The unconventionality of this election has resulted in a shift away from a policy focus and towards waging twitter wars and throwing insults. These twitter wars and video scandals along with the inherent sexism of Donald Trump has made women an important focus this year. Wake the Vote’s conversation with Deborah Ross as well as the panel featuring Chelsea Clinton allowed us to discuss these issues around women in politics.
Our panel with Chelsea Clinton in September focused mainly on women’s issues and how her mother had policies to support women. The question and answer period allowed students to ask questions about their interests, permitting panelists to express their own encounters as women in the workplace. Deborah Ross’ event was also on women in politics, with a focus on sexual assault. This panel focused on the importance of policy that helps women who have experienced sexual assault and harassment have the resources they need.
Trump’s pussy grabbing comments were soon brought up by the panelists. Our professor, Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry brought the notion that the only reason that Trump’s comments have been covered by the media is because of the word pussy.
Objectification of women is not a new phenomenon, though it may not have been outwardly espoused by a presidential candidate before. Though his gross comments have thankfully put a focus on rape culture and sexual harassment, the disgust expressed by media has no focus on the objectification itself but on Trump’s word choice. Trump’s media attention stems from his lack of poise throughout this election and media attention around these comments are merely an extension of this phenomena. The shock does not stem from the sentiment of his statements, nevertheless, the Trump campaign has given women a platform to bring attention to rape culture and the reality that is sexual harassment.
Why does it take a sexist presidential candidate to bring sexual harassment to the media’s attention?
Sexual harassment is normalized at a young age, the first time I encountered it I was not even surprised. We as women are taught that sexual harassment will probably happen to us, and in fear of invoking a violent response we are often resigned to silence. This is a reality that tends to only shock men when it centers around their family.
My hope is that Trump’s unapologetic sexism, though disgusting, opens the door for an open conversation about sexual harassment What happens if Trump wins? A Trump presidency could result in a major increase in sexism across America. Asking women to report sexual assault at such a point in American politics without fear of victim blaming or accused of lying is almost impossible.
The juxtaposition of the two candidates also further complicates this issue. While Secretary Clinton has made many advancements for women looking to enter politics, Trump supporters are tweeting #repealthe19th in response to a poll showing that Trump would win the election if only men could vote. The simultaneous advancement and decline of respect towards women in the election puts us in an odd position.
Arguably, this election poses a crucial part in determining the position of women in politics in the future. Trump’s success could result in the advancement of rape culture and sexism, furthering patriarchal ideals and having an immense impact on American culture as a whole.