We have seen our fair share of bad takes this election cycle—we’ve seen the personal essay (ie. “Why the Feminist Vote Is a Vote for Jeb”), the unexpected turn (ie. “You Might Think Hillary Is a Woman—Here’s Why She Isn’t”), the outrage-bait garbage (ie. “A Liberal Case for Donald Trump”) (that one’s real).
Late Wednesday evening, the Washington Post published something new. Written as advice to the Clinton campaign, the article, entitled “Hillary Clinton is walking into Donald Trump’s trap,” instructed the female candidate to stop making such a big deal of her gender. It was emasculating, the article argued—someone openly female could never win a national election.
The main problem Clinton faces now, argued Danielle Allen, a female political theorist at Harvard University and a contributing columnist at the paper, is Trump’s crusade to turn Clinton into the “women’s candidate.” If he succeeds, Allen argues, Clinton will lose.
“Let’s be honest. Polling shows that Trump has a problem with women, but it also shows that Clinton has a problem with men,” she said, linking to an article about exit polls in the Acela primary (primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island) which didn’t have data for Delaware or Rhode Island and found simply that more Democratic women voted in the remaining three states, and that more women voted for Hillary than did men. Why that constitutes a “problem with men” in itself is unclear.
Consider her slogan, “Fighting for us.” For many men, this slogan would have to be experienced as emasculating. A woman fighting for them? Rightly or wrongly, the slogan rubs the wrong way in relation to traditional notions of masculinity. Her slogan itself reveals a limited conception of who she seeks to represent. This is a potentially fatal flaw in Clinton’s campaign. The more that Clinton takes Trump’s bait around the issue of his denigration of women, the more powerfully this flaw in her own campaign will show itself.
Clinton needs to fix this problem, and fast. And she needs to avoid taking Trump’s bait.
What is this hot garbage?
If I am understanding correctly through these stress flashes, Allen decried a completely neutral campaign slogan because some men might not like the idea of a woman fighting on their behalf. Let’s say that were true—it surely is for many bro-mericans. If so, the problem is not specifically with the slogan; it’s with her entire candidacy. Women, according to these men, should not be running for president. Women should not be fighting for men!
To both cater to and counter these apparently legitimate gripes that men have with Clinton’s candidacy, Allen suggested that she refrain from responding to Trump’s gender-based attacks (“she should meet his insults with a cheery silence, or a lighthearted deflectionary joke” because it is utterly unattractive for women to stand up for themselves), and she needs to make her campaign more like Trump’s with “weekly messages” and a campaign slogan more like his.
Rather than simply fighting for women and children, Clinton needs to fight Trump for the votes of men. His slogan is, “Make America Great Again.” Hers should be, “Make America Fair Again.”
Can we be great without being fair? No we cannot.
Do women want fairness? Yes. Do men want fairness? Yes. Do African American, Latino and Muslim Americans want fairness? Yes. Do white Americans want fairness? Yes. Do religious Americans want fairness? Yes. Do gay, lesbian and transgender Americans want fairness? Yes.
Is Trump ready to be fair? No. He’s a dirty fighter. That tells us all we need to know.
As an aside, Clinton already tried a turn on “Make America Great Again,” with “Make America Whole Again,” which Allen fails to mention. It was a lame pandering slogan and the campaign, rightfully, dropped it.
But let’s get back to Allen instructing the Clinton campaign to pay more attention to the male vote.
The very crux of Allen’s asinine argument is that Clinton is too ostentatiously female, and that very female-ness is what will lose her the race. And the only solution, according to her, is to take on some 1950s inoffensive feminine platform? Sure it is, if we have decided that the quietly woman-hating dude in a shed is America’s most important base.
Here’s my advice to the Clinton campaign: Go out onto that general election debate stage tits out and free-bleeding (probably not a thing for you anymore), and fucking win the election on the back of the woman’s vote. There are enough of us.
Image via Getty.