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The debate that told us all about sexism (in case we weren’t sure)

It’s difficult to imagine a man finding himself in the same position as did Hillary Clinton in the second debate yesterday.

When did you last hear of a man being held responsible for his wife’s alleged sexual crimes?

When did you last hear of a man centre stage in a political forum, with his wife’s alleged sexual victims as invited audience members?

Aside from Bill Clinton’s alleged sexual crimes, and aside from Donald Trump’s lascivious objectification of women including his own daughter, yesterday’s debate in itself could not have more clearly enacted the sexism endemic in western culture.

When challenged about his attitudes to women Trump reacted by arguing that Bill Clinton is worse, and then went on to list all the things he believes are more important than sexually assaulting women, managing to further demean us in that tacky investigation into the relativity of suffering.

What Trump unsurprisingly fails to appreciate (and many others male and female share his lack of perception) is that the objectification and sexual assault of women and girls originates in a collective mindset that is so accustomed to dehumanisation it can justify any destructive action against anyone, should it be judged necessary. If you are part of a dominant group that treats some 50% of your country’s population as lesser beings because they have vaginas, it’s not going to be difficult for you to do the same to anyone else who threatens your fragile sense of who you are, such as people of religions and ethnicities that vary from your own.

Yes, I know Trump seems far from fragile in his sense of self, however, there’s a psychological theory of over-compensation for fears of inadequacy that might be applicable here.

There was a point in the debate when Trump appeared to stalk Clinton, moving in very close behind her as she answered a question, looming, as if to remind her of his hostile presence. It was nasty, almost as nasty as the video tape of Trump leaving his bus ten years ago to meet a young woman he’d only just finished crudely sexually assessing. He asked her for a hug. In those few seconds we saw sexism, intimidation and violation played out: the young woman couldn’t refuse Trump if she valued her career, and so obliged him in his effort to vindicate his boastful claims of sexual irresistibility. She did this in complete ignorance of the crass conversation about her that had just taken place.

If you’ve ever been groped that vision would have caused you to shudder.

I don’t think HRC did very well in the second debate. How much of this is down to Trump’s psychological tactic of ensuring women linked in the worst possible way with her and her husband were present, and his focus on both Bill and Hillary Clinton’s alleged treatment of them and other women, I don’t know. I’m inclined to think quite a bit, as there is simply no other area in which Trump can outdo HRC. It seems she’s got the presidency in the bag, unless something inconceivably catastrophic occurs.

A woman who stands by her philandering man isn’t necessarily admired for that: some see it as more a demonstration of strength if she kicks the cheater out. Whatever your position on this, it’s a fraught topic for women. Hillary is entrapped in Bill’s mess, as women are so frequently trapped in the messes made by men in their lives. Trump is making the most of it, because at this point there’s really little else he can use to cause HRC public discomfort.

How interesting, then, that both candidates have to deal with sexual scandals. And what a comment on women’s place in the world that Trump’s scandals are his own, while HRC’s are those allegedly perpetrated by her husband.

Says it all, really.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.


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  1. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Good on you, Jennifer Wilson. You’ve nailed it again.

    Trump did looking menacing when he walked up behind HRC while she answered another question diligently.

    Any woman or smaller sized man knows the feeling of physical intimidation. But Trump could not act upon that then because 100 million people were watching.

    Just imagine what he’s got up to before and tries even now!

    I’m loving this continuing discussion of what is no longer alright for women to be expected to expect in men behaving badly.

    I had a gut-full of it 2/3 of my life ago but never found enough sympathetic people to support my disgust both in personal and professional circumstances.

    Now that the conversation is out in the open, I want to see real progress in how women are treated with respect – and honour – and acknowledgement …

    … for their immense contributions to society since time immemorial.

    As the discussion increases, women’s 50% equal representation in all opportunities should become a reality.

  2. Harquebus

    Trump also mentioned the intimidation of Bill’s victims by Hillary. I notice that Victoria did not.

