Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Of Misogyny and Autonomy

This election has brought out the worst in men. I say men alone for good reason. The GOP frontrunner has more or less given men permission to be misogynists. Of course, the frontrunner has also given another group, also largely men, permission to be racists, but that’s an argument for another day.

 When Donald Trump says that he respects women and that no one loves women as much as he does, it has the same icky sounding truth to it as “I didn’t beat my wife since the last time.” It’s revolting. If Trump has such love and respect for women, why has his campaign crashed and burned with women voters? Recent polls show that 73% of female voters have an unfavorable view of the candidate. Keeping in mind that women make up the largest group of voters in this country, how does one say that they are doing well with women amidst the actual evidence?

 Trump’s unedited, unforced comment in the MSNBC town hall with Chris Matthews about punishing women who have an abortion in a future where abortion is once again illegal in this country shook the campaign and gripped the news cycle. What’s interesting about his comments is that he didn’t appear to have thought it out. Like so many of the things that have ended up troublesome for the candidate, he spoke freely as he was working out an issue in his mind. He shows no evidence that he has actually thought through the big issues. Imagine a candidate for even the U.S. Senate who hasn’t spent a moment either listening to advisors or hell, even interest groups before stating a position on abortion. That a candidate for the highest office in the land hadn’t considered the pitfalls of punishing women for seeking an abortion is unthinkable, yet here we are. His campaign quickly, almost before the entirety of his words were out of his mouth, backtracked and said Trump meant punishing doctors and abortion providers. Let’s be clear, that is not what he said and he was given multiple chances by Matthews to clarify. He stuck to punishing women.

 What Trump’s candid answer about abortion signifies about the candidate himself is how little autonomy he believes women have and should have. Matthews was quick to point out to Trump that men have a role in pregnancies, too. God forbid men take any responsibility in this. The former Trump, long before he was a candidate, spoke about sex on the Howard Stern Show and elsewhere, bragging about conquests and whatnot. There’s no other way to view this than another man who enjoys sex, lots of it, and with multiple partners, without placing any responsibility on possible conception on him. However, a woman should not never choose an abortion to deal with the real consequences of said sex and if she should, may she be shamed for it and ultimately be punished for it under the law.

 Unfortunately, there’s more in to the autonomy issue in this campaign than only Trump’s remark on abortion. Keeping in mind that Ted Cruz and John Kasich also believe that abortion should be illegal and would nominate justices to the Supreme Court that would hopefully one day participate in a ruling that would overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion is not the only way in which candidates wish to strip autonomy from women. And it’s not only the male Republican candidates who have a bleak view of women.

 Can we talk for a second about the Clinton administration? For the sake of making sure nobody is in the dark or is too young to remember any of that 8-year period of our recent history, understand that we are speaking of the Bill Clinton administration. Bill, as in the husband of current Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, and not to be confused with some amalgamation of both Bill and Hillary. The First Lady of the United States is a title. It is not a job. It is not a formal advisor. It is not elected. It holds no power over matters of state. When asked by the press, while the First Lady often shows her support for the policies and goals of her husband, she is not expected to take an adversarial role nor would it be advisable to do so. Speaking against a particular policy would, without question, undercut it. Speaking against a policy would also cause the entire beltway press to lose their collective minds. The First Lady does not and, in significant ways, cannot speak out against her husband.

 Take these examples: Imagine if when George W. Bush sought to use his acquired political capital to privatize Social Security, Laura Bush came out and said she believed it to be bargaining with the safety net and opposed it. How would that have played in the press? First of all, the quiet Laura Bush would have been picked apart for making the statement. And when they had chewed her up and spit her out, they would have turned on President Bush. There would be some, inevitably men, who would say that W. couldn’t control his wife. I say this sincerely. Speaking out is still considered by some men something that women shouldn’t do. Never should women speak out against their husbands and certainly not when their husband is Commander-in-Chief. Another example, this one you’ve probably heard, is when Bill Clinton and Congress passed NAFTA. Imagine if Hillary Clinton had gone on the Sunday shows and said that she thought NAFTA was ill conceived and that a decade or two down the road, all manufacturing jobs would be devastated and cities like Detroit and Cleveland would be bankrupt. Oh, the shitstorm that would have ensued. Remember, many a man was bothered when the First Lady led on the issue of healthcare. That was no place for the First Lady. She was the official mouthpiece of the administration in that case. Can you wrap your mind around the outrage that would have occurred if she had publicly ridiculed NAFTA? The First Lady is expected to support her husband, spiritually, emotionally, on the campaign trail and in all matters of policy. She has very little autonomy as it is, but when it comes to whether or not she supports a policy of her husband’s administration, the right to decide is stripped from her. What choice does she have?

