The sexism against Hillary Clinton
Former United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, made history when she became the first female presidential nominee of a major political party. But numerous controversies have emerged, raising questions about her trustworthiness. She is disliked by a lot of people. The perception about her is that she is elitist and out-of-touch. Another conspiracy theory surrounding her campaign has to do with her health. She was recently diagnosed with pneumonia. But some Republicans say she is hiding a more serious ailment that could make her unfit to be president.
Her Republican Party rival, Donald J. Trump, contends that she neither has "a presidential look," nor the "stamina" to be president. He referred to her bathroom break during a debate last December to be “too disgusting” to talk about. Various reports have shown Trump denigrating women, objectifying their sexuality and making lewd comments about even his own daughter. Pitching a man who has exhibited such debauchery against women in an election simply makes Hillary Clinton fair game.
The Democratic Party nominee has flaws. But the truth is that, the United States of America, the acclaimed beacon of democracy may still not be ready for a female presidency, especially with the way her indiscretions have been exaggerated to give a perception of a dishonest person. According to Politifact, 60% of Clinton's statement that were fact-checked were "True". Fact-checking Trump's statement, only 12% were found to be "True". Clinton's "Pants on Fire" statements were 6%, compared to Trump's 48%. But here is a candidate who goes about telling blatant lies to the electorate and he might just be elected to the White House.
So why do a lot of people disapprove of Hillary Clinton? There could actually be a simple answer. Men and women are not held by the same standards of judgement. A husband is hardly ever accused of being complicit in a wife's failings. But there is often the implicit bias that somehow it is the woman's fault when the man goes out of line as it is being suggested now by Trump regarding Bill Clinton's alleged dalliances.
Let us take the example of the email controversy. Clinton did use a private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State for both personal and official communications. She was required to use the federal government email system exclusively for work emails, hence the ethical concerns of her conduct. Investigations into how she handled sensitive information have concluded that she was "extremely careless." However, there was no basis to prosecute her. Under the administration of President George W. Bush, 22 million White House emails were found to have disappeared when Congress was investigating the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys by the government. The emails 'disappeared' because they were illegally hosted on an email server run by the Republican National Committee. About 22 White House staffers, including thenDeputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, used the private server. However, the issue was swept under the rug.
It is also public knowledge that Clinton's predecessor, Colin Powell, also exclusively used a private email account. Powell, who had spoken to Clinton when she secured the appointment in the Obama administration and sought the former Secretary of State's advice on managing her communication, told her “to resist restrictions that would inhibit her ability to communicate.” Alas, the standard of judgement for the two men and Clinton are skewed, in favour of the men.
All U.S. presidents always have their images carefully curated, and sometimes it involves hiding an illness. Franklin D. Roosevelt was stricken by polio. Although he remained paralyzed, the full extent of his sickness was never revealed. President Woodrow Wilson reportedly suffered a stroke 18 months before the end of his tenure in office but it was hidden from the public. Nothing reeks more of sexism than the notion that when Hillary Clinton coughs at a campaign rally, she is deemed unfit to be president. After all, her opponent is 70 years old, while she will turn 69 on October 26. The life expectancy for women in the U.S. is 81.2 years; for men it is 76.4 years. This is a vast difference of 4.8 years.
This does not mean Mrs. Clinton's record should not be scrutinised as much as Mr. Trump's. Except that this scrutiny should not be tainted by prejudice. If both candidates were male, the debate would be about who is more qualified to be President. When this yardstick is used, it is difficult to see how Trump can hold a candle to Clinton. Nevertheless, her fastidious intellect and contributions to domestic and foreign policy have mattered very little. She is being besmirched because she, a woman, has the audacity to seek political power. She is the real anti-establishment candidate in this presidential campaign, not Trump who has boasted about taking advantage of the housing crisis and gaming the tax code.
If Trump wins the election, it would not be because he articulated better policies for moving the country forward. It would be because of sexism against Clinton in a country that has performed remarkably poorly on global measures of gender balance. For instance, the U.S. ranks as the worst developed country for maternal health (placed 61st in the world) in State Of The World's Mothers 2015, published by Save the Children. It is also the only developed country where women do not receive paid maternity leave, even though research has linked paid maternity leave to better health for mothers and babies. The country is also ranked 28th on the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Index (GGGI) 2015.
Sexism has certainly fostered gender inequality around the world. A Clinton presidency will give her the vantage position to fight harder in doing away with that culture that withholds opportunity from women, not only in the U.S. but also in other countries like Nigeria, which ranks 125th on the overall GGGI 2015.