Donald Trump’s victory proves that America hates women”, declared a reputable news source shortly after the US election.
America is big, and it does not think as one. Some men hate women and voted for Trump to preserve the patriarchy – but most fell for his promise of quick economic fixes. Some women did not vote for Clinton out of jealousy for a more successful sister, whereas others were not convinced by her policies. Among the many well-documented factors that influenced the outcome of the US election, misogyny was one, but bringing the election down to misogyny alone is simplistic and incorrect.
Even more incorrect is shaming the American women for not “displaying gender solidarity” in their vote.
None of the women I know voted for Trump. If they had, I would have probably shamed them as well. For helping elect an autocrat to the position of the most powerful man in the world. For falling for his blatant demagoguery without bothering to analyse the credibility of the statements and promises made. For overlooking the fact that Trump is, fundamentally, a charlatan.
But I would never, never have reproached them for not voting for Clinton on the basis of gender, because political elections are an exercise in choosing the strongest candidate for the job – not promoting a feminist agenda.
Clinton was of course the strongest candidate for the job, and seeing Trump’s face leer from my computer screen on the morning of 9 November, I thought that I had entered into the realm of the strange and the ridiculous. But reading Clinton’s concession tweets that same day, I did not like the way she tried to link her defeat to misogyny. Her pinned tweet, “favourited” by 1m viewers, said: “To all the little girls watching... never doubt that you are valuable and powerful & deserving of every chance & opportunity in the world.”
This is a mischievous message to give to the little girls as it implies that Clinton had lost because America does not value women. As such, it smacks of victimhood, rather than being empowering. Second, Clinton seems to suggest that only a female President can be a true champion of women’s rights. This is wrong: just look at Obama’s formidable track record in this respect. Also, when the little girls grow up and start voting in political elections themselves, they should know to vote for a candidate with the right vision, policies and track record, rather than on the basis of their gender – and this is what we should be teaching them now.
Finally, if we are really honest, what will affect the little girls in the next four years is not the fact that the 45th President of the United States is a man. What will affect the little girls is that this President had advocated torture and violence and threatened to jail his opponent. That this President had insulted an entire religion, degraded women and mocked the disabled. That this President tweets with spelling mistakes, talks about his cabinet in the language of reality TV, and has absolutely no experience of holding public office.
What will affect the little girls in America is that, despite Trump’s obvious flaws and despite Clinton’s obvious superiority as a political candidate, the majority of their countrymen had voted for Trump. This is the kind of nation that the little girls will be living in. And this is a far bigger problem, in my view, than not having someone to address as “Madame President” for the next four years.