 Taking all of this into account, it does not stop her Democratic opponent from railing against her support of NAFTA. It is hung around her neck as if it were her decision and only her decision to make. By the way her opponent uses the phrase “the Clinton administration,” you would think she were running for re-election and had already been president.

 There’s something else troubling about how Hillary is received by Sanders supporters that can’t quite be placed in the same box as autonomy on policy decisions. It happened this week, in fact. At a Clinton rally, protestors began chanting “Monica! Monica!” To be fair, they may not all be Sanders supporters. There could certainly be some pro-Trump voices in that crowd. However, it wouldn’t be wrong to characterize those voices as predominantly male.

 I don’t get it. Of all the things happening with each of the candidates, there are few occurrences that routinely make my jaw drop. I am appalled that some small-minded people exist in this country that think that chanting the name of a woman’s husband’s former mistress is acceptable as an actual protest against a candidate for President of the United States. It sickens me, as it should all women and reasonable men.

Back to the Republicans for a minute…sort of. When Donald Trump tweets an unflattering picture of Ted Cruz’s wife along side his own supermodel wife, it leads the news and causes uproar. The thing is, though, Hillary’s detractors aren’t even attacking her husband. They aren’t making a statement about his infidelity in some way to discredit him, not like attacking Heidi Cruz’s looks. They’re attacking Hillary for her role in his infidelity. They’re using what must have been the darkest point in both her life and her marriage to attack her candidacy. As if she had any control whatsoever of Bill’s behavior. In some ways this goes back to the old argument that when a man cheats it’s because his wife isn’t meeting his needs. If a man cheats, it’s his wife’s fault. If a woman cheats, she’s a slut.

Just yesterday Sanders gave a speech in which he mentioned that his recent successes were or should be making Hillary nervous. He went on to say that Hillary didn't need anything else to add to the nervousness she already is carrying as if she were too weak to handle it. It was a soundbite at best and sexist at worst. Is her character too weak to stand the heat of the race? Hardly. She is a formidable candidate. So why would Bernie say something like this if not to imply in some way that Hillary were a weak person, a weak woman, and couldn't handle being a touch more nervous about the race?

There is so much about this election cycle that I don’t understand. How Trump came to be the frontrunner and how his opponents didn’t attack him from day one on the unending amount of filth he has to his credit over the years, I will never understand. How that same candidate thinks that sending his wife out to make a statement on his behalf and introduce him at a campaign rally to try to win over women voters, I don’t think women nationwide find sensible. What the hell, right? If your numbers are absolutely terrible among the largest block of voters, why not send our your former super model wife to the stage to talk about how fair you are and how great you will be for this country. Fair? Right. So fair you called all Mexicans rapists. So fair you don’t want any Muslims entering this country unless they are athletes or your rich friends. So fair you think a woman’s looks matter more than brains, talent and dedication. So fair you want women punished for seeking an illegal abortion over the even greater punishment they and their child would face if they were forced to give birth in terrible situations that might have included, rape, incest or even plain old poverty. So fair you believe that wages are too high for those who work their asses off for minimum wage in this country while you and your cronies are cashing in big. Fair. Perhaps a dictionary would be useful on that private jet of Trump’s.

 Not all women support Hillary Clinton and for a variety of reasons, some I understand and some I don’t. But you know what? They all make that decision for themselves. They weight what they know about her and decide to vote for her or not. Maybe they vote for a Republican instead. Or maybe they’re of the few female voters in the Bernie camp. They choose. And no matter their decision, I respect that. The difference between women against Hillary and women against Trump is that Mr. Trump gives women a reason to think of him unfavorably and throw their support elsewhere every single day of this campaign. 

Remember when Romney lost and the Republican Party had their so-called autopsy and decided that they had to scale back the crazy to do better with Hispanics, blacks and women? They’re failing miserably and while most of it falls on the frontrunner, let us not that forget that Ted Cruz is the same kind of wingnut who desires very little more than to strip women’s autonomy.

How’s that plan working for you, RNC?