aggressive, blustering masculinity also wouldn’t be such a cornerstone of his campaign if he were running against a man. Women recognize Trump in the classmate who always shouted over them, the boyfriend who bullied them, the coworker who coopted their ideas and got the credit – and the guy who made crude comments about their ass as they walked away. Clinton’s genius is that she has finally figured out how to make gender work for her by pointing out Trump’s sexism, confirming what so many American women feel instinctively.
But she’s also just a deft and skilled politician. That isn’t something you hear about Clinton very often – instead, the narrative is that she lacks charisma, that she isn’t a “natural” like her husband or President Barack Obama. Given that 100 percent of our previous presidents have been men, it’s no wonder that a woman doesn’t seem like a natural fit for the role. But what Clinton may lack in natural ability – or the biological fact that she’s a woman – she more than makes up for in expertise. Power and authority are so culturally tied to maleness that a woman seeking influence will of course be seen as something of an oddity and a second-best. And so Clinton is a workhorse, as many successful women are. Clinton has honed her political skills through years of trial and error, of adjusting to accommodate sexist assumptions, of making sure that her alleged lack of political charisma is counterweighed by the fact that she is better prepared than anyone in the room.
Clinton’s particularly astute performance – the number of times last night she pivoted between hitting Trump hard and presenting her own plans as brighter, better, and more detailed – was the culmination of a lifetime of experience. If Clinton beats him to the White House, it’ll be to the credit of her work alone. But there’s one benefit Trump could add: The extra bit of exhilaration in watching the first female president beat not just any man, but the kind of man who thinks facing off against a woman means he can’t lose.Deborah Tannen writes for Time:
In the second presidential debate, Hillary Clinton continued to refer to Donald Trump as “Donald,” leveling the playing field on which she is routinely referred to by her first name. For his part, Trump abandoned the resolve that he announced at the start of the first debate to call his opponent “Secretary Clinton,” and even limited the number of times he called her Hillary. His preferred term of address in Sunday night’s debate was a bare, emphatic “she.” Rather than answering the questions he was asked, he often fell back on attacking his opponent, relentlessly repeating how “she” was responsible for everything wrong in the universe, including his own promulgation of the birther lie.
Trump’s visage veered from stalker, as he loomed behind her while she addressed the audience members who’d asked questions, to petulant child, whining that he was being ganged up on (“It’s nice, one on three”) and demanding, when moderator Martha Raddatz tried to get him to answer a question he’d been asked: “Why don’t you interrupt her? You interrupt me all the time. Why don’t you interrupt her?”
In addition to the demeaning hiss of “she” (and an occasional “her”, with a malevolent “you” thrown in from time to time), Trump lobbed variations of the word “lie” at Clinton, even as fact-checking websites exposed his own statements as untruths, while she accurately and decorously labeled what he said “not true” and “absolutely false.” She smiled; he scowled. She remained composed; he paced and prowled.
If Clinton even slightly resembled the person described by Trump and Republicans, someone who knows her personally would have noticed. Instead, those who have known and worked with her—including Republican senators—have declared that the Clinton they know is warm, funny and dedicated—and has a rare ability to work with others and get things done.
That’s the real Hillary Clinton, just as the man revealed in the tape, in the accounts of those who experienced him firsthand and in Sunday night’s debate is the real Donald Trump.Erin Gloria Ryan writes for The Daily Beast:
Donald Trump, who has made a career out of branding himself as a dick, took it to the stage Sunday night and tripped over it.
If he was coached at all, whoever tried to prepare him for the debate didn’t succeed in eliminating the tics that made the last debate so disastrous for him. He acted like a cartoon bully. He was a living museum exhibit on how not to be appealing to women.
Mere days after video footage surfaced of the Republican presidential nominee bragging about how much fun it is to grab unconsenting women “by the pussy,” his boorish performance was puzzling. He lumbered awkwardly around the stage, seemingly unaware of how to stand like a human person. He didn’t seem to know what to do with his face, licking his lips and appearing distracted when he wasn’t the one doing the talking. He loomed over Hillary Clinton, stalking behind her and glaring at her as she answered questions, in a manner that many women might recognize as the sort of way a man who is trying to physically intimidate them might act. He whined about the moderators, barking over co-moderator ABC News chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz when she tried to get him to answer a question about Syria. He interrupted Hillary Clinton. He just couldn’t stop himself from interjecting “WRONG” into her microphone and speaking over her during her allotted time.
Clinton, for her part, could not disguise her disdain. She did not shake Trump’s hand at the outset of the debate. In the split screen, her patience with Trump wore visibly thinner as the night wore on.
Emily Zonder writes for Michigan Daily:Like everybody else in America, it seems she, too, cannot wait for this election to be over.
All this country has ever known is to silence all voices besides those of wealthy white men, maintaining the patriarchal system of inequality and oppression. This silencing of voices is the central premise of the patriarchy as we know it to exist — the premise that our institutions were once built on and continue to thrive upon. Because of this, one could argue that there is no one who poses a greater threat to those grounds than Hillary Clinton herself, a woman whose policies bring a variety of perspectives to an otherwise exclusive table, whose feminism defies the oppression that our country is all too familiar with. Her voice, strength and persistence actively cause irreparable damage to the very pillars on which our country’s system of dominance stands —which is something that terrifies the oppressive perpetrators of this system down to the core.
