'Jokes' About Shooting A Woman Are Anything But

Words matter, especially when they come from a presidential nominee.

Well, it’s come to this. At a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina on Tuesday, Donald Trump casually floated the idea of someone shooting his female opponent.

During a rant about Hillary Clinton wanting to abolish the right to bear arms (she doesn’t), he warned about what would happen if she is allowed to make Supreme Court appointments.

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks,” he said. “Although the Second Amendment people ― maybe there is, I don’t know.”

If you watch his delivery of the line, it’s pretty obvious Trump knows he is about to land a crowd-pleasing zinger. It’s in his smirk, and in the timing of his words. He thinks he’s making a clever joke.

His statement could theoretically be interpreted in multiple ways. Trump’s campaign has said he was referring to the strength of gun rights supporters to sink Clinton in the election. Others have suggested he was joking about someone shooting her judges, not the candidate herself.

But to many observers, the meaning was crystal clear: Trump insinuated that a person might stop Clinton by shooting her. He followed his outrageous statement with “I don’t know,” a clause deployed to simultaneously say something incredibly reckless and distance himself from it. His oft-repeated “many people say” is used to perform the same function.

The full implications of Trump’s “joke” are stunning. He is suggesting that someone shoot a woman with whom he disagrees. To him, that’s one possible solution to his problem: just kill her.

The fact that he was apparently joking doesn’t make any better, said Cindy Southworth, the executive vice president of The National Network to End Domestic Violence.

“Every time violence against women of any type is minimized and trivialized, it further emboldens misogynists everywhere,” she said.

Joking about violence against women perpetuates the myth that it isn’t a serious and deadly issue, she continued.

“Coming from anyone, alleged jokes of killing a woman are never funny and extremely disturbing,” she said. “These comments coming from anyone running for a high-profile office set a very concerning example.”

Trump’s latest comments underscore the deep, disturbing and unrelenting strain of violent misogyny that has been so central to his campaign.

As Jared Yates Sexton reported in The New Republic, Trump supporters have been heard chanting “Hang that bitch!” at rallies. “Lock her up,” a crowd favorite, suggests another form of punishment, with the implied risk of sexual and physical violence. In a New York Times video of voices from Trump rallies, supporters are caught yelling “Trump that bitch!” and the succinct “Kill her.”

“This is the second time I remember a public figure intimating that physical violence might be a way of dealing with Hillary Clinton,” said Kim Gandy, the CEO of NNEDV, referring to a remark by Keith Olbermann in 2008. “I don’t recall male candidates being subjected to suggestions that they be removed from the race (or the planet) via physical violence.”

The thing is, many men do ultimately kill the women with whom they disagree. In the U.S., around three women a day are killed by intimate partners. Many of them are shot. Some times, men kill women because they are getting in the way of something they want. The women are fighting them for child custody, for example, or pursuing criminal charges. In some tragic cases, if men can’t control the women in their lives, they kill them instead.

Much ink has already been spilled about how Trump does not have the temperament to be president. He has a history of encouraging and inciting violence at his rallies. He lobbed threats toward speakers at the Democratic National Convention, saying he wanted to hit them “so hard their heads would spin.”

Now, he is making a suggestion ― however apparently off-the-cuff and unserious ― that a woman who gets in your way could be dealt with using a gun.

His supporters are listening. And that should scare all of us.

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.


Melissa Jeltsen covers domestic violence and other issues related to women’s health, safety and security. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow her on Twitter.


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