It’s difficult to imagine a man finding himself in the same position as did Hillary Clinton in the second debate yesterday.
When did you last hear of a man being held responsible for his wife’s alleged sexual crimes?
When did you last hear of a man centre stage in a political forum, with his wife’s alleged sexual victims as invited audience members?
Aside from Bill Clinton’s alleged sexual crimes, and aside from Donald Trump’s lascivious objectification of women including his own daughter, yesterday’s debate in itself could not have more clearly enacted the sexism endemic in western culture.
When challenged about his attitudes to women Trump reacted by arguing that Bill Clinton is worse, and then went on to list all the things he believes are more important than sexually assaulting women, managing to further demean us in that tacky investigation into the relativity of suffering.
What Trump unsurprisingly fails to appreciate (and many others male and female share his lack of perception) is that the objectification and sexual assault of women and girls originates in a collective mindset that is so accustomed to dehumanisation it can justify any destructive action against anyone, should it be judged necessary. If you are part of a dominant group that treats some 50% of your country’s population as lesser beings because they have vaginas, it’s not going to be difficult for you to do the same to anyone else who threatens your fragile sense of who you are, such as people of religions and ethnicities that vary from your own.
Yes, I know Trump seems far from fragile in his sense of self, however, there’s a psychological theory of over-compensation for fears of inadequacy that might be applicable here.
There was a point in the debate when Trump appeared to stalk Clinton, moving in very close behind her as she answered a question, looming, as if to remind her of his hostile presence. It was nasty, almost as nasty as the video tape of Trump leaving his bus ten years ago to meet a young woman he’d only just finished crudely sexually assessing. He asked her for a hug. In those few seconds we saw sexism, intimidation and violation played out: the young woman couldn’t refuse Trump if she valued her career, and so obliged him in his effort to vindicate his boastful claims of sexual irresistibility. She did this in complete ignorance of the crass conversation about her that had just taken place.
If you’ve ever been groped that vision would have caused you to shudder.
I don’t think HRC did very well in the second debate. How much of this is down to Trump’s psychological tactic of ensuring women linked in the worst possible way with her and her husband were present, and his focus on both Bill and Hillary Clinton’s alleged treatment of them and other women, I don’t know. I’m inclined to think quite a bit, as there is simply no other area in which Trump can outdo HRC. It seems she’s got the presidency in the bag, unless something inconceivably catastrophic occurs.
A woman who stands by her philandering man isn’t necessarily admired for that: some see it as more a demonstration of strength if she kicks the cheater out. Whatever your position on this, it’s a fraught topic for women. Hillary is entrapped in Bill’s mess, as women are so frequently trapped in the messes made by men in their lives. Trump is making the most of it, because at this point there’s really little else he can use to cause HRC public discomfort.
How interesting, then, that both candidates have to deal with sexual scandals. And what a comment on women’s place in the world that Trump’s scandals are his own, while HRC’s are those allegedly perpetrated by her husband.
Says it all, really.