Bitch. That’s how she’s commonly referred to at Donald Trump’s raucous campaign rallies. “Lock the bitch up,” the crowds shout. If it’s a souvenir you want, outside the venue you’ll find all kinds of merchandise – shirts, pins, bumper stickers – emblazoned with menacing pictures of her and captioned “Bitch.”
And no, the term is not just the female equivalent of calling a man a dog. To all those who feign innocence, and we will get to them in a moment – the implied meaning is “whore.” She is also being heaped with invective that includes explicit references to certain body parts. Care to see a little sample? Just do a Google search and you’ll be awash in hits. And yes, it’s because she’s a woman.
There’s a reason a woman has yet to be elected president of the United States. Mozambique has had a woman chief executive, as has Liberia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Namibia, and of course, Germany, Britain, Argentina and Israel, among other places. America has not yet had a woman vice president even.
Contrary to its enlightened and progressive image, it is a conservative and rigidly class-bound society. The barriers to women in American politics are high and firm. Hillary Clinton is the first female major-party candidate for president. That’s why it’s looks this way.
Of course she’s no saint. But the very need to say so is already indicative of the problem. A politician shouldn’t have to be a saint. Or sweet. Clinton is very sharp and crafty. In a male politician, such qualities are considered advantageous, but in a female politician they are hard to accept, and certainly in her, being the first woman candidate at such a level.
Should she be shown a more forgiving attitude because she’s a woman? Should lies and whitewashing by her and her staff be overlooked, and should she not be challenged on the issues, just because of her gender? Of course not. There is no imperative to agree with her or, all the more so, to admire her. She wasn’t a particularly dazzling secretary of state and it’s legitimate to argue that she won’t make a good president. But it’s completely unacceptable to excoriate her just because she’s a woman.
So people will say, and you hear this a lot, that it’s not because she’s a woman but because she’s Hillary Clinton. I don’t buy it. The entire Trump campaign is based upon images and messages of (supposed) strength, toughness and masculinity versus weakness, submissiveness and femininity. And on top of that, there are the derogatory gender-based comments. Trump has never been subjected to anything of the sort.
And then there’s the obsession with what she wears. We’ve heard so much about her “baggy clothes” that “don’t suit” her figure, and about her “awful” taste. When did we ever hear a word about Trump’s banal and unflattering suits? We have heard plenty about his hair, because he himself presents it as his trademark. Clinton doesn’t talk about her clothes or about fashion – so why is everybody else so keen to talk about it where she’s concerned?
And then, of course, there’s her illness. A woman leader can only fit into one category: Iron Lady. She must never be sick at all, because that would be a display of weakness. Clinton hid the truth about her illness. Her people lied. That was foolish. But when you look at the craziness that’s surrounded her for years, one can understand why she did so.
The Internet hordes are already convinced that she’s autistic, epileptic, has Tourette’s syndrome, MS and dementia. And those who are so eager to pin all these diagnoses on her, including Trump, who likes to charge that she is physically and mentally (!) unfit, don’t trouble themselves to present so much as a scrap of evidence. She didn’t think she needed to strengthen these claims, and she made an error in judgment. And now she’s being pounded for it.
Clinton, more than any other candidate, has to battle a whole collection of sometimes contradictory images. If she’s firm then she’s “too aggressive.” If she’s moderate then she’s “too weak.” In effect, she is personally absorbing much of the society’s collective deficit in its attitude toward women. Sadly, in America, the glass ceiling that Clinton must break through is as solid as concrete.
Published in "Ha'aretz"