The shirtless man in the straw cowboy hat was talking over the women he was drinking with, reciting a litany of reasons he despises Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. At a decibel level significantly higher than those of his companions, he declared to the women that he was going to “educate” them.
Women’s bodies, of course.
You see, Clinton, if elected, would push to lift a ban on late-term abortions, he said.
The thing is, that isn’t true. Clinton has never said she’d seek to lift the ban in all cases; she only seeks to reverse the controversial Hyde Amendment that keeps federal dollars from going to clinics that provide abortion services. Also not true: his assertions that Clinton and President Barack Obama are coming for his guns. It’s another demonstration of silo politics — how the left and right create their own realities based on the media they consume.
But the exchange was also an instance of something women experience every day: being talked over by men.
It’s an everyday symptom of a larger problem that reared its head during this presidential election cycle, particularly in the last week: the seemingly pervasive view that women don’t count.
Cowboy Hat’s favored candidate, GOP nominee Donald Trump, tried to do the same thing to Clinton at the second presidential debate, interjecting, talking over, mansplaining, with utmost contempt and unwillingness to acknowledge the validity of her perspective.
Days before that, the now-infamous decade-old comments he made about forcing himself onto women shook the news cycle, and neither Trump nor his surrogates have apologized for the actions he bragged about on the tape. He apologized for offending, but little else.
Wives and daughters
Many GOP luminaries — few of whom actually rescinded their endorsement of Trump — expressed their disgust over the leaked audio.
Yet, as many commentators have pointed out, the framework these men used to condemn his words was rarely an acknowledgment of equality. Most explained their disgust for what Trump said by saying they wouldn’t want their wives and daughters and mothers treated or talked about that way, not because all women deserve to be treated with respect. These officials put themselves at the center and made women an accessory to their outrage, critics say.
Following the release of a recording featuring Trump’s incredibly vulgar comments about his sexual advances on women, social media was a cacophony of pointed fingers and twisted interpretations.
Trump apologized by famously characterizing it as “locker room” banter. At Sunday’s debate, when moderator Anderson Cooper confronted him with the notion that his words weren’t just crude but essentially an admission of sexual assault, Trump ran away from the question.
The subject of many of Trump’s comments in the video, Entertainment Tonight host Nancy O’Dell, expressed her disgust:
“Politics aside, I’m saddened that these comments still exist in our society at all,” O’Dell wrote on ET’s website. “When I heard the comments yesterday, it was disappointing to hear such objectification of women. The conversation needs to change because no female, no person, should be the subject of such crass comments, whether or not cameras are rolling. Everyone deserves respect no matter the setting or gender. As a woman who has worked very hard to establish her career, and as a mom, I feel I must speak out with the hope that as a society we will always strive to be better.”
The day after the debate, at a pro-Clinton voter registration event, Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards, a vocal Clinton supporter, said she was “completely appalled” at how Trump sought to dismiss his remarks as sweaty guy talk.
“It’d be disqualifying for any office and it showed that he doesn’t actually understand or certainly doesn’t appreciate the serious nature of sexual harassment or sexual assault,” she said. “Because that’s what he was describing.”
Also alarming, said Congresswoman Kathy Castor at the same event, were local and national-level Republicans’ refusal to disavow him despite a long record of words and actions that don’t seem to comport with Republican values.
“Even Paul Ryan [Monday] said he’s not going to un-endorse him… right down to a lot of local legislators here… I’m really appalled and I think the voters are going to send a message,” she said.
If the excuses made by Trump and his defenders for the leaked audio (it was vulgar, but it was just words) seem to dismiss women’s perspectives, so does the use of former president Bill Clinton’s past behavior to attack Hillary. The tactic suggests that the right doesn’t view women — even the most powerful women on the planet — as autonomous, and would rather portray them in terms of the person to whom they are married.
Trump’s invitation of Bill Clinton’s accusers to Sunday night’s debate is a case in point, an attempt to define Hillary by the actions of her husband. For many, the outrage wasn’t over the validity of the alleged assault victims’ claims, it was about the right’s tendency to cast the Clintons as one person rather than two autonomous individuals, which to many harkens to a time when women were regarded as property.
“I was horrified as a woman and as a mother to even watch the debate. He had no ability to talk about any issues or answer any questions,” Richards said. “His political tactics are to destabilize what was supposed to be one of the most important national debates in this country. I think it showed him for being a political hack.”