What gender dynamics were evident in Sunday night’s presidential debate? We asked experts of gender, race, and politics to weigh in with their “hot takes.” Click on each for more detail on each take-away.
This was not a debate between equals. It was a debate between one candidate capable of Presidential leadership and one who embodied the worst type of political posturing. – Anna Sampaio (Santa Clara University)
Much like the first Presidential debate, in this second debate Hillary Clinton proved that she was a steady and studied candidate with command over important issues from economic development to energy policy and capable of providing leadership for the entire country. I found her resolve throughout the night most striking – in an environment where her professional record and even her husband were subject to wild attacks, where she was taunted, goaded, and even sneered at, where Trump was literally breathing down her neck – she refused to take the bait.
By contrast, Donald Trump continued to embody the kind of hyper-aggressive masculinity that permits and even promotes open discrimination, harassment, gender subordination and (as the tapes leaked this weekend revealed) sexual assault. He not only refused to take responsibility, he refused to even acknowledge his deeply offensive comments – those revealed in the tapes as well as the pattern of derisive and abusive comments aimed at women, immigrants, Muslims, and Latinas/os. Instead he constantly interrupted both Hillary Clinton, and the moderators, went off on tangent upon tangent, and managed to revisit insulting insinuations of disloyalty among Muslims and Latinas/os.
At the end of the day, this was not a debate between equals – nor was this a debate in which both candidates acted poorly or childish. Such narrative creates a false equivalence that simply doesn’t bare out in comparing the candidates, their positions throughout the campaign, or their performances last night. It was a debate between one candidate capable of Presidential leadership and one who embodied the worst type of political posturing.
Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies and Political Science and Director of Ethnic Studies, Santa Clara University
The candidates offered a clear contrast between valuing diversity and fostering divisiveness. - Christina Bejarano (University of Kansas)
During Sunday’s debate, Clinton often acknowledged the need to look for ways to celebrate our diversity and respect all Americans. In contrast, Trump offered little to alleviate fears he is an extremely divisive candidate that will not represent all Americans. He continues to take no responsibility or accountability for his disgraceful words and actions, no matter how extreme or unbelievable. Instead he continues to use bullying posturing and verbal attacks of many diverse groups, most pointy against women. Therefore, this debate offered little to sway diverse electorates, including Latinos and women, who have already expressed their misgivings about the negative repercussions of Trump’s campaign.
Associate Professor of Political Science, The University of Kansas
Personality matters in campaigns, but gender shapes trait evaluations of Trump and Clinton. - Amanda Bittner (Memorial University)
Last night’s presidential debate provided the audience with more of what they have been seeing for months. Trump played the bully, threatening to jail Clinton, turning a discussion of his attitudes towards women into a rant about ISIS, referring to Bill’s sexual history, and questioning Clinton’s trustworthiness. Clinton, meanwhile, made some effort to steer the conversation towards discussion of tax policy and foreign affairs, but mainly, it seems, tried to get viewers to see Trump’s volatility. Personality matters, and my research suggests that voters evaluate candidates’ personalities, and consider their competence and character when they head to the ballot box on election day. Of course, our idea about what makes a candidate competent or trustworthy is deeply gendered, and affects how we perceive their performance in debates. The media exacerbates this with their coverage of campaign events. Not even five minutes after last night’s debate, for example, CNN’s analysis opened with the following statement: “Well, Hillary obviously knew way more about policy, but…” Later we heard more about her emails, about Trump’s pre-debate press conference with his lineup of Bill’s accusers, followed by an analysis of how Bill’s past would affect her candidacy. This discussion, especially in the wake of the Trump tape scandal and his valorization of sexual assault, suggests equivalence between Trump and Clinton, based on Trump’s actions and Clinton’s husband’s actions. The takeaway message is that they’re both equally untrustworthy and unworthy of support, even though we are applying different standards to each candidate. This election is like nothing we’ve experienced before, but gender is consistently front and center.
