This election cycle, women are being tossed around and redirected. I’m embarrassed, embarrassed for my wife, my sons, any daughters I may one day have.
Donald Trump unapologetically presents himself as a misogynist who does not believe women are his equal. Time and time again he makes comments degrading women, from attacking their looks to bragging about groping them, even making inappropriate comments about his own daughter. He’s had multiple marriages and affairs, financed lewd casinos, and agreed to appear in pornographic films. He told the story of how a woman once told him that he knocked her up, and his response was to ask what they were going to do to take care of it. His supporters support him anyway, no matter how disgusted they are.
If elected, Donald Trump, as a role model, will send the message to the nation (and the world) that it is ok for men in power to treat women as physical objects.
So let’s just vote for Hillary, right?
Trump’s behavior is so beyond lewd, indicating an actual hatred of and objectification of women, that it may seem like Hillary Clinton, a female, is not only an obvious choice, but maybe even some kind of “cure” for misogyny in America. Well, remember that time we elected a Black president and racism disappeared? Electing a female President will not solve sexism, and even if that were our goal, we would want to give strong thought to which female candidate we chose.
While on the surface choosing Hillary Clinton may seem like a natural alternative for women, I think this only stands as a surface answer in contrast to the obvious, existentially anti-women character of Donald Trump. The GOP nominee is blatantly bad for females. But let’s take a closer look at his chief opponent.
Hillary Clinton plays the gender card to excuse her faults in a bid for power, a bid she’s made by compromising the values of her supporters. Much of her campaign success has come from advertising her as the candidate women must vote for because we must have our first female President. Granted, she is a strong woman. Among the reasons to elect a leader, the goal of having the first minority of any kind should rank much lower than the goals of having a qualified person at all, especially if we want respect from those who would otherwise hate us.
If elected, Hillary Clinton will be the first Madame President. Trump’s vast army of supporters have shown us that countless men (and women, in parentheses) are waiting to see what the first female president will do. If such a large chunk of America is still so sexist, would a president like Hillary Clinton really be the best choice to prove that a woman can do it just as well, or better than, a man? She is certainly a strong woman who refuses to comply with stereotyping herself as “weak,” “small-minded,” “flighty,” or any of the other stereotypical labels that have been placed on women. Rather, she is a woman of steel nerves, cool and tough in a debate, who has demonstrated the ability to handle various situations of responsibility and pressure. But her career is marked with murkiness, regardless. If the nation is looking, don’t we want our first female President not to be known for being manipulative, deceitful, and negligent?
Hillary Clinton is far from the best example of a female who has succeeded in politics chiefly through merit. She became famous for being a First Lady, she has no substantial legislative achievement on her record, and much of her career has amounted to appearing at important events and saying things. There are countless other women out there who have achieved in politics without having to marry a successful man or be paraded around, women who have achieved great things against the odds, and done so by hard work. If elected, the shadow of Clinton’s husband, particularly marked by his staunch record of infidelity, will long hover over her seat in the Oval Office. She will not be remembered for climbing to the presidency through merit, but through shady maneuverings. Her career doesn’t send the message, “be a good woman despite bad men,” but rather “be the woman men need you to be if you want to get to where they have.” That is a conflicting message, even to feminist voices, many of whom would tell a woman to divorce her husband for infidelity at the drop of a hat.
As Hillary Clinton toured the world, she accepted donations from The Clinton Foundation from countries like Saudi Arabia, who treat women as second class citizens. Did she speak directly to the leaders of these countries challenging their women’s rights issues? Where were her priorities, and how did they affect her bid for campaign contributions?
And if we respect the right of women to make their own political choices, not to mention vote, is it really respectful to tell women they have to vote for Hillary Clinton because she’s a woman and would be the first woman president? If women fought so hard for the right to make political choices because they can reason just as well as men, is it reasonable to throw reason to the wind and tell a woman that a candidate’s gender is enough to elect her?
I am not a woman. I don’t know what it’s like to be one. But I imagine that if I were a woman, and I was presented with the option of a president with a lengthy history of flirtation with corruption and an approach of expediency over values, I would be insulted. I imagine I would be doubly insulted if I was told that I owe that candidate my loyalty because she also has breasts and a vagina.
Consider Angela Merkel, the first female Chancellor of Germany, how she rose to the responsibilities she was elected to through her accomplishments and tested trustworthiness, not merely through her backdoor dealings. Her tenure hasn’t been without controversy, but there is a difference between controversy and scandal. If Democrats are looking for what a strong, trustworthy, Democratic female head of state looks like, they would do better in looking to the career of Angela Merkel. You could even Consider Theresa May, a Conservative female head of state without the baggage of scandal that Clinton brings to the scene, a woman who showed Europe that you can be conservative and still criticize the police.
This year, women are among many bodies of people being manipulated or degraded by the political process, whether it be Democrats guilting women into voting for a woman they do not believe in, or Republicans supporting a man of disgusting misogyny. If the election were just about the treatment of women, certainly Clinton would by far be a better choice than Trump. But she is no godsend for women looking for a good female role model, and the election is about much wider issues than the treatment of women.
Women should be able to a) choose a candidate based on the merit of their policies and character, and b) not be treated like garbage by the head of state. Is that really too much to ask?
Maybe in Saudi Arabia.