Last Sunday, Americans across the country buckled down, took a few deep breaths, and braced themselves for the second Presidential debate. While the pundits discussed many policy issues, a video that had been released by the Washington Post quickly became the center of attention.
The video, from 2005, features Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump talking to Billy Bush, a former host from the today show, about sexually assaulting women. The Republican candidate can be clearly head as he states that he doesn’t need consent from a woman to come on to her:
When you’re a star, [women] let you do it, you can do anything. Grab them by the p****.
Trump’s defense of this behavior was equally cringeworthy. He said that these misogynistic statements were nothing more than words, he referred to them multiple times as examples of “locker room talk” in which all men participate, and he accused Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s husband as being even worse.
Rape is a very serious issue, which is largely unaddressed in the united states. But, unfortunately, this is not an issue which Mr. Trump actually cares about.
The sad truth is that Donald Trump does not care about women. He has shown countless examples of his disrespect for women, including his words in this video, and including his defense of those words. The fact that Trump is using Bill Clinton’s life to attack Secretary Clinton at all seems to prove that he cannot so much as accept Hillary as a singular human being; to Trump, and to many Americans, Secretary Clinton’s only significance is her relationship to a man.
Trump was not the only person to drag Bill Clinton into the debate, either. Even Anderson Cooper, one of the debate’s moderators, asked Mrs Clinton about her husband’s stance on certain issues. Cooper said to her:
Your husband called Obamacare, quote, “the craziest thing in the world,” saying that small-business owners are getting killed as premiums double, coverage is cut in half. Was he mistaken or was the mistake simply telling the truth?
Why on Earth are we asking Hillary Clinton about someone else’s opinions? It’s as if we’ve all forgotten that Bill Clinton isn’t running for President. As we see here, when Bill Clinton shares his thoughts, Hillary Clinton is asked about them as if they are her own; somehow, Secretary Clinton’s identity is seen as inherently linked to that of her husband, so much so that she is expected to claim and answer for his personal actions and opinions.
Secretary Clinton, however, is not the first women whose identity has been overshadowed by her significant other. Women everywhere often find it hard to be seen as individuals whose importance is not defined by their relationships to men: even as Republicans denounce Donald Trump’s statements about rape, for example, they often immediately point out that women are related to men, and are therefore important. For instance, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) of Utah, in regard to Trump’s sexual assault claims, stated:
I can’t do that with my 15-year-old daughter, so why should I do it with the rest of Utah?
Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s own Vice Presidential running mate, said he was offended about Trump’s remarks because of his own status as a husband and a father.
This issue goes beyond sexual assault, and is a part of many women’s day-to-day lives. I certainly struggle to prove to the world that I’m an independent human being whenever I’m in a relationship with a man. Last year, for example, I was dating someone from my circle of friends at college. When he became new friends with a woman from his work, I was excited to meet her. “You must be Shane’s girlfriend!” she exclaimed. When I began to see her regularly, it seemed that “Shane’s girlfriend” was actually the only thing I was. She would always greet me with “Hello, Shane’s girlfriend.” When she would refer to me in a story I was “Shane’s girlfriend”. When a seat was saved for me, she’d say “Hey, Shane’s girlfriend, sit over here.” While this may seem to be a trivial example in comparison with raised assault comments, even this felt belittling, degrading, and dehumanizing. After all, my entire personality summed up by someone else’s name.
Never once did she call me Haley, my actual name. Perhaps she honestly just couldn’t remember it. Regardless, there are a number of other things she could have called me before she chose to reduce me, with a label, to my relationship to my boyfriend of only a few short months.
I can only imagine how frustrated Secretary Clinton must feel. Her entire identity, for so long, has been publically observed as “wife of Bill”. Even when one looks up Hillary Clinton’s page on Wikipedia, there is an entire section titled “Marriage and Family, Law Career and First Lady of Arkansas”, which essentially discusses her law career in vague relation to Mr. Clinton’s political career; this label almost presumes that her marriage was the most significant part of this portion of her life. To the contrary, Hillary Clinton is mentioned on Bill Clinton’s page in a category titled “College and Law School Years” not “Marriage, Family, College Law School Years”.
We should not hold women to the identities of others. We should, therefore, not force them to be accountable for the actions of the men in their lives. When we’re wondering what kind of President Hillary Clinton will be, let’s ask Secretary Clinton about her own life, opinions and policies, not those of her husband. Hillary, not Bill, is the Clinton running for President in 2016. So let’s ask Hillary about Hillary.