However, the truth of the matter is that Hillary Clinton is not the only strong woman who possesses this power, whose very existence has these frightened rhetoric-spitters defending their dominance with every offensive insult and criticism in the book. The political world is filled with countless other women of equal strength and power — women like Elizabeth Warren and Michelle Obama, Dolores Huerta and Nina Turner — all fighting alongside one another with immense courage to dismantle outdated policies that reek of hatred and oppression. Their presence in the media, their feminist policies and the following that these women and many more have generated over the course of their careers have shaken up our patriarchal society permanently. And, with every speech, tweet and decision they make, these women continue to do so each and every day.
I believe it is imperative that we call the rhetoric in this election out for what it really is: sexist, pathetic and, like many of Donald Trump and other conservatives’ policies, primarily driven by fear. The grasp on power that all too many wealthy white men have held for far too long is only growing weaker. I can sense this happening whenever another strong woman stands up and speaks out against injustice and oppression, whenever another strong man stands up and pledges his support for all of our strong women and whenever Hillary Clinton stands up and inspires the next generation of empowered women and men to do the same.Sarah Todd writes for Quartz:
I always thought feminism and gender would be central issues during the first election to feature a woman with a 50-50 shot at the US presidency. But before the 2016 presidential race, I imagined the impetus for those conversations would be the woman candidate, her policies, and the possibilities her candidacy represented—not an opponent who boasts about sexually assaulting women on video.
You don’t have to identify as a feminist to understand that it’s always indefensible to put your hands on a woman without her consent. You don’t need to vote Democrat to understand that sexual harassment is bad, or take a gender studies course to understand that reducing women to their body parts suggests a fundamental refusal to see them as human beings.
This is an old story. It’s how sexism has always held women back. It’s really hard to advance your career if the CEO of your cable news channel has institutionalized an atmosphere of sexual harassment. It’s tough to put yourself in high-profile positions when you know that you’re going to be attacked with rape threats and sexualized slurs simply for speaking in public. It’s difficult to come forward about sexual assault and try to stop powerful men from abusing other women when you know most people won’t want to believe you. And it’s tricky to develop the healthy sense of self-worth necessary to successfully pursue an education when you live in a society that’s constantly trying to tell you that your looks are the only thing that make you valuable, and where you’re always wondering what men are saying about you when you leave the room.
And so for a lot of feminists, despite Hillary Clinton’s prospects, this hasn’t been an inspiring election. It’s been a demoralizing one. The 2016 presidential campaign hasn’t shown us how far we’ve come. It’s shown us, in the form of Donald Trump, just how far we have to go.Molly Ball writes for The Atlantic:
And so the 2016 campaign, which has already exposed so many of our national rifts—class, race, geography—has settled, in its final weeks, on our deepest and most animal fault line, the one that cleaves the human race in two: men versus women, the old-fashioned battle of the sexes. A few days later, a decade-old recording would surface of Trump talking about groping and seducing married women, in keeping with a long history of what he termed “locker-room banter.”
And isn't it fitting? On the one hand, it might be a rich irony that America's first woman to head a major-party ticket finds herself running against the cartoon of masculinity, the parody of machismo, that is Trump. On the other hand, it might not be a coincidence at all.
So here we are with a few weeks to go until the election that feels like it might end history, somewhere in the fraught, contested area between comedy and offense, and the pundits are saying the women's vote is the key to the whole thing. The gap between men and women voters is shaping up to be the biggest in history; husbands and wives are at odds. It is an election about women, but it is also, inextricably, an election about men—a referendum of sorts on American masculinity, in the explosive, outrageous, grotesque form of Donald J. Trump.
"What kind of man," Clinton asked on Twitter, in response to Trump's anti-Machado tirade, "stays up all night to smear a woman with lies and conspiracy theories?"
What kind of man, indeed.Liz Plank writes for Vox:
Hillary Clinton hasn’t even been elected and the misogyny lobbed her way is already palpable. Donald Trump has been no exception, interrupting Clinton 51 times during the first presidential debate (that’s more than three times more than she interrupted him), and launching a thinly veiled sexist attack that she doesn’t have the strength, the stamina, or the "presidential look."
Of course, because she’s a woman, Clinton looks like no other president before her, but drawing attention to her looks or age is an implicit way to draw attention to her gender. Pence’s repeated emphasis on Trump's "broad shoulders"(although he denies it) can also be construed as a direct reference to a masculinity Clinton is devoid of.
Sexist attacks have come from all sides, including from the left, with Bernie Sanders’s campaign accusing Clinton of having too many "ambitions" during the primaries. And that assertion doesn’t come from thin air — voters’ discomfort with enterprising women is supported by data from Yale University showing that their preference for a female leader is negatively affected by the perception that she is seeking power. That same effect of course, does not exist for male leaders. Researchers concluded that "participants who believed that [a] female senator had a strong will to power were less likely to vote for her."
Instead of ushering in a new era of gender equality, Clinton’s presidency could become a referendum on female leadership. But the good news is that a woman in the highest office could also significantly tip the scales for better female representation in politics at all levels. Clinton said she plans to bring on many women at the top of her administration and could encourage other women to run, engendering what some are calling the "Clinton effect." And then maybe so-called female tokens can finally become a thing of the past.
A Hillary Clinton presidency would likely mean disproportionate scrutiny of female politicians, but as a wave of them create a critical mass, those initial growing pains will eventually lead to a change in culture. The first female presidency could easily hurt in the short term. But that's an unavoidable step in making something new the norm.
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