when Trump and Hillary Clinton are onstage together it can seem like a nightmarish version of a medieval morality play: Woman, Experience, and Discretion stand on one side of the stage, while the Bad Angel stands on the other, heckling Woman and tweeting, “Check out sex tape.”
Last night, all of Trump’s strategy revolved around positioning himself as the man, the alpha—in the words of Nigel Farage, the “silverback gorilla” who could “dominate” his opponent. He stalked around the stage and stood directly behind Clinton as she answered audience questions; he breathed heavily, he shouted, he interrupted, he lied, he called Clinton the “devil,” he gleefully explained his plans to jail her if he is elected, and he said, over and over, that she should be ashamed of herself.
In the four days since the “Access Hollywood” tape was released, more graphic and vulgar audio has surfaced from Trump’s “Howard Stern” appearances, as have details from a variety of lawsuits accusing the Trump Organization of systematically mistreating women.
it’s so excruciating to watch Trump debate Clinton: as a candidate, he is unprepared for the historical particulars of this election in every way—save for his vast reserve of natural sexism. Trump is perfectly and uniquely equipped to tap every last ounce of normalized gender discrimination in this country and throw it at our first female major-party Presidential nominee. He’s not even really doing it consciously, I don’t think: he lacks political training and, apparently, a conscience, and he is not, it seems, in sufficient control of himself to act otherwise. Trump tried to overpower Clinton onstage in the same manner that he dismisses every woman who’s not attractive and subservient to him—as simply the natural and best way of doing things, a matter of course.
“Which is worse: Threatening to grab someone by the pussy or forcing someone to carry and give birth to a baby that is the result of rape?” she wrote. “Popping a Tic Tac in preparation for forced extramarital kissing with a stranger or actively discouraging women’s full participation in the workforce?”
We might understand how women come to feel that there are no good options available to them: that sexism is as fixed as gravity, and so working with it, never against it, is the only thing we can do.
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, told Ryan Lizza that being a female consultant in the Republican Party means “when I walk into a meeting at the R.N.C. or somewhere I always feel like I’m walking into a bachelor party in the locker room of the Elks club.” She alluded to being harassed by congressmen, calling it an “occupational hazard.” She elaborated on this after the debate last night, in an interview with Chris Matthews, on MSNBC. When she was “younger and prettier,” Conway said, she saw some of the conservative politicians who are now trying to distance themselves from Trump “rubbing up against girls, sticking their tongue down women’s throats . . . uninvited.”