One thought on “Week 12 Day 1 – post an example!

  • April 26, 2022 at 3:43 pm

    This past fall I read Hillary Clinton’s memoir What Happened, in which she candidly discusses the 2016 presidential election and everything that happened, from the difficulties of running against Trump to the mistakes she made and what we as an American society can learn from the election. To my surprise, the misogyny present in the 2016 election was not her main focus whatsoever, and in fact only comprised a small portion of the book.
    However, I am still able to remember several examples very vividly. One of the statistics that struck me the most in the book was about her approval ratings. After Obama won in 2008, he selected Hillary to serve as Secretary of State. Although her approval ratings as Madam Secretary were some of the highest of “anyone in public life–one poll from the Wall Street Journal and NBC News in January 2013 put [her] at 69 percent,” people felt differently about her when her name was the one on the ballot. This statistic alone is enough evidence for me to point to the fact that the public was not concerned with her competency, but rather with her gender when she stood in the spotlight.
    Another example of the misogyny that Hillary faced in the 2016 election was the media’s consistent coverage of Trump, and their misplaced emphasis on the importance of Hillary’s emails, which also played a large role in costing Hillary the election, though she doesn’t say this explicitly. The media printed many false equivalencies, such as equating Trump bragging about sexual assault with Bill’s infidelity, something Hillary had no control over, or pegging Trump’s involvement with Russia as the “[democratic party’s] conspiracy theory.” Additionally, the media provided Trump with free coverage, both negative and positive, that helped boost the focus on him. Unfortunately, Hillary’s record as a public servant received little attention, and her policies, including her stances on “health care, taxes, trade, immigration, [and] national security” made up only “10 percent of the press coverage.” The media spent more than three times the amount of attention on Hillary’s emails than her policy issues, which both attracted her negative attention and failed to show how qualified she was for the job.
    The sexism Hillary faced as the first female to be a major party presidential nominee coupled with Trump’s intolerant rhetoric made 2016 an election largely defined by gender. Women face several challenges related to their gender in running for elected offices, one of which is the “likability test.” Despite being qualified, many voters in 2016 believed that Hillary just wasn’t “likable,” a double-standard that clearly did not swing both ways, as many people voted for Trump despite disliking him. It is of note that nobody questioned if Hillary was likable when she was Secretary of State, hence her high approval ratings. Another barrier to women running for office is the amount of time required to spend on appearance, which is partially why Hillary typically wears a pantsuit. Hillary reasons that “if you conservatively say [she] spent an hour a day for hair and makeup, that’s an hour that a male candidate didn’t have to spend and it added up to twenty-four days [throughout the campaign].” It is impossible to know what percentage of the vote was decided by misogyny, as many people likely voted along party lines in the end, but it certainly feels like the most salient issue to many young girls and women, as the election felt like a referendum on women’s and human rights. The role sexism plays will become more clear the next time a woman is a major party nominee, as we will see if many of these issues were related to Hillary herself or the fact that she is a woman.

    Literature Cited:

    Hillary Rodham Clinton, What Happened, (Waterville, ME: Large Print Press, a part of Gale, a Cengage Company, 2018).

    “Why the sexist ‘likability test’ could haunt female candidates in 2020,” The Guardian, January 4, 2019.

    Gillard and Okonjo-Iweala, Women and Leadership: Real Lives, Real Lessons, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2021).

    Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, “Americans Say Thet Would Vote For A Woman, But…” FiveThirtyEight, July 15, 2019.

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