Associate Professor, Memorial University
Taking on the role of “alpha male,” Trump has made gender especially explicit in this campaign. - Dianne Bystrom (Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics)
The day before the debate, I read an article by Charlotte Alter in Time titled “How Donald Trump Turned 2016 into a Referendum on Gender,” and what she wrote certainly resonated with me as I’ve watched gender play out in this presidential campaign. With his often crude and sexist remarks about his female opponents in the primary and general elections, female debate moderators, other female elected and appointed officials, beauty pageant participants, and female celebrities, Trump has raised the dynamics of gender to new levels in this campaign as the “alpha male” running against the first woman to be nominated by a major political party for president. Trump’s performance at last night’s debate underscored his “maleness” in both what he said (e.g., doubling-down on his lewd leaked Access Hollywood tape comments as “locker room talk”) and how he said it (often with a tough scowl) as well his non-verbal behavior in roaming the stage like a stalker.
Director, Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, Iowa State University
Trump has offended the GOP by using sexual assault, misogynistic rhetoric, and condoning locker room behavior only because his actions and comments have the ability to alienate the most coveted voter this election cycle - the elusive White woman voter. – Nadia Brown (Purdue University)
Trump has offended the GOP by using sexual assault, misogynistic rhetoric, and condoning locker room behavior only because his actions and comments have the ability to alienate the most coveted voter this election cycle – the elusive White woman voter. Jane Junn’s forthcoming research on White women voters shows that this demographic group is voting more Republican than any other demographic group of women. The emphasis on the women’s vote fails to recognize the racial differences in the gender gap. The GOP has won White women’s votes in recent years – by 11 points in 2004 and 14 points for Mitt Romney in 2012. Trump’s latest willful gaffes have disrupted the work that Republicans have done to court White women, which is why the GOP is up in arms over the nominee’s actions and words. The GOP did not largely and wholeheartedly denounce Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric, condemnation of inner cities (read: Blacks and Latinos), comments that lumped all Muslims as Isis supporters and terrorists, remarks that Mexicans were rapists, drug dealers, and criminals, and that certain women were unattractive pigs, or sluts, or fat. The recent audio and video that has come to light only matters because Trump bragged about sexually assaulting attractive White women – which GOP elites could relate to as family members (such as their sisters, daughters, wives and mothers).
This recent outcry reminds me of Martin Niemoller’s famous quote “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Socialist…Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.” The GOP establishment and elites did not forcefully speak out against Trump when he came for immigrants, Blacks, Mexicans, Syrians, Latinos, disabled Americans, LGBTQ individuals, and certain women. Now that Trump’s coming for White (attractive) women, who’s left to speak out? We’re left with a candidate that has demonized and denounced nearly every segment of the American population – and who repeatedly demonstrated his disdain and callousness towards some of these groups in a public manner over the years – yet, we may all find that the complicit silence of the GOP against their party’s nominee may lead to the final nail in the coffin of decency and personal respect in the presidency.
Associate Professor of Political Science and African American Studies, Purdue University
Trump’s display of hypermasculinity appeals to hostile sexists and reinforces base support, but is unlikely to win over any Clinton supporters. – Erin Cassese (West Virginia University)
The debate opened with a question about the candidates as role models for children. Trump initially skirted the issue of the Access Hollywood tape, but when pressed by the moderator Anderson Cooper – who referred to his comments explicitly as sexual assault – Trump attempted to explain them away as “locker room talk” arguing that “Nobody has more respect for women than I do.” Pressed further, Trump launched into an extended discussion of the fight against ISIS. Why ISIS? The pivot to ISIS was likely an attempt to link the hypermasculinity inherent in his sexually violent comments (and actions) to a policy area where voters tend to value hypermasculine leadership – terrorism and national defense. This rhetorical connection is unlikely to win over Clinton supporters, but more likely serves to remind Trump’s base why they support him to begin with – to keep their eyes on the big picture and ignore this blunder.
