Donald Trump’s ugly sexism has always been inescapable, but since the public humiliation of losing that first debate it has blown up exponentially. His wounded ego has been obsessed with two things: punishing Hillary for beating him by bringing up Bill’s infidelity, and punishing Alicia Machado for damaging his reputation by any means necessary.
On Monday night, Trump “held back” from attacking Hillary Clinton with her husband’s affairs (while making sure we all knew he might). When she mentioned Alicia Machado, Trump immediately threatened “I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself, ‘I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. It’s inappropriate. It’s not nice.'” In the days since, his surrogates have openly pushed for him to smear her this way, and he teases the possibility at all his public appearances. The breathtaking sexism inherent in attacking Hillary for Bill’s infidelity seems to escape all of them. How, exactly, is that attack supposed to work? Leaving aside that WE ALL ALREADY KNOW THIS, what would he be alleging about Hillary? That she failed in her duty to satisfy Bill? That she is less of a woman because Bill cheated on her? That since women are the gatekeepers of virtue, either leading men astray, or keeping them on the narrow path of monogamy, Hillary wasn’t a strong enough virtuous influence and is responsible for Bill’s fall into sin? No, seriously, explain to me how the fact that Bill Clinton is lech and a philanderer makes Hillary look bad. Is it because she stayed with him, forgave him, stood by him – does that make her weak? Is it that she is human and wasn’t “supportive” of the women Bill cheated with – is this some crazy attempt to suggest her feminism is lacking because she isn’t perfect? There is literally no way to tar her with her husband’s past that isn’t inherently, inescapably sexist, but Trump cannot stop talking about how much he wants to do it.
Still, his threats to discredit his actual opponent pale beside his unhinged attacks on Alicia Machado. Machado’s allegations of sexism and racism were the strongest blow HRC landed in that debate; Trump wants to destroy her for hurting him. He has gone after her even more than he went after the Khan family for daring to criticize him. He first “defended” himself on Fox & Friends by noting that she had actually gained weight after winning the crown, completely missing the point that dehumanizing her, belittling her, and mocking her are not ever acceptable. Somehow, his entitlement and sexism let him think he had a right to humiliate her for not being hot enough for him. He honestly believes she deserved to be dehumanized because she gained weight.
And then, at 5 a.m. last night, Trump let lose the following flurry of tweets:
What stands out, of course, is the obvious slut-shaming of Machado (as far as anyone can tell, there is no sex tape, but that is beside the point). Alicia Machado is a sexual woman, and therefore “disgusting.” Trump’s pathological sexism goes even further: being a disgusting sexual woman means she deserved to be treated like dirt. Somehow, he thinks he can justify being abusive to her when she was 19 by implying that many many years later she maybe made a sex tape.* Of course, disgusting sexual women not only deserve to be demeaned and mocked (preemptively!), they are also not to be trusted – she conned Hillary into presenting her as an “angel,” and “a paragon of virtue.” And this is where we see just how deep his chauvinism goes. Hillary, of course, never said a WORD about Machado’s “virtue.” She never painted her as a saint. She only said that Trump treated Machado terribly. Trump imagined that Machado was being held up as the vestal virgin, because to Trump, no other type of woman could possibly be credible, could possibly deserve to be treated as human being, could possibly cast aspersions upon HIM.
This week really has been a master class on Old School Sexism. All the classics are here, ancient hoary principles that uphold the patriarchy – Women are to blame if men sin! Women are to blame if their marriages fail! But women who stay are weak! Women who weigh more than 117 pounds are pigs! Women who enjoy sex are disgusting! Women are liars! Women are either Angels or Whores! Women deserve to be treated like dirt! And above all, any woman who challenges a man – especially a woman who bests him – needs to be torn down. Trump shall (apparently literally) NEVER REST until she’s destroyed.
* I am NOT mentioning Melania’s past, other than to say that not seeing the hypocrisy there really does suggest he’s mentally ill.