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Gender Roles in the 2016 Presidential Election

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Stony Brook chapter.

This 2016 presidential election is like no other. The two candidates are almost polar opposites, with a liberal woman on the left and a conservative man on the right. As the two campaigns race to the White House, the underlying sexism embedded within our country shows itself time and time again. The sexism in our nation puts Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton at an unfair disadvantage.           

Being in the political light for the majority of her professional life, Hillary has been facing these kinds of issues for decades, however it recently got worse. The gender discriminating comments spiked back in 2007, when Clinton was running against then presidential candidate Barack Obama. Back in 2008 on the O’Reilly Factor, O’Reilly asked his guest Marc Rudov “What is the downside of having a woman become the president of the United States?” to which he responded “You mean besides the PMS and the mood swings, right?” The fact that that question was even asked was extremely misogynistic! Who said there has to be any downsides with a female president? That’s an unfair question to ask, because no one is asking what the downside to having a male president is (or has been).

When Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump is yelling at the crowd, the audience cheers in praise of the righteous anger of the powerful male politician. Yet when Hillary speaks in the same tone with the same power, she is labeled with words like “shrill,” “screeching,” “nagging” and “hysterical”. In a 2008 ABC News article, Diana Owen said “But there is a line for a female candidate when it comes to speaking forcefully and appearing too ‘shrill.”” Clinton has explained that at a young age she had to learn how to control her emotions. This could be why people say she is “cold.” Okay, so she can’t be as passionate, powerful and assertive as her male competitors. Maybe Hillary should have a softer, more feminine approach. I mean, she is a woman after all, right?” Yet, after she choked up during a campaign event in New Hampshire among mainly women, the media labeled it as an “emotional episode.” Back in 2015, Rapper T.I said he could not vote for a woman to be president because they are too emotional.

When Hillary displays her feminine side, she is seen as weak. Several times Donald Trump along with the media has questioned her strength and stamina. The recent issues regarding her health have given critics more ammunition for their attacks. At a recent rally in Ohio, Trump said to the crowd “I don’t know, folks, you think Hillary would be able to stand up here for an hour and do this? I don’t know. I don’t think so.” The question of whether she is too old or not to be President remains persistent. However, it makes absolutely no sense to question her presidential ability based on age if Trump is not going to be equally scrutinized, considering the fact that he is 2 years older than she is. The age game is unfair, because society sees older men as powerful and strong, with years of experience under their belts. The same does not go for women, who seem to lose their authority and influence as they get older for one simple reason: They lose their looks.

The age old belief that women are to be seen and not heard still remains ingrained within our culture. More times than not, when a woman loses her looks, men are less likely to pay her any attention or take her seriously. According to a Fox News graphic, Hillary “reminds men of their nagging wives” which is why they wouldn’t vote for her. At the end of the day, the sexist attacks on Hillary are because of her ambition to obtain a job historically occupied by men. How dare she!? Critics continue to question if she is fit to be President due to her gender in coded questions like wondering how this would affect her commitment to family (as if she would be the first president with kids). Her choice of clothing is continuously questioned. I didn’t know there was a fashion standard to become president, but I guess the rules are different for women.

Hillary Clinton has many barriers she must break through and obstacles she must overcome. The sexist comments and ideas thrown towards her just show that there isn’t much for people to scrutinize her on. Turning to sexism helps distract voters from the fact that she is more qualified than her male competitor for the job. We live in a man’s world, so the chance for a woman to have the job with the most power in the country is scary to these misogynists.

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Dara Smith

Stony Brook

As journalism major with a digital arts minor, Dara Smith is a writer for Stony Brook's chapter of HerCampus. She has also written for a Stony Brook University newspaper, The Statesmen. When she's not around campus reporting, she's on the track jumping over hurdles with Stony Brook University's Women's Track team.
Her Campus Stony Brook Founder and Campus Correspondent Stony Brook University Senior Minnesotan turned New Yorker English Major, Journalism Minor