Trump reinforces need to deny his brand of casual sexism

Rachel Renier

The most cringe-worthy moment from Wednesday night’s debate did not come from either of the two candidates. It came from Fox News anchor and selected moderator, Chris Wallace. When confronting Trump on the recent allegations of sexual harassment, Wallace roped Clinton into the mix, “And since this is a question for both of you, Secretary Clinton, Mr. Trump says what your husband did and what you defended was even worse.”

Hillary Clinton did not address her husband’s sexual misconduct during office. She did answer with grounding force that Donald Trump is unquestionably a threat to women.  

“Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger. He goes after their dignity, their self-worth, and I don’t think there is a woman anywhere that doesn’t know what that feels like,” Clinton said.

On stage next to her boisterous and boundary-oblivious rival, Clinton delivered the human moment many voters have been searching for. Trump floundered, diverting attention away from his likely sexual misconduct, reductively pointing to Bill Clinton as the real adversary of women.

While Trump certainly should be held responsible for sexist behavior, Hillary is not accountable for the actions and misconduct of her husband. Julie Minish, assistant professor of English and Mexican American studies, agrees Clinton should not be shamed within the larger conversation of sexual assault.

“It strikes me as a man speaking over a woman to talk to other men. It’s a certain type of gendered discourse as a way to discredit her as a woman,” Minish said.

Like Trump, Bill Clinton is also guilty of past sexist behavior. However, Hillary Clinton is running for president, and her husband’s sexual past is irrelevant to the current election. While Hillary was part of the Clinton and Obama administrations, Trump inappropriately attributes their unpopular policies to Clinton.

Despite the plethora of sexist rhetoric spewing from the Trump campaign, a not-so-small group of GOP women still stand behind the candidate. The release of Trump’s 2005 audio showing unwarranted sexual advancements towards women raises serious concerns for other female voters.

Whether downplaying the statements or prioritizing his other platform issues, 73 percent of GOP women remain loyal to the Trump campaign. Juliet Hooker, associate professor of government, African and African diaspora studies, and women’s and gender studies, aptly points out that partisanship may overrule overt misogyny spouted by the Trump campaign.

A vote for Trump for these women is maybe a vote of no-confidence in the current political class who has failed to “protect” America. Women voters who don’t seem to be concerned about the trivialization of sexual assault, like Hooker suggests, may already internalize sexist arguments.  

“Women are not exempt from sexism,” Hooker said.

The most salient feature of the Trump candidacy is his devotion to an image of masculinity. To certain female voters, this is appealing; Trump’s promise of uncompromising protection and leadership relies on the same sexist principles that condone rape culture.

Trump is antithetical to Hillary — an absurd, over-the-top masculine counterpart. Voters may condone his sexual misconduct because they have confidence in traditional male attributes. Trump embodies a fragile construct of ideal masculinity: uncompromising, aggressive, sexually charged, heterosexual.

Diverting attention to Hillary’s husband’s infidelity does not mean Trump is genuinely concerned with sexual assault. He simply believes he is above the law. Last week at a North Carolina rally, Trump pouted that he’s become “a victim of one of the great political smear campaigns in the history of our country,” in response to allegations of sexual harassment.

Trump’s dalliance with legal troubles, from Trump University to the sexual harassment accusations, point to one predominant and consistent attitude: false entitlement. Trump doesn’t believe he should be held accountable for anything.

Renier is a Plan II and rhetoric and writing senior from Houston.