Who are the voters most likely to value the kind of hypermasculine leadership Trump often embodies? Research by my colleague Mirya Holman and I, suggests the answer lies with hostile sexism. Sexism can take on multiple forms; psychologists Glick and Fiske (2001) argue that hostile and benevolent sexism are two primary manifestations of sexism. Hostile sexists are explicitly antagonistic toward women, who they see as engaged in illegitimate power grabs against men. Benevolent sexism, alternatively, is rooted in the belief that women should be protected and cared for by men.
In a recent survey, we found that hostile sexists are significantly more likely than benevolent sexists or voters low on sexism to value Trump’s strength, honesty, and competence. Alternatively, these same voters see Clinton as dangerous and argue that she often uses her gender to deflect criticism. Other research has shown that hostile sexists hold more negative attitudes towards women; for example, hostile (but not benevolent) sexism is associated with attitudes legitimizing spousal abuse (Glick, Sakalli- Ugurlu, Ferreira, & Souza, 2002) and proclivity to engage in acquaintance rape (Abrams, Tendayi, Masser, & Bohner, 2003). Given these connections, its unsurprising that voters who endorse hostile sexism would be most likely to overlook the kinds of comments Trump made on the Access Hollywood tape and maintain their support for his candidacy.
Associate Professor of Political Science, West Virginia University
Trump provided red-meat to his most ardent supporters, who reject “punishing men for just acting like men,” but is unlikely to bring any new voters – particularly women – to his side. – Melissa Deckman (Washington College)
Last night’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is unlikely to change anyone’s vote choice. In terms of gender dynamics, though, this debate was unusual because of the events immediately leading up to it: the now infamous leaked video/audio tape, in which Trump was recorded making lewd comments about how he gets to treat women because of his fame and the unprecedented news conference held the day earlier by women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault. I think the take-away from last night is that Trump provided red-meat to his most ardent supporters, many of whom can’t stand Hillary Clinton. But it is important to remember that Trump, while apologizing for his recorded comments that essentially normalize sexual assault, still defined them as “locker room” talk twice during the debate. This description, in fact, may actually be just fine with many of his supporters. Last week, PRRI and the Atlantic released a survey of likely voters, and roughly half (49 percent) of respondents who said they intend to vote for Trump agreed with the statement that “these days society seems to punish men for just acting like men.” By contrast, just 12 percent of Clinton backers said the same. Trump may have stopped the hemorrhaging of his campaign, but I don’t this brings any new voters–particularly women–to his side.
Louis L. Goldstein Professor of Public Affairs and Chair of the Political Science Department at Washington College
Trump's“alpha male” behavior almost assuredly did little to sway undecided women to vote for him. – Kathy Dolan (University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee)
We are often told that Donald Trump has to appeal to “suburban women” if he is going to be successful in this election. While “suburban women” may well just be this year’s version of the “soccer mom” and the “security mom,” it is unlikely that Trump made much headway in the second debate in appealing to this elusive group of women. Trump’s “alpha male” behavior – stalking around the stage, calling Clinton “the devil” and promising to put her in jail if elected, combined with the revelations in the Access Hollywood tape, almost assuredly did little to sway undecided women to vote for him. As Republican officeholders continue to withdraw their support and call for Trump to abandon the race, we should watch public opinion polls in the next few days to see whether these most recent incidents are resonating with women voters.
Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
The Republican Party - its officeholders and candidates - need to decide if they want to be known as the party that equates sexual assault with typical locker room chat. – Rosalyn Cooperman (University of Mary Washington)
The Republican Party – its officeholders and candidates – need to decide if they want to be known as the party that equates sexual assault with typical locker room chat. The students with whom I was watching the debate, young men and women alike, understand the difference.
Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Mary Washington
When politicians talk, we should listen. Words matter. – Emily Farris (Texas Christian University)
After being confronted with his words describing sexual assault, Donald Trump said it is ‘just words, folks.’ Trump is wrong: words matter, especially for politicians. My research with Mirya Holman shows the connection between sheriffs’ attitudes and policies towards domestic violence and sex assault victims. We demonstrate that sheriffs’ general attitudes about women’s equality in society connect to myths about violence against women, and sheriffs who believe in violence against women myths are much less likely to have mandatory arrest policy or deputies trained to address rape and sexual assault. Our work shows when politicians talk, we should listen. Words matter.