  3. Ricardo29

    We all know Trump is a grub. The continuing revelations of just how much of a grub he is, only confirm that perception and it was added to by his words and actions in the latest debate. Inexcusable as his referencing Bill’s indiscretions were, and his criticism of Hilllary for her responses to the women affected, the fact is she demeaned and belittled the women he was allegedly involved with. Maybe her pride required this however it shows no empathy with women who were victims of her husbands infidelities. To me, this is just another reason why she should not be President. I am absolutely not advocating Trump. For me Hillary is so inadequate on policy, so much a part if the exploitatative, wealthy elite responsible for the inequalities experienced not only by Americans but by similar people around the world that nothing will change if she is elected. Any liberalisation of her views has only come because of Bernie Sanders and Bernie should be both Democrat candidate and President.

  4. Dagney J. Taggart

    I think the issue with HRC is that she appears to have covered for Bill, and alledgedly threatened at least one of the victims. This makes her an enabler to his activities. Is she a suitable candidate for POTUS? No, I really don’t think so. She is just the second worst candidate, rather than the worst….

  5. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Ricardo29 and Dagney J. Taggart,

    true, Bernie was by far the better Democrat candidate but the DNC cut him out.

    Since Trump would be a disaster, HRC is the defacto choice and let’s just hope Bernie’s role-modelling and his supporters’ passion has imprinted upon her an expectation to lift the bar of presidential responsibility and positive performance.

  6. Jaquix

    Too many people falling for Trump’s lines on Hillary, without corroboration from others (except one woman Trump lined up). Nominees dont have to be perfect but Trump is something else. Never have Republicans had to speak out and denounce their nominee. Trump support is fading, thank goodness. He still has a “base”, as Pauline Hanson does, but its unlikely to increase as time goes on. The tragedy is they think Trump can fix their problems, just because he says so. A man who has been ripping prople off all his life, why would he sudddenly care about them now? Robert di Niro said it most eloquently I think.

  7. Bru Step

    For those who say Hillary should not be president, I ask what do you know about her and where did you get your information? I know one thing for certain that Trump’s gross unfitness for the president is so patently observable that considering both candidates there is only one choice and it isn’t the sexual and mental mental deviant that is Trump.

  8. wam

    Well,Jennifer, I thought she answered the questions openly and as honestly as I have ever heard a pollie.
    At one stage I was screaming at her to say ‘paying your effing taxes is a good thing’ but that was the only time I thought she slipped.
    Men’s sexual wanderings are easily blamed on the woman on both the open and closed sides of the fence.
    The rabbott’s ideas of women?? He chased roots all his life but told his girls their virginity was their greatest gift for a man?
    Perhaps a country with college courses for women on how to fellate(wonder if gamarouche gets a run for the boys?) may deserve trump?
    Perhaps a country that can use cleavage curves and bounce to sell anything and everything but covers up the working bit is not ready for a woman.

  9. Terry2

    I’m sure most of us have encountered people like Trump either as the playground bully or the groper bully in the workplace.

    Even though most of us despise this type of man [usually men] we tolerate them and distance ourselves. When they become a real problem is when they get into a position of authority or gain power over others; then they become a danger and we have to deal with them.

    Finally the Republican party are distancing themselves and removing their support for Trump : about time before he destroys their party.

    Trump will lose the election in November, he will go snarling and snapping and foul-mouthing everybody who opposes him.

    Then, he will be gone : he will not try again to seize leadership of the free world : he will not stand as a Senator and work his way up – he will go back to reality TV and hotels and casinos and dodging creditors, abusing women and avoiding tax liabilities – that’s what he does.

    This has been a learning experience for America and the rest of us. Let’s now put it behind us.

  10. bobrafto

    it’s a contest on who is the worst sex offender.

  11. helvityni

    If Abbott was possible here, why not Trump in USA…I’m felt dirty just watching him, spending almost an hour on this ugly (inside) man…

    What’s happening in the world, the UKIP blokes brawling in Brussels, big boy George C looming larger than life in our capital, who the hell is Brangelina, should I know…I’ll never forget the bleeding face of the five-year old Syrian girl I saw on last night’s news.

