The first presidential debate for the 2016 election revealed the systemic misogynistic undertones that continue to infiltrate the workplaces and lives of women within the American democracy.
In the final moments of the debate, Hillary Clinton ingeniously caught the opportunity to shed light upon Trump’s history of sexism. News reporting shortly followed focusing on Trump’s damaging comments towards former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado calling her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping”. This has fostered a conversation centred upon Trump’s growing chronicles of misogynistic epithets. However, it has simultaneously overshadowed the implicit sexist microaggressions Trump directed towards Clinton throughout the debate.
Within the first twenty minutes, the debate quickly became a platform representative of the wider experiences and treatment of women across America. Correction: not just America, but the home, workplace, community and nation of every woman across the world.
Vox noted that Trump interrupted Clinton fifty one times throughout the entire debate, compared to the seventeen times she interrupted him. Sure, this could be easily shrugged off as a meagre unconscious bias, or perhaps just the standard bigotry of Trump. However, Trump’s interruptions were a characteristic performance of the existing masculine constructs that dominate workplace settings. Furthermore, Trump claimed that Clinton “doesn’t have the looks and she doesn’t have the stamina”.
At several points, Clinton maximised Trump’s interruptions and insolent comments to highlight Trump’s sexist history. Nonetheless, the persistency of his chauvinist conduct also resulted in Clinton refraining from acknowledging him or responding at all. Her silence was symbolic of the ever-muted positions women become trapped in – an all too familiar pattern women have become accustomed to fulfilling.
Trump’s dismissive remarks were overwhelmingly symbolic of an egotistical and patronising man rejecting the educated and qualified experience of a woman. This is simply a preview of the future treatment of women under a possible American democracy superintended by Trump. Women will become helpless; pay disparities will remain static and a Trump ceiling will emerge, reinforcing the barriers hindering the success and progression of women in America’s contemporary society.
If Trump cannot respect Clinton for her educated comments and her overwhelming political experience, how will he respect and recognise the rights of a single mother struggling to gain economic benefits from the government?
Clinton has dedicated a large proportion of her campaign to protecting and advocating for practical policies recognising the rights of women: closing the pay gap, fighting for paid leave, affordable child care and confronting violence against women. What has Trump done? Ignored the previously mentioned issues, except for affordable childcare – which came from his daughter, not himself. The imperative issue for women to consider is whether they are willing to tolerate or sacrifice their present treatment in favour of a man whose principal concern (mentioned at every opportunity) is his big business success.
Whilst the gender of a presidential candidate should not act as the solitary reason for voting, the policies and standards of life Clinton is offering for women should be seriously reckoned with. The existing laws advocating the equal rights of women are intangible evidence of what women should be able to realize; however, they are only effective until they become instinctively refuted by institutionalised sexist norms.