Assistant Professor of Political Science, Texas Christian University
Trump’s strategy for handling of the Access Hollywood tapes is further evidence of his attempt to try to use the Clintons to inoculate himself from the consequences of his own unacceptable behavior. I don’t think it’s going to work. – Andra Gillespie (Emory University)
Trump’s handling of the Access Hollywood tapes is further evidence of his attempt to try to use the Clintons to inoculate himself from the consequences of his own unacceptable behavior. In light of the revelation of those tapes, a normal candidate would have offered complete, unadulterated contrition. Not Donald Trump. By bringing up Bill Clinton’s pecadilloes and inviting his accusers to the debate, Trump is trying to say that both campaigns are equally implicated in degrading women. And if both candidates have ties to misogyny, then voters should focus on the substantive differences between the candidates, not Hillary Clinton’s argument that she has the better temperament to be president.
Let me be clear: I don’t think this is going to work. Trump has made too many inflammatory statements for people to ignore his bad behavior. Moreover, for all of his faults and the seriousness of the allegations made against Bill Clinton, he is not running for president. Finally, Trump’s conversation with Billy Bush was way too graphic to be forgotten. If Bush can be suspended indefinitely for egging Trump on, then Trump will likely pay some price for the pattern of his behavior.
However, the strategy does help to explain why the initial assessments of the debate concede that Trump had some bright spots. CNN reports that most voters said Clinton won the night; however, fewer people said she won the second debate than the first debate. In addition, Trump exceeded the expectations of 63% of those polled. The combination of actually preparing for the debate (a traditional campaign move) plus questioning Hillary and Bill Clinton’s character seemed to have some traction.
Associate Professor of Political Science, Emory University
In this second debate, the gendered physical dynamic between Trump and Clinton remind us that on the street, on the bus, in the locker room, and on the debate stage, spaces reflect gendered history and meaning about who does and does not belong. – Erin Heidt-Forsythe (Penn State University)
One of the most discussed aspects of the second debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will no doubt be ways that they interacted physically on the debate stage. Although Trump has been called a “seventh grade bully,” public perceptions of his physical presence have largely been ignored in light of his often-abusive language towards opponents. While there was plenty of verbal intimidation of Clinton (interrupting, threats to throw her in jail should she become president) it was Trump and Clinton’s bodies in the debate space that demonstrated new ways of understanding how gender is working in this election. From the start, Trump was physically intimidating: pacing behind Clinton during her responses, facing her in close proximity during interruptions and answers, looming behind Clinton as she replied to town hall questions. The camera seemed to be unable to isolate Clinton away from Trump’s body, even in tight shots. In light of Trump’s comments on Access Hollywood about sexual assault of women’s bodies in public spaces, the physical dynamic between the candidates was even more intensified, evoking the public and private physical harassment, intimidation, and violence that women commonly experience. In one survey, over 50% of all women globally reported physical harassment and assault in public spaces. As feminist sociologist Nirmal Puwar argues in her book Space Invaders, political environments like the debate stage are not neutral spaces: “Social spaces are not blank and open for any body to occupy….some bodies are deemed as having the right to belong, while others are marked out as trespassers.” She goes on to note that these “space invaders” are seen as a threat that invites suspicion, surveillance, and violence. In this second debate, the gendered physical dynamic between Trump and Clinton remind us that on the street, on the bus, in the locker room, and on the debate stage, spaces reflect gendered history and meaning about who does and does not belong.
Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies and Political Science, Penn State University
While women were everywhere, their policy interests around reproduction were invisible. – Erin Heidt-Forsythe (Penn State University)
In an article published Monday morning, the New York Times noted that “rarely has gender played such a significant role in a presidential debate” and that during the hour and a half town hall, “sex was a cudgel, a motif, a backdrop.” While Donald Trump’s comments about assaulting and harassing women in 2005 shone a bright spotlight on women’s bodies and control, the second debate was largely free of policy questions about abortion—much like their first debate two weeks ago. This notable policy absence is especially interesting in light of the ways that control over one’s own body is central to questions about sexual assault, harassment, and reproductive issues alike. Given the empirical evidence that women vote at higher rates than men, and are likely to be important swing voters in the 2016 election, the large gaps around women’s issues in the debates have important implications for how we think about women as voters and the place of abortion in the gendered dynamics of the 2016 election. Among the five questions asked by men and three questions posed by women during the debate, only one question elicited any discussion of abortion: a question posed by a woman about the Supreme Court, to which Clinton echoed her support for Roe v Wade. No specific questions were posed, nor were there any discussions about the skyrocketing number of state restrictions on abortion since 2010. No questions or discussions involved the recent Whole Women’s Health Supreme Court decision. At no time in the debate did either candidate link the largest group of voters to important gendered policies like abortion. While women were everywhere, their policy interests around reproduction were invisible. What does this invisibility say about women as voters, particularly in regards to the Clinton campaign? One possibility is that the Clinton campaign has made a strategic decision about female voters that care deeply about reproductive issues like abortion: they aren’t voting for Trump in light of his recent comments and his campaign’s ideological position on abortion, and may be similar to a captured group who has little choice but to vote for Clinton. Similarly, Clinton may feel like her gendered identity, past statements and policy positions on abortion, and the gaffes from the Trump campaign ensure that “reproductive voters” do not need to be convinced that she is the right candidate to represent these issues. In either case, appeals to women in both presidential debates have occurred through frames of children, families, discipline, and respect rather than concrete and explicit policy discussions. We are seeing a shift in conceptualizing and valuing female voters through the absence of abortion in political debates: while gender is everywhere in the 2016 election, it is also notably absent in the concrete policy debates that have huge impacts on women’s political, economic, and social lives.
Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies and Political Science, Penn State University
Trump sought to display physical and verbal authority, while Clinton had to convey likability, demonstrating the gender undercurrents (and overtones) evident in election 2016. – Jessica N. Grounds (Solid Grounds Strategy)
Last night’s debate oozed troubling gender dynamics. If I had to describe Donald Trump’s style I would use the words intimidation and domination. Whether Trump was standing directly behind Clinton as she spoke, or positioned his microphone at his mouth ready to sporadically interrupt her, his approach conveyed physical and verbal authority. Trump referenced Hillary as “her” or “she” for most of the debate, a communication strategy that diminished her stature. Hillary’s decision to pivot away from Trump’s attack of Bill Clinton’s infidelities was tactically done because if she had responded defensively, it may have impacted her likeability. Research by the Barbara Lee Foundation shows women candidates must convey likeability to also be perceived as qualified. Hillary continues to struggle to convey likeability. This election illuminates gender undercurrents (and overtones) both within the candidate’s approach toward one another and in the way voters digest each candidate’s behavior.
Jessica N. Grounds
Gender Advisor, Solid Grounds Strategy and Project Mine the Gap
Unlike in the first debate (and on the campaign trail), Trump did not question Clinton’s stamina, a trait-based attack that may be particularly effective against female candidates. – Erin Cassese (West Virginia University)
In the past, including the last debate, Trump has commented on Clinton’s lack of “stamina” – where stamina is a coded reference to Clinton’s gender. Her lack of stamina raises the stereotypic notion that women are “the weaker sex.” This idea is mirrored in Mike Pence’s repeated call for “broad-shouldered leadership,” which is also a stereotypically masculine trope. Some of my experimental research on trait-based attacks, with coauthor Mirya Holman, shows that these kinds of attacks are particularly effective against female candidates, especially female Democrats. Trump steered clear of these kinds of attacks in this debate. In fact, his response to the final question of the night – where he was asked to name something he admired about Clinton – seemed to contradict these past statements. Clinton, he argued, is a “fighter.” “She does fight hard and doesn’t give up and I consider that a very good trait.”
