After Monday night’s presidential debate, my social media feeds were full of women reacting to Trump’s misogyny. Of all the outrage the Republican candidate inspires in compassionate and intelligent human beings, Monday night put the spotlight on sexism for an hour or so, and I think it matters beyond talking points.
The Mic reports that Trump interrupted Clinton 28 times, and they compiled them into a video that nauseated me. Other sources put the number of interruptions higher.
People interrupt each other, right? Of course. I’ve had this conversation with men before (i.e., I’ve been mansplained on it): That’s just how people talk. [interrupts my reply to add] No, no, no, it doesn’t have anything to do with gender. You can’t get upset about every little slight or interruption. You’re too sensitive. Maybe you should speak louder and be more assertive. Wait, why are you yelling? You’re being a bitch! Let me finish! See it can’t be a gender thing because look at how you’re doing the same thing you say men do!! [without even a hint of awareness]
The most accomplished woman in politics isn’t immune to this treatment.
finally the whole country will watch as a woman stands politely listening to a loud man’s bad ideas about the field she spent her life in
— Alexandra Petri (@petridishes) September 26, 2016
To the men amazed Clinton hasn’t snapped: Every woman you know has learned to do this. This is our life in this society. #debatenight
— E. Van Every (@E_VanEvery) September 27, 2016
I RT-ed both of these tweets on Monday night, and they are now showing up in news stories and debate recaps all over the web.
Translation: women recognize this dynamic. Men interrupt women A LOT. Men talk down to, talk over, talk around, dismiss, and don’t listen to women. And if you’re saying that’s not true or not a big deal, you are outright ignoring the offered experiences of omg almost every woman who social media-ed about #debatenight, and you’re proving the very point they’re trying to make.
But it’s more than that. Ann Jones nailed it for an article in The Nation (written in June, well before Monday’s debate) called “Donald Trump is a Textbook Abuser, and Women Everywhere Know It.”
Jones asserts that Trump fits the profile of an abuser: “Every woman who has ever had to deal with a Trump-style tyrant in her own home or at her job already has Trump’s number. We recognize him as a bloated specimen of the common garden variety Controlling Man, a familiar type of Household Hitler.” Yes.
The man who thinks he’s never wrong. The man who listens to no one, except perhaps another man he admires. The man who doesn’t hear the ends of sentences, doesn’t know how not to interrupt. (Also, Trump is saying his mic was defective during the debate. How can you possibly interrupt someone so many times with a defective mic??)
The man who believes he can do whatever he wants, but anyone who uses his own tactics against him is grossly out of line.
The man who cannot be contradicted, challenged, disagreed with, or questioned, especially by a woman.
The man who thinks he can convince anyone of anything if they just LISTEN. The man who thinks his is the only voice that matters.
The man who decides he is the victim, not the person he victimized. The man who decides the person he victimized is the one to blame (even Hillary knew he would do this, responding to one of his rants with, “I have a feeling that by the end of this evening I’m going to be blamed for everything that’s ever happened”). The man who decides the person he victimized should go away.
We can enumerate the ways abusers try to make their victims “go away.” Certainly they don’t want them to physically leave because then how would they control them? They only want their victim’s personhood to go away. So they isolate them, gaslight them, erode their sense of self-worth and grasp on reality, manipulate and intimidate them into giving up control and identity, micro-manage their lives, make them co-dependent and terrified, and sometimes they kill them.
Or encourage someone else to kill them? On Aug. 9, NBC reported on Trump’s second amendment comment at a North Carolina rally, which many interpreted as a call for violence against Clinton (Sen. Chris Murphy tweeted “Don’t treat this as a political misstep. It’s an assassination threat, seriously upping the possibility of a national tragedy & crisis.” My political idol Sen. Elizabeth Warren got closer to sexism and the abuse dynamic when she said Trump “makes death threats because he’s a pathetic coward who can’t handle the fact that he’s losing to a girl.”)
There are plenty of reasons to despise Trump and deem him unfit for the presidency, racism being prominent. But women, especially those who have experienced domestic violence, see Trump for exactly what he is on the misogyny front because we know the pattern, the traits, the dynamic all too well. Monday night was anxiety-ridden, even triggering, for many of us who know what often comes after a heated conversation with a rageaholic narcissist in which you are interrupted that many times, and no matter how calm and poised and in control you remain, you are watching him grow more and more defensive, agitated, unhinged…
We make up an important contingency of voters, and that contingency is not small. You might even say it’s 1 in 4 women, 1 in 7-8 men…
We could end up making a difference in swing states and among those committed to voting, but undecided about who should have their vote. The Arizona Republic just endorsed Hillary Clinton, the first Democrat it has backed in its 126-year history. Arizona is also on a list of 10 states with the highest rates of domestic violence.
Before Monday, coverage of sexism in this campaign felt limited to leftist pundits restating Trump’s offensive one-liners, or noting inappropriate commentary on Clinton’s appearance. The people most often calling out sexism were, again, women on social media (although this male-authored piece on acknowledging sexism re: HRC is brilliant). I think things could have shifted on Monday. During and post-debate, a Super Bowl-sized viewership didn’t just witness, but experienced with visceral and uncomfortable clarity the tactics abusers employ against women, whether they knew to call them that or not.
Manterrupting and mansplaining have entered mainstream consciousness. Perhaps something else hitched a ride with those terms: the beginning of an understanding about how abusers operate, by those who have not directly experienced it.
What do you think–was the sexism during the first presidential debate more glaring than usual, or is it just me? Is it going to garner sympathy and/or more support for Clinton?