Op-Ed: Afraid of a strong woman

Sunday, October 9, 2016 - 4:06pm

What is he wearing? Oh my god, look at his hair. Why is he so shrill? I mean, there’s a way to get your point across without yelling at your opponent. Just imagine him in office. He’d probably have a testosterone surge and end up releasing nukes or something.

This is language that we have never heard and will never hear about men running for political office — especially in the presidential race. Critiques and criticisms thrown at male candidates surround their stances rather than the sound of their voice, their platforms as opposed to their poise. This, however, has never been the case for Hillary Clinton; in fact, the opposite has proven to be true.

Shrieking. Shrill. Aging. Grandma. Unrelaxed. Unlikable. Nagging. Hellish housewife. Woman card. Totally flawed. Doesn’t even look presidential. No strength. No stamina. Stereotypical bitch. 

These are the insults that Hillary Clinton has been receiving not only for the duration of her campaign, but for the entirety of her decade-long career. These attacks can be deemed as deeply personal, as they target the ways in which she carries herself (how she dresses, sounds and acts) instead of the ways in which she stands on the most important social and political issues of our time.

However, I have come to understand these criticisms for what many others interpret them to be, too: a collection of statements spewed out from across the aisle because Hillary Clinton is a woman. Or, in other words, a collection of statements that amount to nothing short of blatant, undeniable sexism.

Seeing the political climate unfold and develop over the last several months, watching Donald Trump’s disrespectful and offensive performance at the first presidential debate, and thinking about all of this now, one thing remains hopelessly clear to me: Donald Trump, his supporters and the rest of the right-wing rhetoric-spitters are afraid of powerful women.

All this country has ever known is to silence all voices besides those of wealthy white men, maintaining the patriarchal system of inequality and oppression. This silencing of voices is the central premise of the patriarchy as we know it to exist — the premise that our institutions were once built on and continue to thrive upon. Because of this, one could argue that there is no one who poses a greater threat to those grounds than Hillary Clinton herself, a woman whose policies bring a variety of perspectives to an otherwise exclusive table, whose feminism defies the oppression that our country is all too familiar with. Her voice, strength and persistence actively cause irreparable damage to the very pillars on which our country’s system of dominance stands —which is something that terrifies the oppressive perpetrators of this system down to the core.

However, the truth of the matter is that Hillary Clinton is not the only strong woman who possesses this power, whose very existence has these frightened rhetoric-spitters defending their dominance with every offensive insult and criticism in the book. The political world is filled with countless other women of equal strength and power — women like Elizabeth Warren and Michelle Obama, Dolores Huerta and Nina Turner — all fighting alongside one another with immense courage to dismantle outdated policies that reek of hatred and oppression. Their presence in the media, their feminist policies and the following that these women and many more have generated over the course of their careers have shaken up our patriarchal society permanently. And, with every speech, tweet and decision they make, these women continue to do so each and every day.

I believe it is imperative that we call the rhetoric in this election out for what it really is: sexist, pathetic and, like many of Donald Trump and other conservatives’ policies, primarily driven by fear. The grasp on power that all too many wealthy white men have held for far too long is only growing weaker. I can sense this happening whenever another strong woman stands up and speaks out against injustice and oppression, whenever another strong man stands up and pledges his support for all of our strong women and whenever Hillary Clinton stands up and inspires the next generation of empowered women and men to do the same.

Emily Zonder is an LSA sophomore.