Associate Professor of Political Science, West Virginia University
Hillary Clinton physically owned the debate stage. – Chris Jahnke (Speech Coach and author of The Well-Spoken Woman)
With a permanent scowl Donald Trump relentlessly paced the debate stage pausing only to interrupt his opponent and argue with the moderators. The posturing was the defensive crouch of a contemptible candidate who offered lies and insults. Hillary Clinton stood her ground with dignity ignoring the theatrics. The steady demeanor amid the clamor shows Clinton has the stamina to be Commander in Chief.
Speech coach and author of THE WELL-SPOKEN WOMAN
Candidates want to convey that they are like us, but last night exposed the knowledge gap of politicians when it comes to what poverty or even working class lifestyles look like in America. – Kristin Kanthak (University of Pittsburgh)
At one point in the debate last night, an audience member asked Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump about how each would be president to all Americans. Trump’s response seemed to conflate race, poverty, and “inner cities,” concepts that are often interrelated, but are themselves distinct. This is a theme in Trump’s answers to these types of questions that the punditerati had already pointed out – he does not seem to understand that not all African Americans are working class or poor and they do not all dwell in inner cities. But it points to a larger issue in representation in America: Because few politicians come from poorer backgrounds, politicians tend to have a knowledge gap when it comes to what poverty or even working class lifestyles look like in America. Political scientist Nicholas Carnes has begun addressing this issue in some of his work that considers how working class Americans are under-represented in Congress, and how this lack of representation has real policy consequences. But given that voters like to be represented by people who look like them, non-working class candidates want to show off their working class bona fides whenever they can. This is why, for example, Clinton’s campaign encourages the sharing of photographs of Clinton quaffing a beer at a local bar (an image meant to play with gender stereotypes as well) or picking up food at a Chipotle. Candidates want to convey that they are like us, and when Trump’s answer to the debate question revealed that the billionaire was somewhat out of touch, that’s going to make news.
Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Pittsburgh
Trump demonstrated his insensitivity to issues of gender and power, often pushing blatantly over gender lines into intimidation tactics. – Erin Cassese (West Virginia University)
Given the circumstances leading up to the debate, one would expect that both Trump and Clinton would be very carefully attuned to the gender dynamics unfolding on stage. Reactions to the debate on social media suggested that viewers certainly were. In spite of the salience of gender and the clear need for Trump to appear more sensitive to issues of gender and power, he often pushed blatantly over gender lines into intimidation tactics.
Trump got off to a bad start by live streaming a brief press conference with three women who have accused Bill Clinton of past sexual misconduct (Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick and Paula Jones) and a fourth woman, Kathy Shelton, who’s rapist received an incredibly light sentence after being defended by Hillary Clinton early in her law career. The press conference was short – under 3 minutes in length. As such, it read as a publicity stunt rather than a substantive discussion of the issue of violence against women; the kind of discussion that might signal a growing sensitivity to the issue. The four women were then seated in the audience in the intimate town hall setting, a move designed to unnerve and intimidate Clinton. A tweet from Trump’s campaign strategist KellyAnne Conway seemed to reinforce that this was their intention, calling on Clinton to “acknowledge them from the stage tonight.”
There are other examples of Trump’s insensitivity to the gender dynamics of the debate. For instance Trump seemed to lurk maliciously behind Clinton during the much of the debate. While the split screen visual format of the debate often obscured this, the few camera shots that captured both candidates in the same frame made it clear that Trump was hovering behind Clinton as she moved around the stage answering questions (see images below). This struck many viewers as a physical intimidation tactic.
