On Wednesday night, one presidential candidate disparaged a “nasty woman.” The other showed Americans precisely why a Madam President’s lived experience as a woman could prove invaluable in office.
During the third and (thankfully) final debate, Hillary Clinton spoke passionately about abortion rights and about the everyday sexism women experience.
There have been many presidential nominees who understand these issues from a policy perspective, but never before have we had a presidential nominee who could speak to either on a personal level. After 240 years, Americans watched a woman do both.
Within the first 10 minutes of the debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked both candidates about abortion, specifically Roe v. Wade.
Clinton, who has been a vocal supporter of reproductive rights and has openly opposed the Hyde Amendment, swiftly affirmed her support for the seminal 1972 Supreme Court decision as well as Planned Parenthood. Her answer drove home the idea that women are competent human beings capable of making personal, health-related decisions. (Watch below.)
Clinton also explained why she voted against a ban on late-term abortions, and spoke about the real women who face the decision to terminate late into a pregnancy:
The kinds of cases that fall at the end of pregnancy are often the most heartbreaking, painful decisions for families to make. I have met with women who toward the end of their pregnancy, get the worst news one could get, that their health is in jeopardy if they continue to carry to term... I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions.
While Donald Trump ranted about “tak[ing] the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month,” (which sounds more like a c-section than an abortion), Clinton directed the conversation back toward women. She shined a spotlight on the restrictive abortion laws that have been passed in more than a dozen states in 2016 alone, and described the devastating impact these laws can have on women’s lives.
“You should meet with some of the women that I’ve met with. Women I’ve known over the course of my life,” she said. “I can tell you the government has no business in the decisions that women make with their families in accordance with their faith, with medical advice, and I will stand up for that right.”
As Slate’s Christina Cauterucci pointed out, Clinton managed to effectively put a human face on abortion policy. “This isn’t a theoretical situation that concerns some unknowable group of people, some demographic entity,” Cauterucci wrote. “This is about women, about us.”
Clinton once more made the debate about “us” ― not the walking hot-or-not sex objects Trump sees, but real, complex, human women ― in response to the string of sexual assault allegations that have been levied against Trump. (A total of 13 women have publicly accused the GOP nominee of sexual assault, with one more set to come forward tomorrow.)
“Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger,” said Clinton. “He goes after their dignity, their self-worth, and I don’t think there is a woman anywhere who doesn’t know what that feels like.”
It was a simple comment, but an effective one. It cut to the heart of how many American women have been feeling since 2005 hot-mic footage was resurfaced that showed Trump bragging about kissing and groping women without their consent.
Listening to a man who could be president of the United States laugh about grabbing women by the pussy prompted women everywhere to mentally catalogue their own assaults. Sexual assault hotline traffic spiked. More than a million women tweeted about the first time they were assaulted using the hashtag #NotOkay. As Trump and his supporters mocked and smeared alleged victims of sexual assault, women reported feeling physically ill.
“I don’t think there is a woman anywhere who doesn’t know what that feels like.”
When American women listen to Trump bragging about sexual assault, we don’t recoil because his comments are lewd. We feel our stomachs drop and our heads spin because they feel familiar. Clinton acknowledged this reality, echoing sentiments Michelle Obama outlined in a speech last week.
Trump and Clinton articulated starkly different visions of America’s future on Wednesday night. One future leaves 51 percent of the American population at the whims of a thin-skinned serial pussy-grabber. The other puts a highly intelligent, experienced, ambitious, Nasty Woman into the oval office.
If America opts for the latter vision, we will owe thanks to a united front of Nasty Women who have marched their humanity all the way to the ballot box.
Donate below to support the groups Donald Trump has insulted.
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.