It would be convenient if there were one simple reason why Donald Trump won, wouldn’t it? Some feminists think they have it: Misogyny. Linda Stasi in the New York Daily News writes: “I firmly believe that this was never a contest of right vs. left. It was always a contest of male vs. female. This was not a triumph for Trump so much as a vote against women.”
Hogwash. One particular woman lost the Presidency, not womankind. We can and should parse the results of this election—devastating as the whole campaign was for Democrats, for Republicans, for all people of goodwill. But there are mountain ranges of factors that outweigh sexism.
True, Trump is a cad, a lewd, and not terribly shrewd show-off, who measures personal value by wealth and sexual conquest. For years, I’ve proudly proclaimed prudishness (please do join the prude revolution) and Trump is, ahem, not on my list of spokespeople. (Neither, sadly, are most feminists, who never miss an opportunity to denigrate the desire to choose modesty as “anti-sex.”)
Trump’s brazen boorishness was evident long before his egregious comments with the Access Hollywood host. Reality TV, The Apprentice included, is in the business of making superficial, spotlight-seeking fools “famous.” Now Americans will have one in the Oval Office.
So with a candidate so obviously flawed, how on earth could he win?
I’d argue it’s because Clinton is equally flawed, albeit in different categories. She holds double standards. She condemned Trump’s sexual misdemeanours, but those who remember her during the sexual scandals of her husband recall that she purposefully sullied Monica Lewinsky’s reputation. The sisterhood did not defend a 22-year-old intern at the hands of a boss more than twice her age, who happened also to be President.
When Clinton used an email server in her home for classified information it was cast as a careless error — for others with less power, it would most certainly be a serious scandal. She took millions from foreign dictators, and her charitable foundation remains under investigation.
Ultimately, Hillary Clinton is not the upright foil to Trump’s demon.
Further, if the answer to her loss is simply sexism, what are we to make of the policy differences between the two candidates?
Let’s start with that most divisive of issues—abortion. For far too long, feminists have denied there is such a thing as a pro-life woman and even (wait for it) a pro-life feminist. (We are out here, and if you prick us, we will bleed.) In this election, Clinton waded into full-on abortion advocacy.
The evidence for this lies in the depths of Planned Parenthood’s mourning one day after her loss with a letter to their supporters: “Let’s get all these words out of the way: Devastated. Angry. Heartbroken. Outraged. Shocked. Sad. Disgusted. Ashamed. Discouraged. Exhausted. Shattered.” They know why they are using endless downtrodden adjectives: having paid millions into Clinton’s campaign with the hope of reward, they are left with a president who has promised he will be pro-life.
Yet the point is not every feminist is pro-choice, and until the feminist tent is truly inclusive, women like me will have a hard time voting for women like Hillary Clinton.
There were other policy issues, of course, such as who would be appointed to the Supreme Court and the unpopularity of Obamacare. The latter was something I experienced, living in Washington D.C. while Obamacare was being enacted. Democrats and Republicans alike were complaining. Rates were rising. Coverage was not. Many were assured they could keep their old plan under Obamacare. They could not. Hillary Clinton’s policy was to make this failing policy better by “fixing” it— even as rates rise by the double digits. Trump said he’d dump Obamacare. Neither position has much to do with the candidate’s sex.
Fundamentally, feminism today is a floundering concept. Ostensibly feminism means defending the right of women to be self-sufficient individuals. Excellent. But that’s the theory. In practice, feminism clutches a victim mentality, whereby women are pitted against men in a zero-sum Marxist struggle.
The first wave of feminists coalesced around the right to vote. The second around sexual freedoms. Things went downhill at that point for there will never be total consensus about sexual freedom being a marker of women’s success. There’s not even consensus among feminists. The second wave pit anti-porn feminists against those who are “sex positive,” even where porn is demonstrably objectifying, violent, and degrading.
Ultimately, there is sexism in declaring misogyny the reason for Clinton’s loss. If Hillary Clinton lost because she is a woman, could it not be said that her many prior wins were likewise because she is a woman? Where biological sex is the cause of failure, must it not also extend to being the cause of success? I’d say no to both.
We didn’t need Hillary Clinton to tell little girls to never doubt they are valuable and deserving of every chance to pursue their dreams. Hillary Clinton’s personal dream of the Presidency is over. The dreams of little girls everywhere remain intact, regardless of who is in the White House.