Associate Professor of Political Science, West Virginia University
It is unlikely that Donald Trump closed or reduced the gender gap with his performance in the second presidential debate. – Mary-Kate Lizotte (Augusta University)
It is unlikely that Donald Trump closed or reduced the gender gap with his performance in the second presidential debate. The gender gap in vote choice with women more likely than men to vote for the Democratic presidential nominee is well-established (Huddy, Cassese, and Lizotte 2008), and the polls have consistently shown a significant and sizeable gap this election. Gender differences on issues contribute to the gap in voting (Chaney, Alvarez, and Nagler 1998). Hillary Clinton’s positions on several issues Sunday night make it likely that women will continue to be more likely to vote for her over Donald Trump. For example, Clinton stated that she would make changes to the Affordable Care Act rather than repeal it, and women are more supportive of the Affordable Care Act (Lizotte 2015). Women are also likely to find Clinton’s position on the use of force in Syria more appealing than Trump’s position, because women are consistently less likely than men to support the use of force to solve international problems (Eichenberg 2016; Norrander 2008) except with respect to humanitarian interventions (Brooks and Valentino 2011). In general, Clinton’s positions on the issues align with the majority of women making it highly likely that the gender gap will persist on November 8th.
Associate Professor of Political Science, Augusta University
Trump’s looming presence over a woman will resonate with women who’ve felt the physical intimidation of men. – Melanye Price (Rutgers University)
When students come to my office, particularly those that are bigger and taller than me, I often have them sit down. This is especially true of men who outsize me because they sometimes don’t even realize how they are using their bodies to control space. When we are seated, it becomes less of an issue. I once had a giant male student come in to my office. I was in a hurry and told him so. He proceeded to shut my door and stood over me to talk. I told him: “Before you say another word to me, you better open that door and sit down or this conversation is over.” He immediately apologized and said he didn’t mean anything by it. I don’t think he consciously did, but just because he wasn’t aware I saw what he was doing. I thought about that again tonight while watching Trump tower over Clinton and loom over her personal space. He’s likely so accustomed to being in “grabbing” distance that he doesn’t think about it either. Still, the optics were terrible.
Associate Professor of Africana Studies, Rutgers University – New Brunswick
Neglecting to acknowledge Hillary Clinton by her title, experience, or even name was likely intended to minimize her legitimacy and identity. – Erin Cassese (West Virginia University)
In the first debate, Trump made a point of addressing Clinton by her title. When first addressing her by name, he said “Secretary Clinton …Is that okay?… Good, I want you to be very happy. It’s very important to me.” The tone was somewhat condescending as he so pointedly illustrated his concern for respectful dialogue, particularly given how much of a departure this is from they way he addresses Hillary in campaign speeches when she is not present. In last night’s debate, we heard no references to Secretary Clinton. In fact, Trump rarely even referred to Clinton by name – instead simply referring to her by gendered pronouns like “her” and “she. This verbal tactic was likely intended to minimize Clinton’s legitimacy and identity, by neglecting to acknowledge her title, experience, or even her name.
Associate Professor of Political Science, West Virginia University
Words matter, whether spoken in the locker room or on a debate stage. – Kelly Dittmar (Center for American Women and Politics)
Donald Trump has presented himself to voters as the manliest candidate of 2016, adhering to traditional gender stereotypes of presidential manhood. From touting his own strength, virility, and bravado to feminizing and/or emasculating his opponents and critics, Trump has performed masculinity in ways that are both paternalistic and misogynistic. Last night was no different – from the words he used to the body language he communicated. Trump has boxed himself in to that persona by this point in the campaign, making engaging in more stereotypically feminine behaviors – such as empathy, remorse, or humility – much more risky to his brand. Instead of recognizing the severity of his remarks about women, then, he has excused them as “locker room talk.” Instead of showing respect for women by expressing true remorse, he has repeatedly proclaimed that “nobody respects women more” than him. In last night’s debate, Trump painted a contrast between words and actions, but refuses to acknowledge that words are actions, especially when you are making the case for why you should be the representative of 320 million Americans to the rest of the world.
Assistant Professor of Political Science, Rutgers-Camden
Scholar, Center for American Women and Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers-New Brunswick