Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 16, 2024

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and female worth

By VERONICA REARDON | November 3, 2016


U.S. Department of State/Public Domain Hillary Clinton has been a consistent supporter of women’s causes for decades.

At a school where the social sphere as a freshman is dominated by men, where, as at many other colleges, there has been a troubling history of sexual assault and administrative responses to it, where we still have professors who believe that women are inherently more emotional and nurturing than men, the idea of a woman’s value is important consider.

It is even more important to consider when we are watching an election where one of the candidates is a fully qualified woman who has worked in politics for years and the other is a man who has no experience with government, has demonstrated that he does not necessarily even understand how it works and has time and time again said unforgivable things about women — even his own daughter.

Perhaps most of all I am interested in the ways that people react when Trump says terrible things about women and in the ways that Hillary is judged.

After the recent appearance of a video of Trump from 2005 saying he would grab women by the p*ssy, Republicans and Democrats repudiated his statements at least, if not the candidate himself. Still, many of the responses to the Trump video are frustrating, not because they are too easy on Trump or his comments, but because of how they rationalize speaking against him.

The statements often start with men saying, “as someone with daughters” or “as someone with a wife.” In other words, the comments imply that the reason that they are speaking against Trump is because of their personal connections to women — that Trump’s comments apply to the men through their family ties, that his demeaning remarks about women reflect on members of the women’s families in some way.

While this is not invariably true, especially since it is impossible to judge a person’s entire opinion from a brief comment, it is frustrating that offences against women are publicly condemned through their relationships to men. It would be less frustrating perhaps if it didn’t come with another part of this election: the treatment of Hillary as a wife.

It is not necessarily problematic that people talk about Bill when they talk about Hillary. After all, she was an influential part of his administration as First Lady. She was such a strong voice when he ran for president that his campaign worried that she would emasculate him.

Fun fact: This was also a concern that people had about Michelle Obama (because of course strong, intelligent women are terrifying — strong, intelligent black women even more so). Hillary was the only First Lady to have an office in the West Wing. Thus, concerns about Hillary’s involvement in some of Bill’s more contentious policies would be legitimate.

In the second presidential debate, however, Trump chose to bring up not the controversy surrounding Hillary’s healthcare policy during that time, not Whitewater, but rather Bill’s infidelities and, according to Trump, Hillary’s mistreatment of the survivors of Bill’s actions and her defense of a sex offender when she worked as a defense attorney.

For one, Trump’s statements about Hillary mistreating rape survivors are not true. For another, Bill’s sexual transgressions do not affect Hillary’s ability to capably lead the nation. Hillary has for the most part historically defended women both in America and internationally.

She is far from perfect, but there are many more legitimate grounds on which to attack her. It is frustrating that her role as the wife of Bill Clinton is the ground on which she is being challenged, instead of what she herself has stood for. She has also had to defend herself as a parent and grandparent, which are once again not concerns that male candidates have had to deal with nearly as much.

If a female presidential candidate is valued in terms of her familial role and through her relationships with men and if, when men like Trump say awful things about and do terrible things to women, they are censured not because women have inherent value but because they have value to others, we must consider where young women like me and others at Hopkins stand in terms of value. We are unmarried. We are old enough that our status as “daughter” is not as important.

We are blessedly independent and blessedly ourselves, but at times this can leave us unprotected and alone at a university that does not care for us.

This of course is even worse if you are a woman of color or if you do not conform to the gender binary in the expected way. Sexual assaults are ignored unless they are absolutely egregious, and the University allows the existence of male organizations on campus that, at least in my opinion, have  vastly more negative than positive influence on campus community and culture.

This election has made even more apparent what we already knew: We live in a society that is racist and sexist. A bit of comfort for me then is that when I vote, I do not vote as a daughter, a girlfriend, a niece or a granddaughter. I vote as myself for a candidate that I feel will support my individuality: unpossessed by anyone and valued as what I am instead of what I am to my family and to the men in my life.

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