At the tail end of the presidential debate, Trump felt attacked by Clinton’s campaign ads and told her “it’s not nice and I don’t deserve that.”
The first 2016 presidential debate on Monday was Lesson 101 in hate-watching our current political situation. Enough has been said on who won (Clinton), the high and low points, and where Lester Holt disappeared to, but I’m focusing on one overlooked comment in particular.
Near the end of the 90 minute debate Lester Holt asked Trump, “Earlier this month you said that she doesn’t have ‘a presidential look.’ She’s standing here, right now. What did you mean by that?” Trump followed by denying that he ever said that (he did) and tried to insist he meant her “stamina.” Focusing on Clinton’s stamina and her inability to negotiate with foreign powers, all Trump really did was stumble around trying to deny his sexism.
Sick burn on Clinton’s part in response:
“As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee he can talk to me about stamina.”
I want to focus on one of Trump’s pitiful temper tantrums in the last few minutes of the AP video, which starts at the 1:50 mark. He complains about Clinton’s campaign ads for their negativity (view them all here), goes on a strange side track about Rosie O-Donnel, praises himself for not insulting the Clinton family, then circles back to the ads. He says they’re too expensive, untrue, and (my favorite) “not nice.” He goes on insisting he doesn’t deserve that and the ads aren’t working anyways.
Not nice. One of two candidates running to be the next President of the United States is complaining about the other not being nice. Campaign ads are as old as campaigns, and none were ever “nice.” The original founding fathers tore each other a part in the press, in speeches, and more recently in the greatest musical of this decade. The US presidential campaigns have never been perfect, and with half of our options this year being an outright bigoted, racist, mysoginist, I don’t know anyone who could expect the election of 2016 to even be civil.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, for all her faults (there are many) and fuck ups, is running for president and now is not the time to be nice. Nominees can be civil, respectful, mature adults to each other. They can run attack ads and tweet awful things. (Maybe lay off the pandering, HRC.) But there is no obligation to be “nice.” Especially when you, the opponent one elcetion day away from the White House, have run on a platform calling her crooked and calling to “lock her up.” You don’t get to call out your competitor for being mean just because she’s better than you.
Childish and cowardice aside, my real issue with Clinton not being “nice” enough for Trump is his underlying meaning: She’s not backing down. She’s not doing as I say when I tell her to go back into her place. Berating Clinton for not being nice is continuing the subversive sexism in our culture like street harassment, sexual harassment, slut shaming, and the insistence that women smile.
Last week, the New York Times ran an op-ed “Hillary Clinton’s ‘Angry’ Face” detailing the results of a study that looked at the ways people perceive men and women’s facial expressions. The author, Lisa Feldman Barrett, found that people were more likely to assume a woman’s expression resulted from her emotions while a man’s resulted from the situation. “Or as we summarized our discovery: “She’s a bitch, but he’s just having a bad day.” These presumptions carry over daily to women everywhere, another reason why beig told to look happy or smile is a sublte form of sexism. The Guardian ran a column by Jessica Valenti detailing the subversive meaning behind being told to smile.
“Of all the things women hear from men — whether street harassers or pundits — there is special disdain for “smile” because of its particular condescension, and the tired trope that women should be forever chipper even as they’re walking down the street or, you know, running for president of the United States.” Jessica Valenti
Smiling, looking happy, being nice — it all tells women the same message that we should be well-behaved and do as told. Consciously or subconcisouly, overt or covert, that is what women are told everyday. We’re not allowed to be angry (espcially women of color). We’re not allowed to be mean (unless it’s catty, then that’s hot). And we’re certainly not allowed to run for the President of the United States — well, at least until now.