(Not so) Covertly about the US Elections, Throwback to 1916


(photo credit: BBC Collage)

It is 1916. You wake up, make some coffee, and grab a newspaper to read whilst you let the caffeine contaminate your blood. You are reading The Washington Times and on page 8 you stumble upon an article titled “’No danger of Having Women Presidents’, Affirms Woman Campaigner in Politics”. You are intrigued and decide to start reading. What was the main message? You do not need to worry, the idea of “a disgusting loud-voiced woman, in trousers, with her hair cut short, sitting in the seat of the Chief Executive at the White House will never be realized”.

Fast-forward to 2016 and it is common for women to wear trousers, have loud voices and use them, have their hair cut short and even run for the office of president. Admittedly, running for the office is still the least common of all the factors described in the ‘horrible image’. It is clear that in 2016, the situation for women has vastly improved and one can easily conclude that a lot has changed, for the better.

However, a lot has remained the same. One century later, there are people who still cannot imagine having a female president so they chastise them with inappropriate, degrading and overly expressive statements. This is the case even if they are more qualified than their male opponent. And oftentimes, it is the other candidate making these statements. His rhetoric was full of sexism, full of interruptions, full of hinting that she had no idea what she was talking about. It was full of not listening and completely lacked any signs of respect. Not because she represents the opposite side of the political spectrum but largely because she was a woman. A woman who wears trousers, has her hair cut short and has a loud voice which she is not afraid to use.

Why does this matter though?  So what he is disrespectful? We live in a free world and according to the ‘free speech’ principle he should be allowed to say whatever he feels like saying. I agree. But it is crucial to point out the (huge and tremendous) implications of these 1916-like attitudes and behaviours.

First of all, the campaign did not allow for topics concerning women, such as equal political representation of women, the gender pay gap, planned parenthood, to be discussed. Topics she could potentially be a champion of and which are of great need of discussion. Instead, she was left to defend herself and: “In an election that could have…advance[d] the national conversation around feminist causes, women have been forced to spend much of their energy contending with Donald Trump. The effect of the Republican nominee’s misogyny has been to put feminists, not to mention Clinton herself, in the position of playing defense rather than offense”. In reality, the campaign was a wasted opportunity. The societal debate during the presidential campaign should not have focused on arguing why ‘locker room talk’ is not OK, why his statements are in fact sexist and how some of them pushed the boundaries of verbal sexual assault. Rather, they should have focused on real life problems of women and men that need solutions, as soon as possible.

Secondly, a female president would serve as a role model to girls and women and would inevitably encourage a larger number of females to run for political offices, even the highest ones. In their 2006 study, David Campbell and Christina Wolbrecht found that: “where female candidates are visible due to viable campaigns for high-profile offices girls report increased anticipated political involvement”[1] (233).

However, the issue is not just not having a female president. It is also having him specifically sit in the highest executive chair. Nadezhda Shvedova found that the masculine model of politics, which he is the perfect embodiment of, presents an obstacle to females entering politics and might discourage them to get involved [2]. His statements and actions which I would not be surprised to read about in that 1916 edition of The Washington Times, take us back in time. It is difficult to not start believing that a more qualified candidate with a more professional rhetoric, or dare I say a woman, would not be elected.

And so one whole century later, there are reasons to believe that we still do not need to worry about having a trousers-wearing female president. Let’s hope this time it will not last for another hundred years.


[1] Campbell, D. E., and Wolbrecht, C. (2006). See Jane Run: Women politicians as role models for adolescents. Journal of Politics, 68 (2), pp. 233-247

[2] Shvedova, N. (2005). Obstacles to Women’s Participation in Parliament. In: J. Ballington and A. Karam, ed., Women in Parliament: Beyond Numbers. International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), pp. 33-50

Cohen, C. (2017). Donald Trump sexism tracker: Every offensive comment in one place. The Telegraph. Available at: goo.gl/1S1odw

Gray, E. (2016). Donald Trump Couldn’t Stop Interrupting Hillary Clinton On Debate Night. The Huffington Post. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-couldnt-stop-interrupting-hillary-clinton-on-debate-night_us_57e9ca11e4b024a52d2a0e26

Johnson, J. (2015). Donald Trump says Clinton’s bathroom break during the debate is ‘too disgusting’ to talk about. The Washington Post. Available at: goo.gl/FovyUG

Todd, S. (2016). Donald Trump has stolen feminism’s big moment. Quartz. Available at: goo.gl/BKQ9c7

Yoder, E. F. (1916). ‘No Danger of Having Women Presidents’, Affirms Woman Campaigner.’The Washington Times. Available at: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026749/1916-09-07/ed-1/seq-8.pdf



About School of Politics and International Relations

This blog has been set up for the students of PO665, Advanced Topics in Politics and International Relations: Global Gender Justice, which is a course for final year Honours students in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent. As part of their participation in the course, students submit blog posts that examine issues pertaining to gender justice within the family, the community, the state and global society. We aim to explore the extent to which gender inequality within the state has an impact on state behaviour, with a specific focus on state development and state security, and further aim to analyse the effectiveness and limits of international organisations, international human rights instruments, NGOs and activists to bring about greater gender justice.
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