By Anna Tingley
In belated fashion, I’m finally reading Hillary Clinton’s latest book “What Happened,” in which she examines being the first female to win the nomination of a major political party, the empowering successes and depressing regrets of her campaign, and the devastating reality of garnering 2.8 million votes (more than any other nominee ever, besides Obama) – only to lose the election to a raging misogynist.
There are countless reasons for Hillary’s loss. We all know this. There are infinite articles, even now, two years after the fact, analyzing their campaigns. There’s now whole college classes dedicated to understanding the historical election. There’s more than a few best-selling books outlining the reasons behind Trump’s win. But as Clinton writes herself, only 40 pages into her book, Hillary Clinton lost, in part, because she’s a woman. And Trump won besides the fact, and for some, because of, his misogyny.
Many people will argue with this. Even well-intentioned liberals -mostly men, but some women too - are very wary of playing the woman card. Because they’ve never heard a Trump supporter blatantly say that they hated Hillary for being a woman, they don’t think gender played into her loss. But discrimination doesn’t work like that. Unjust acts aren’t shouted from the highest peak for all to hear, or flying on a huge neon sign for all to see. Its cruelty seeps in through the most subtle of actions and smallest of thoughts, culminating to create outcomes that leave marginalized communities with no power.
“Sexism in particular can be so pervasive, we stop seeing it,” Hillary writes in her book. She cites David Foster Wallace, who in his commencement speech at Kenyon College, said, ‘The most obvious realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about.’
“I’d say that sums up the problem of recognizing sexism - especially when it comes to politics - quite nicely,” Hillary writes
Of course, many of Trump’s actions are not so subtle - his public bragging of sexual assault, his attack of female public figures on their appearance, his laughable obsession with masculinity.
But the intense vitriol that the common public held towards Hillary throughout the campaign was due to the unfair double standards and scrutiny she was subject to as a woman, and was what ultimately cost her the election. Yes, there are more digestible ways to explain her loss - people couldn’t trust her (she had made regrettable political choices in the past), they didn’t find her “real” enough (she often speaks cautiously to avoid people misconstruing her words), they simply didn’t find her likeable (her voice was annoying, her pantsuits fit her weird, she isn’t funny, the list goes on). People can tick off seemingly-sensible reasons for their distrust of Hillary without ever mentioning her gender.
But as Hillary laments in her book, men don’t face this same scrutiny. Obama speaks with the same caution and is praised for his thoughtfulness, while Trump speaks with no thought at all and was voted for because of his authenticity. Male senators running for office have all cast votes for contentious legislation that makes them look bad, but have still won. Hillary’s emails implying corruption dominated the headlines throughout her entire campaign, while Trump waxed poetic about Putin before earning his spot in the Oval Office.
Again, this is all stuff we know. It’s obvious by now. Trump is an inexperienced egomaniac sexist who won the presidential election against a woman who has more than 40 years of experience in public service.
The narrative is old by now, but its realities are becoming more threatening with each passing day. Simply put, America’s feelings towards women was made abundantly clear when Trump won the election two years ago. And now concrete policies are being born from the mentality that too many Americans felt when they cast their votes for Trump in November - that we don’t really need to listen to women.
Half of America chose not to believe Hillary’s intentions to better the country, and rather chose to stand behind Trump’s lies, disrespect, and belligerence.
And now, half of the Senate Judiciary Committee chose to believe Kavanaugh’s flustered defense over Dr. Ford’s composed and heart-wrenching account of the most horrific night of her life. Jeff Flake, Arizona’s Republican representative, was originally the tie-breaking vote in favor of Kavanaugh, but soon after decided to order an FBI investigation into the assault before conducting a final vote.
As a recap, Donald Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to replace recently-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. And aside from his blatant conservative partisanship, Kavanaugh is also under investigation for sexually assaulting clinical psychology professor, Christine Blasey Ford, at a high school party in the 1980s. In an unforgettable opening statement to the Senate, Ford describes being pinned to a bed by both Kavanaugh and his friend. She says Kavanaugh groped her and held her mouth while he and the friend both laughed at her constraint before she was able to make a fast escape.
Her detailed account was emotional and raw and at many points hard to watch, but as she said at the beginning of her statement, she felt it was her civic duty to tell the world what was done to her. Despite the trauma experienced by sexual assault survivors in reliving those moments, she pled through a cracking voice for the Senate to hear who Brett Kavanaugh really was, and why he would be unfit for one of the most respected and powerful positions in the world.
In his defense, Kavanaugh denies all allegations. He pleads for empathy, saying that these accusations have ruined the representation of himself and his family forever. He continuously repeats that the “alleged” assaults happened 36 years ago, as if traumatic events such as those experienced by Ford, have a due date on accountability. He’s angry and flustered and has very little to say other than him admitting he likes beer (as if that holds equal weight in Ford’s story), that he’s never been “blacked-out” drunk (despite multiple old acquaintances testifying otherwise), and that Ford’s old high school friend has said that she doesn't have a memory of that incident ever happening (forgetting to mention that although she doesn’t remember the assault she’s not denying it happened).
Ford’s and Kavanaugh’s statements to the Senate are black-and-white. Her claims are substantiated, most notably by the the fact that two other women have also come forward with accusations against Kavanaugh; Debra Ramirez told The New Yorker that he exposed his genitalia to her at a dorm party in college, and Julie Swetnick signed an affidavit stating that Kavanaugh was present while she was gang-raped at a party.
Ford has every reason not to come forward with her story, while Kavanaugh has every reason to defend his name with lies
But just as we saw on November 9th, 2016, America doesn’t think we need to listen to women. Unfortunately, it’s only expected for us to choose a belligerent man over a respectful, composed women despite every glaring sign telling us not to.
Anna Tingley is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Tough to Tame, and an advocate for all things feminist, politics, or ramen-related. Her writing can be found at Teen Vogue, Billboard Magazine, Her Agenda, The Daily Bruin, and The Richmond Pulse. But for all the dirt, check her out on Instagram @annatationz and Twitter @annatingley.
(Graphic by Tara Steinmetz)