The feminist movement has been sent into a spin following the election of Donald “Grab her by the pussy” Trump in the US. While the consensus is that the election of Trump is a disaster for women, the debates around the would-be benefits of Hillary Clinton remain fierce.
Misogyny was a linchpin in this election. While some have argued that Trump’s victory was a cut and dried case of sexism vs women, the startling rise of #RapeMelania as a trending hashtag on Twitter among Hillary supporters shows it is not that simple.
What is simple is the outrageous fact of electing a man with a record as criminal and vulgar as Trump’s. It is not just Trump’s misogynistic rhetoric about women’s bodies, women’s periods and women’s “temperaments” that makes him an unfit candidate, but also the accusations of acting on his ideas.
The president-elect remains accused of raping a 13-year-old girl in 1994, and the lawsuit includes affidavits from two witnesses. The victim claimed Trump raped her repeatedly at notoriously sleazy parties thrown by since-convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. In 2008, Epstein was convicted of soliciting an underage girl for prostitution and served only 13 months of an 18-year sentence.
Trump had spoken glowingly of Epstein at the time the rape was alleged to have taken place.
He told media, “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it ― Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”
In her divorce deposition, Trump’s ex-wife Ivana described an incident when Trump had ripped a handful of his wife’s hair and then raped her in a fit of rage in 1990.
In 1997, a business associate, Jill Harth, accused Trump of sexually assaulting her after pulling her into one of his children’s bedrooms in 1992.
The dismissal of multiple rape allegations in a presidential race should be unthinkable, particularly when, in the US, nearly one in four women on campuses is sexually assaulted before graduation. Among female sexual assault victims, only 12.5% of rapes and 4.3% of sexual assaults are reported.
Since Trump’s election, reports have rolled out of college students chanting “Grab ‘em by the pussy”, and even reports of women being grabbed on the crotch by strangers.
The crisis of sexual assault on campus, in the US and Australia, should put a warning label on anyone with a record of disregard for women’s safety and bodily autonomy.
Trump’s regressive anti-choice position on abortion is a ticking time bomb for women across America, which may mean it’s time to dust off the pins of coat hangers and the words “never again”.
Trump’s recent threats to essentially repeal Roe vs. Wade — the landmark case which enshrined women’s right to choose in the US — by appointing Supreme Court judges who share his position, pose an imminent danger to reproductive rights.
Hillary: A feminist icon?
After the election, actress Lena Dunham took to her blog with a piece entitled “Hillary Clinton is more than a president” and subtitled “She is an idea, a world-historical heroine, light itself”.
In it Dunham writes: “Hillary Clinton did everything right in this campaign, and she won more votes than her opponent did. She won. She cannot be faulted, criticized, or analyzed for even one more second. Instead, she will be decorated as an epochal heroine far too extraordinary to be contained by the mere White House.”
Dunham is not alone in her unconditional glorification of Clinton. Many other liberal feminists have argued that Clinton’s loss is a loss for feminism. But what kind of feminist icon is Hillary Clinton?
Clinton was endorsed by former secretary of state Madeline Albright who said at one Clinton rally: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”
Of course, Albright was also the woman who, when asked about the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children who died during the US sanctions which she supported, said that “the price is worth it”.
Clearly, this unconditional female solidarity does not extend to the Iraqi women and girls whose blood still drips from Albright’s hands.
Clinton falls in this same vein of fair-weathered rhetorical corporate feminism. We know that her womanhood would not have been celebrated by those women and girls in the Middle East she would have droned from the comfort of the White House, as she toasted to smashing the glass ceiling.
Million Women March
The glimmer of hope in this bleak landscape confronting working women across the US with a renewed culture of mainstream misogyny, gendered violence, and a loss of control of their own bodies, is the “Million Women March on Washington” called for the day of Trump’s inauguration.
The protest borrows from the history of the 1963 March on Washington — the historic civil rights rally on the Mall in which Martin Luther King Jr delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech — and the 1997 Million Woman March in Philadelphia, which involved thousands of African American women.
The march is billed as an inclusive event. The organisers wrote: “In the spirit of democracy and honouring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights.”
Working women will need to mount a campaign against an aggravated misogynist agenda over the next four years, and ultimately take down Trump and what he stands for. They are the real feminist icons, not a grinning, feminine face on imperialism.
The take-home tragedy of the US elections is not that a woman lost, it is that a misogynist won.