Chin: Playing the Man Card

Trump is attempting to win votes using tired gender stereotypes.

by Clara Chin | 9/23/16 12:25am

To some Democrats, he’s the end of the world, the apocalypse or the sign of doomsday. To some Republicans, he’s change, a breath of fresh air or an outsider. To Vladimir Putin, he’s a “colorful” man. On both sides of the political aisle and even in other countries, the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump may appear to be a wild card.

Trump is a polarizing figure because he appears unique. Yes, he may technically be an outsider to Washington, but he attended his political rival’s wedding and once donated to the Clinton Foundation. He has appeared on talk shows to discuss the Iraq War, first on the Howard Stern Show and later on Fox News and MSNBC. On Twitter, Trump has taken to describing his candidacy for president as, “a movement, not a campaign,” further attempting to perpetuate his image as a radical non-politician.

But if you’re voting for Trump because he’s a revolutionary, he’s the wrong guy. And if you’re a Democrat, consider whether or not you should actually give him credit for being a “lunatic.” After all, the bare bones of his strict immigration and abortion policies seem rather consistent with the Republican Party in philosophy at least, if not in detail or in rhetoric. But what is most typical about Trump, and perhaps most underlooked, is his use of old gender tropes. His campaign is structured on unoriginal gender clichés. This sexism is not creative; rather, it illustrates his attempt to pander to the public.

The main arguments against Clinton right now are her supposed lack of honesty and the concern over her physical wellbeing. Criticism about Clinton’s dishonesty does spring from a specific event, namely her use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State. Nonetheless, the public holds Clinton accountable for lying, while dismissing dishonesty when it comes to Trump. PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking site, determined that 57 of Clinton’s statements during the primary debates were true and 71 mostly true, accounting for about 50 percent of her statements. In contrast, just 9 percent of Trump’s statements were true: only 10 were rated true and 29 mostly true, with the largest number of statements, 88, being false. Significantly, 47 of his statements were given PolitiFact’s lowest honesty rating, “Pants on Fire,” compared to only six of Clinton’s statements.

Yet while Clinton is typically called out for her false statements, Trump is not. Trump either speaks so falsely that it is impossible to call him out for his less-than-truths, or there is some other inexplicable reason why less attention is paid to Trump’s statements. Whatever the reason may be, a clear discrepancy exists between Clinton’s honesty rating and the public’s perception of such, with fluctuating polls describing her honesty as only sometimes higher and even lower than Trump’s. Clinton suddenly seems like a sitcom queen bee, like Regina George, whose hair was so big because it was “full of secrets.” The title “Crooked Hillary” also sounds like something out of a sitcom. Trump may be new to politics, but the blatant stereotypes that he and his supporters use to fuel his campaign speak to TV clichés.

Clinton’s pneumonia diagnosis amidst Republican criticism that her campaign staff is hiding facts about her health led to, of course, campaign staff hiding that diagnosis. Calling her physically incapable of being president is also a cheap shot. This draws on predictable tropes about women being weaker than men. Perhaps most egregiously, Trump tweeted about Clinton’s capability as a president based on her relationship with her husband. He wrote, “If Hillary can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” Trump attempted to discredit Clinton first because she is a woman, thereby calling her dishonest and weak. Then, he attempted to discredit her because of her supposed failure as a woman, or her inability to keep former President Bill Clinton happy. This sort of rhetoric is closely aligned with his even more gendered insults towards Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly. He insinuated that Kelly had “blood coming out of her whatever,” and also called her a “bimbo” and a “lightweight.” Of course, the lightweight comment continues the thread of his referring to women as weak, and the “bimbo” comment targets specifically women’s intelligence.

It’s not as though Clinton isn’t playing gender politics, too. At the Democratic National Convention, a video montage introduced her with images of the former male presidents, then the sound of glass shattering followed by a large photograph of Clinton — referencing the shattered glass ceiling. She also often talks about being a mother and a grandmother, and her DNC playlist included standby feminist anthems like “Brave” by Sara Bareilles and “Roar” by Katy Perry. She’s been accused, in fact, of playing the woman card.

But if Clinton’s playing the woman card, then Trump must be playing the man card. It’s impossible to overlook the gendering of this election on either side. But while Clinton utilizes gender to underscore issues like the lack of women in leadership positions and the gender wage gap and to insist upon unity, Trump utilizes gender to defend his own manhood and perpetuate stereotypes of female inferiority. But, if Trump really is so macho, why does he have to try so hard to prove it? Trump resonates with a certain demographic, and the race between Trump and Clinton is closer than ever. While it may seem like Trump is radical from a distance, the numbers make it clear that gender norms have not changed much after all.