“Do you think she looks presidential? I don’t think so,” Trump said to his crowd at a rally in Ashburn, Virginia.
Trump didn’t elaborate on what it is about Clinton that doesn’t look presidential, and his campaign didn’t return a request for comment. But he is right that she does look different from past presidents, and there’s a pretty obvious reason why.
Looking presidential or looking authoritative has long been something women running for office have had to deal with. It’s considered normal and expected for presidents to possess attributes traditionally associated with masculinity: strength, toughness, virility, athleticism and a cool charisma. The country even likes its presidents tall, which men are more likely to be than women.
Former Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.), who explored a presidential run in 1987, has pointed out that there’s a standard way men can dress when they want to look like they’re in charge and working hard. But for women, it’s much harder.
“All of us could advise men on what to wear,” Schroeder said during a press call last year. “If you want to look busy, you either take off your tie, loosen your collar, roll up your shirtsleeves, run down some steps, have a phone in your ear.”
“There’s no similar kind of uniform for women,” she added. “And we tend to either look like unmade beds or look like a model. Trying to find out how a woman looks like she’s working hard through these very important visuals is just not something that there’s a real formula for.”
Since women were also excluded from positions of military leadership for so long, it was also hard for members of the public to wrap their heads around the image of a woman as commander in chief. When Geraldine Ferraro ran for vice president, journalist Marvin Kalb asked her on “Meet the Press” whether she could “push the nuclear button” if she had to ― a question the men in the race didn’t get.
And when a woman does finally occupy the Oval Office, longtime Democratic strategist Ann Lewis believes that it will help propel more women into public office.
“You cannot want what you can’t even imagine,” Lewis told The Huffington Post recently. “It’s very hard to get up every day and work for something that seems absolutely out-of-sight impossible. A woman in the White House means to everybody, ‘Oh, I can do this.’ Not just, by the way, for women, but anyone who has thought you’re ruled out.”
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims ― 1.6 billion members of an entire religion ― from entering the U.S.