Sophia Kaufman: The Nasty Woman Card

Monday, November 7, 2016 - 5:54pm

Hillary Clinton campaigns in Detroit at Wayne State University on Monday.

Hillary Clinton campaigns in Detroit at Wayne State University on Monday. Buy this photo
Zoey Holmstrom/Daily

 

By the time this column appears in print, people all across America will have begun casting their votes for the next President of the United States.

It feels like there’s no real point to writing more about this election; everything that can be said already has been said, at least until early, early Wednesday morning. All of America waits with bated breath.

We’ve all watched the trajectory of overabundant media coverage of Republican presidential nominee Trump’s campaign fiasco. There have been a stunning amount of Republicans who have withdrawn their support for Trump after more and more of his blatant disrespect towards women and minority communities surface, and an overabundance of celebrities and companies coming out to openly endorse Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, with the latest being Beyonce.

Though it may feel obvious that this election has been steeped in gender politics, the analysis that could have been devoted to dissecting them has been channeled into the ridiculousness of the Republican candidate’s entire campaign. It isn’t that we have not talked about gender playing a role in this election — it’s just that these conversations have always given way to other things due to the very nature of Trump’s attempts at politicking. If Clinton had been running against someone with actual experience, like Mitt Romney or Sen. John McCain (R-AL), to name those of recent memory, there would have been a lot more talk about gender politics as there would have been at least a baseline of professional politics on both sides. The presidential debates would have been substantive.

Because of this — how some of the attention that could have gone to dissecting the gender politics was redirected into discussions about how Trump is, frankly, an idiot — it seems that during discussions about whether Clinton has unfairly played the “woman card” throughout the election, the distinction has never been made between the two meanings of that phrase, and how Clinton’s campaign has capitalized on both of them.

Once Trump accused Clinton of playing the “woman card,” her team had a field day, because we are finally at a time when a significant portion of the country — though not a majority, by any means — understands that the “woman card” as Donald puts it, doesn’t really exist.

When Trump supporters talk about “the woman card” and criticize Hillary for using it, what they are complaining about is how Clinton has the ability, as a woman, to claim an added layer of authority over women’s issues that Trump, who claims that no one respects women more than he does, is unfairly barred from. The complaint over playing the woman card is that it is an unfair claim to sympathy over problems that aren’t really affecting women anymore.

Conversely, when Clinton and her supporters talk about the woman card, they have recognized the level of irony that the phrase operates on — because the reality is that the “woman card” is still “played” because those inequalities do, in fact, still exist for women. If playing the “woman card” means that she is going to be criticized for openly talking about these issues faced by women all across America, she has made it pretty clear that she’s going to play it every round. This is why she is selling a physical woman’s card on her website; this is why once Trump called her a “nasty woman,” her supporters immediately acted to reclaim it, trending the term on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. If you type in nastywomengetshitdone.com, you are redirected to her official website.

Clinton’s campaign was astutely aware of the social climate in that they did not just strive to convey that they are willing and able to work on what have typically been cast as “women’s issues.” They also conveyed that they understand the ironies surrounding today’s discussions of women’s issues as embodied through discussions of playing the “woman card,” and even came at it with a sense of humor.

Because her campaign has been so aware of these two meanings of the woman card throughout the entire campaign, it can actually be more difficult to analyze how gender politics are actually insidiously at work. A mere few months from now, it’ll be slightly easier.

Some people are thrilled at the thought of Hillary Clinton being the first woman president, and some people are only grudgingly casting their votes in her favor because they know she’s better than the alternative. But regardless of if/how she wins, she will have done something that two years ago, no one would have thought her capable of doing — injecting an element of humor in what, at times, feels to be a humorless situation by turning the use of the “woman card” on its head.