    We have to choose better leaders.

  12. OzHike

    All of this tit for twat, whilst the media completely ignores the damning Wikileaks evidence of just how corrupt things are in the US. I find it hilarious that “journalists” are so caught up in this left/right, male/female paradigm, they are prepared to ignore the larger story.

  13. paulwalter

    Helvityni, I’ve tried to warn my US friends, if Abbott could swing it here, so very possible with Trump in the USA. The big developing noise in Britain appears to be Boris Johnson, a man with a mouth bigger than the current Global Debt.

    As for the news, the people who decide on editorial policy are people surely beneath contempt..they wont show the little Syrian girl or millions like her across the Third World, because it might upset the kiddies, but how much Kardashian do we get shoved down our throats in a day?

    No, I don’t hate the woman, I don’t know her, never met her, but why of why am I force-fed “Kardashian gets on a jet” or “Kardäshian alights from a jet” or “Kardashian looks at a jet” or a” jet taxis past Kardashian” and a million other permutation, almost be the hour?

  14. paulwalter

    Anyway, as our friend Dr. Wilson has more or less said, the US election is not an election that appeals to progressives of any colour. Clinton is the marginally better pick,at least she can front TV without making a goose of herself, but the likes of Sanders and Warren or even Dr Jill Stein, are not involved or close enough and if they got in the hard right would probably try to engineer bloodshed any how.

  15. king1394

    Hillary Clinton is being criticised for defending her marriage and family unit. Many women value their marriage enough to forgive if not forget infidelity by their husbands. In my opinion they should be praised for that choice. Divorce is not a great solution but that is the result should the woman decide not to put up with it. I’ve seen a single infidelity blow a marriage apart, with very sad consequences for all.

    Why would she have to show sympathy for other women he ‘wronged’. Each of those women were probably hoping to become the second Mrs Clinton at some point in their interactions with Bill Clinton.

  16. mark delmege

    don’t mention all the women (and children and men) she had slaughtered or uprooted in her imperial wars – I guess they don’t matter to imperial lefties – ‘as you were’ go back to sleep.

  17. Terry2


    You may be thinking about G W Bush : that’s OK anybody can have a brain fart.

  18. mark delmege

    No I wasn’t Terry2, pay attention.

  19. mark delmege

    Just to remind you Terry, HRC was US ‘foreign minister’ and public face of a CIA destabilisation in Libya. Another imperial war for regime change, based on lies, that reduced the most affluent African country to a group of still waring tribes. As the US and others bombed from the sky killing tens of thousands al qaeda took over on the ground and in the process she helped destabilize North Africa as al qaeda took weapons and spread across the region into places like Mali – and with US assistance pumped weapons into another CIA operation in Syria. Two countries destroyed that also created waves of refugees into Europe – via Libya and from Syria and also in the process helped destabilise the political fabric in Europe. Anyone who presents HRC as a feminist or progressive icon either doesn’t know their history or is a racist who doesn’t think brown skinned or Muslim people matter. I could and have done so on here named other countries where she has been at the forefront backing right wing coups or attempted coups that would do any rightwinger proud. Actually I don’t think there has been a US imperial war she hasn’t embraced.
    But hey Terry those americophiles here who follow the Democrats are blind to the crimes of people like the Clintons. They think that somehow the Democrats have a fraternal bond with the ALP here. But they are ignorant of history and politics and the ways of Empire.

  20. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Good point, mark delmege.

    It is essential that Trump is blocked from the presidency but I would have preferred Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders or alternatively, Jill Stein. I just hope these more progressive and reformist politicians can influence Clinton when she is in office, so that meaningful socio-economic changes are seen to be made.

    And then let’s face it, the little Aussie lapdog americophiles will want to make the same changes here, which for once will be for the better.

  21. mark delmege

    JM-S actually I dont think it matters much which candidate ‘wins’. That these two are the best that system has to offer should be scary enough but and I dont remember saying this before – I think the outlook is grim.

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