Gender Politics and the US Presidential Debate

Clinton is the first woman so close to presidency, and given that it is against Trump, this heightens the issue of identity politics regarding gender.

Tara Khandelwal
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US presidential debate


Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri’s sardonic tweet on the Hillary Clinton- Donald Trump Presidential debate went viral because it conveyed so succinctly the gender dynamic that so many expected to see. Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump, ‘naturally’ more aggressive and louder would be ‘mansplaining’ away.

Indeed, according to Vox Media, Donald Trump interrupted the Democratic Presidential nominee 51 times, whereas Clinton only interrupted him  17 times in the presidential debate last night. And that's really the norm when it comes to the gender dynamic -- Studies have shown that women tend to interrupt men less, and are less heard in places of work.

As expected, Trump supporters, (his popularity will never stop surprising me) obviously commented on Clinton’s looks and manners.

Also read: From Hilary Clinton: 6 quotable quotes

Check out these tweets that got hundreds of likes and retweets:



Fox News’ Brit Hume said that Hillary Clinton’s face was ‘not necessarily attractive.’

But even though, Clinton was quieter (and so many people think being loud equates to effectiveness) and interrupted Trump less, polls show she won the debate.

A New York Times headline says that she started out ‘hesitant’, but ended up ‘scorching.’

And though its ironic that despite the fact that a woman is finally so close to becoming the U.S President, issues of gender identity are still so much a part of the rhetoric, it is actually Donald Trump who is making gender and identity politics even more of a relevant issue.


Also read: ‘Human rights are women’s rights’: 8 quotes on women by Hillary Clinton

He is the one who in this debate, and in his campaign, has attacked Clinton’s demeanor, stamina and manner, and opened the gate for her and millions of her followers to take up the conversation. He has said that Clinton does not have the 'presidential look,' to which she replied that the remark comes from a man who has called women 'pigs, slobs and dogs.'

In fact, today, on her Twitter account, Clinton's team shared this video  featuring a former Miss Universe who Trump had called 'Miss Piggy' and 'Miss Housekeeping' back in the day.

On the night that Clinton won Pennsylvania and three other states, Trump conveniently said that the only thing she had going for her was her woman’s card. He said if she were a man she wouldn’t have won even 5 percent of the vote, reported the New York Times.

Also read: 5 Reasons why Hillary Clinton’s nomination is a big deal


Identity politics do not go down well if they are big part of a political campaign, and Clinton has towed that line well, balancing stereotypes cast against her, standing up to Trump’s inane comments, doing her research, and pushing her policy agenda.

Clinton is the first woman so close to the US Presidency, and so the gender dynamic will be something of keen interest to many. Maybe in the next election, if there is a woman debating against a male candidate, and hopefully that candidate, unlike Trump, is somewhat reasonable, the candidates' genders will not be such a hot topic of discussion.

Views expressed are personal. 

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