US vote: Better a liar than a woman

Deplorable: Women supporters of Donald Trump turn their vitriol on the president-elect’s opponent at a rally. (Carlo Allegri, Reuters)

Deplorable: Women supporters of Donald Trump turn their vitriol on the president-elect’s opponent at a rally. (Carlo Allegri, Reuters)

“President Trump.” I’ve been murmuring those words to myself. Rolling them on my tongue. Trying to assess their meaning. I still can’t fully grasp what they mean. The two words paired together feel oxymoronic: like “stylish Crocs”, or “Orania hip-hop”, or “Rabbi Mcebo Dlamini”. President Trump. Swirl that around in your mouth a bit, like an expensive, but corked, wine.

One conclusion we cannot fail to draw from the United States election results is just how out of touch liberal media, many political analysts and pollsters are with the true mood of the public.

Perhaps it is fitting, then, that one of the most hard-hitting responses to Trump’s victory came from a woman on Twitter.

“The message America is sending is that literally anyone is better than a woman,” she wrote. “Literally anyone. No experience needed, even racists welcome.”

It is now obligatory to say that Hillary Clinton was not a perfect candidate. Has there ever been a candidate who was? Much of the virulent critique of Clinton, including from the left, has been radically out of proportion to the scale of her purported offences.

The supposed email scandal, which the FBI has pursued with the vigour of Shaun Abrahams on an amphetamine binge, is particularly bewildering. Clinton used a private email account. So did previous secretary of state Colin Powell, who gave Clinton advice on how to manage her electronic correspondence.

Hours of FBI interviews with Clinton and State Department employees paint a picture of a technologically unsavvy diplomat in a shockingly archaic bureaucratic system. No evidence whatsoever has been found of wrongdoing or an intentional desire to conceal her actions.

But what use are facts in a post-truth society? More than 60% of Donald Trump’s public utterances were found to be false. Lies. Yet of the two candidates, it was Clinton who was repeatedly described in polls as “untrustworthy”.

To repeat: a man who literally lied to US citizens hundreds of times during the course of his campaign was ultimately judged as more trustworthy than his female rival.

A man without a day of public service in his life was considered more capable of running the US than a woman with four decades of consistent hard graft for her country.

A candidate who has revealed himself to be glaringly ignorant of the most basic realities of the global geopolitical situation has been selected ahead of a stateswoman with thousands of hours of experience in international relations.

There are those who will say this election was all about race, or rather racism. We must highlight the fact that most white voters — whether male or female — chose the avowedly bigoted Trump.

But make no mistake: this is also about gender. “Women voted for Trump!” some cry in response. Here’s the ball ache about patriarchy, though. It doesn’t only make men think that males are intrinsically more competent as leaders. It makes women think that way, too.

“She’s just so unlikeable.” It’s the refrain we’ve heard since Clinton first entered the public eye as first lady. Even now, I see analysts crediting her electoral loss to her unlikeability. A woman who conducted herself throughout her campaign with dignity and maturity, never stooping to Trump’s personal level of hateful insults, comes out as the one we like less than that the other candidate.

Trump’s views on women are well-known, as are his actions towards them. The truly terrifying thing to face up to now is that the US public knew all about that — and still preferred him to the woman.

They heard him say in his own words that he likes to grab women by the pussy. They knew that more than 10 women have accused him of sexual assault. They may have read about him publicly letching over a prepubescent girl. And they went ahead and made him president.

We do not have to imagine the things that Trump supporters say about women behind closed doors. The emergence of a candidate who shares their views has emboldened them to express their prejudice openly.

Life’s a bitch, don’t vote for one! Hillary sucks, Trump that bitch. Trump vs Tramp. If Hillary won, she’d sit at the same desk that Monica sat under. I wish Hillary had married OJ. She’s a c*nt, vote for Trump. Hillary couldn’t satisfy her husband, she can’t satisfy us.

These are just some of the slogans worn or carried by Trump’s fan base to his rallies. “Lock her up!” chanted crowds at Trump’s victory rally, like Salem villagers baying for witch blood. These are the ideas that have now been given the most powerful stamp of endorsement on Earth. Already visible on social media is the gloating of sexist men who feel newly empowered in their misogyny.

As for what Trump’s presidency will actually mean for women in the long term: it’s too soon to tell.

He controls the House, the Senate and probably soon the Supreme Court. His vice-president, Mike Pence, has vowed to repeal abortion legislation.

But one message is clear and echoing around the globe: women, sit down and shut up. 

Rebecca Davis

Rebecca Davis

Rebecca Davis has a master’s in English literature from Rhodes and a master’s in linguistics from Oxford University, UK. After a stint at the Oxford English Dictionary, she returned to South Africa, where she has been writing stories and columns for various publications, including the M&G. Her first book, Best White (And Other Anxious Delusions), came out in 2015. Read more from Rebecca Davis

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