Politics & Policy

The Coming ‘Sexism’ Tsunami

Clinton campaigns in Minneapolis, Minn., July 18, 2016. (Reuters photo: Adam Bettcher)
Donald Trump’s candidacy has given an unfortunate boost to the ‘sexism is everywhere’ narrative.

Say what you will about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, but it’s done a heck of a job of feeding various ideological hobgoblins across the United States. Some will fade away after November 8; others, alas, will quickly shoot up some proverbial post-election steroids and haunt us with madcap vigor for years to come. When it comes to pure staying power, however, I’d cast my chips on one hobgoblin in particular, no matter who wins the election. That would be the “sexism is everywhere” trope, long beloved by the Left.

Let’s not kid ourselves: Any of this year’s GOP hopefuls would have faced a barrage of accusations of sexism, misogyny, and general monstrous behavior when running against Hillary Clinton. Even if Donald Trump had not decided to take the GOP on his own tawdry, NC-17 version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride — numerous women have lined up to accuse him of sexual assault, and his Access Hollywood comments bragging about doing just that still light up the press — there would still have been talk of “the sexism inherent in all that interrupting” (that’s from the Washington Post) and the woes of “debating while female” (that’s NPR).

The only Republican presidential hopeful who might have dodged this, in fact, was Carly Fiorina, since she is, after all, a woman — but even then, I’m not so sure. Who knows? Maybe her stance against Planned Parenthood would be rendered “sexist.” Maybe she would have made the fatal mistake of referencing something bone-chilling and horrifying, like, say, “binders full of women.”

But enough with the alternate histories: The GOP nominated Donald Trump, he of “grab them by the you-know-what” infamy, and here we are, and it’s almost over except for the crying — and, of course, the rise of a new, improved, never-say-die “sexism is everywhere” narrative. Here’s Erin Gloria Ryan, writing in the Daily Beast:

Trump is a veritable buffet of sexism. A sexist supervillain. . . . He’s a one-stop shop for proof that a host of feminist issues are not made up complaints. . . . For women who have faced sexism for their entire lives, seeing it in a national figure with a devoted following of millions is dreadful. But at least now when men want to know what sexism looks like, women have a larger-than-life example at the ready.

Here’s the thing: I haven’t faced sexism “for my entire life.” I’ve rarely faced sexism at all, and I don’t think I’m alone. I also happen to think that the “sexism is everywhere” narrative is silly, ridiculous, overstated, and the opposite of empowering. 

But alas, when it comes to Trump, Ryan is right. The leading face of the Republican party, at least for now, is embarrassingly sexist. While Trump and his surrogates go around defending his “grab them” remarks as mere “locker-room talk,” people like Howard Stern — Howard Stern — are busy telling America that those would be some seriously messed up locker rooms. GOP operatives, meanwhile, haplessly bring up the nefarious Bill Clinton, forgetting that he’s not the one running for president. We should expect Hillary Clinton and the feminist movement to milk this for all it’s worth.

The leading face of the Republican party, at least for now, is embarrassingly sexist.

This whole debacle boasts a sad side effect: While attempting to defend one man, Trump apologists throw America’s boys right under the bus. In this week’s one-on-one interview with CNN, Melania Trump dismissed her husband’s infamous “grab them” remarks as normal, natural “boy talk.” Various GOP spokespeople have done the same, quietly enforcing the narrative that boys are beasts and naturally behave this way. What a shame.

“There’s something both grotesque and bracing,” writes Margaret Talbot in this month’s New Yorker, “about the confrontation between Clinton, with her disciplined professionalism, and Trump, with his increasingly frenzied assertions of male prerogative. Like the female protagonist of a quest narrative — or, perhaps, of a dystopian fantasy — Clinton has made it through all her challenges to face the bull-headed Minotaur of sexism at the end of the maze.”

If you think that’s over-the-top, you haven’t seen anything yet. Trump’s various “sexist” comments, wrote Ruth Marcus on September 8 in the Washington Post — a full month before the real doozies surfaced — illustrate “some of the gender-based challenges that Hillary Clinton confronts as she seeks to become the nation’s first female president, and that she would continue to face in office.”

Translation: Even if Clinton wins the most powerful office in the world, America’s cloud of sexist oppression will always haunt her. She will forever suffer, even with butlers on speed dial and her fingers on the nuclear codes. The feminist victim narrative, you see, can never die.

Alas, thanks to the GOP’s Trumpian adventure, it just got a major boost.

Heather Wilhelm is a columnist for National Review. Her work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, RealClearPolitics, the Washington Examiner, Commentary magazine, the Dallas Morning News, the Miami Herald, and the Kansas City Star


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