Trigger warning: this post will discuss sexual assault as it has been presented on the national stage.
When I logged onto Facebook today, I was greeted by this image:
Admittedly, I didn’t think the Trump campaign could get any weirder. I keep waiting for Mike Pence to jump out of a nearby bush and tell the nation that we’re on Candid Camera. I’m not surprised that Donald Trump admitted on tape that he is a sexual predator, a story that has been corroborated by several brave witnesses since it first broke. I’ve been much more surprised by the reaction to this news.
Over the last few days, as the Trump campaign has descended in firey freefall, women have become the central target of those hoping to woo voters away from Trump and those staunchly defending him. Yesterday, after 538 showed that Trump would win in a landslide if only men were voting, Trump supporters–male and female alike–got #repealthe19th trending on Twitter. This hashtag refers to the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Today, the hashtag being promoted by Trump supporters is #WomenWhoVoteTrump, in which female Trump supporters list the reasons that they are proud to be voting red in November. These comments focused heavily on how the media has mischaracterized female supporters and twisted the truth to make Trump look like a disgusting pig.
Out of my own morbid curiosity, I looked at some of the posts with this hashtag. What I found was a study in internalized misogyny, which is the notion that women have come to identify with and perpetuate sexist attitudes (which harm them) as a result of oppression by a patriarchal society.
For example, many women eschewed stereotypically “feminine” qualities (e.g., being emotional or weak) in favor of stereotypically “masculine” qualities (e.g., being rational and self-sufficient):
Another aspect that came up frequently was slut-shaming (and its twin, victim-blaming). #WomenWhoVoteTrump were willing to demean other women to make the point that they were different and had a higher moral standard.
One male user used sexy pictures of women to promote the brand of #WomenWhoVoteTrump:
After I emerged from this rabbit hole, I felt utterly confused. Hillary Clinton is by no means a perfect candidate, and I have frequently railed against the notion that women should feel obligated to vote for her because of #girlpower. At the same time, though, I return to the image at the top of this post. The fact that #WomenWhoVoteTrump can pick and choose which gender-based causes they want to rally behind (preventing trans individuals from using the restroom that best fits their gender identity) and which they want to ignore (advocating for women who were directly harmed by Donald Trump’s privilege and scope of influence) suggests to me that internalized misogyny is alive and well and still being perpetuated by those who would turn women against one another in pursuit of their higher ideals. Before November 8th, I hope that #WomenWhoVoteTrump (and some of the #WomenWhoVoteHillary) will take a moment to engage in self-reflection and make a decision that reflects their beliefs and values as individuals, rather than trying to fit into a woman-shaped mold. No matter your political beliefs, let’s stop allowing any media outlet or candidate to tell us who we are.