US presidential race 2016
On International Women's Day let's look at what women are saying about Republican front runner Donald Trump. Quite a large part of his appeal is that he is a political neophyte, an outsider who owes no-one anything, so he doesn't have to play for favours.
On the campaign trail with daughter Ivanka (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
For a while there, that seemed to mean misogyny was okay too. Back in August in a GOP candidate debate, Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly attempted to quiz Trump on the matter. She said: 'you’ve called women you don’t like 'fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals'. After some interruptions, she went on:
Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?
Trump's response at the time, to loud applause, was: 'I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct'.
This Cosmo article titled '3 Women Explain Why they like Trump' suggests Trump's supporters filter quite a lot of what he says and simply discard what they don't like. The women interviewed by Cosmo explain away Trump's sexist remarks by saying he didn't really mean them. Or, he insults both men and women quite frequently so you can't say he's particularly tough on women. As for his plan to defund Planned Parenthood, well don't take him 100% on that.
They also cite his daughters. And they are not alone there. Trump's oldest daughter Ivanka in particular has been active in her father's campaign and attracted plenty of attention. Conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt includes Ivanka in his list of 'six reasons why Trump is still better than Clinton', comparing her to Obama's senior adviser Valerie Jarrett:
Donald’s daughter and Svengali Ivanka is a smart, smart, smart lady with an extraordinary intellect and influence on her father. We get the GOP’s own Valerie Jarrett, only this one with a sense of America’s role in the world and the same resolve to succeed as Jarrett possesses.
Trump himself constantly talks up Ivanka. Sometimes perhaps a little too much. The thing is, every woman knows men who are nice to their daughters (and mothers and wives), especially when these women support those men in pursuing their dreams. But many of these men also have no problem reconciling that affection with outdated and just plain wrong attitudes to women in general.
There's plenty of evidence to suggest Trump doesn't take gender equality seriously. Not surprisingly, he is at his most shocking when talking about the Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton. As the women interviewed by Cosmo would point out, he has said some pretty outrageous things about male opponents as well. But with Clinton, there is no limit.
Take this tweet from a fan that Trump retweeted in April last year. He later deleted it but not before actor Lenny Jacobson had taken a screen shot.
Recently Trump has muted the rhetoric. This could be because his eyes have shifted to the main prize. As Irin Carmon wrote this week on MSNBC:
We are past the point at which it can be reasonably expected that Trump’s antics will make a dent with conservative women, who make up a good chunk of his support, if a slightly smaller piece of the Republican electorate overall. They have stuck by Trump through “schlonged” and through suggestions that Megyn Kelly asked tough questions because she was menstruating.
But four years after the support of women re-elected Barack Obama, the general electorate may be different. Women voters, who are, as a whole, slightly less likely to pick Republicans in a presidential election, could be motivated to turn out for Hillary Clinton, particularly if they are women of color, the backbone of the Democratic party. Trump’s sexist remarks, compounded with his demands for Obama’s birth certificate and desire to build a wall between Mexico and the United States, could be motivation enough.