On Thursday at 4 p.m., a ten-yard stretch outside of Trump Tower in Manhattan felt like the stands of a high school football game, if the stakes were much higher, the stands were metal barricades, the coaches were police, and one team’s fans chanted “Lock-her-up!”
I was curious to see who would respond to the mysteriously under-advertised graphic posted Wednesday on the Facebook page for “Women for Trump New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut,” faction operating under the larger “Women For Trump” coalition. When I arrived, I found 50 or so women, many between ages 50 and 70 and identifying as working or retired suburban mothers, holding purple “Women for Trump” signs. Many of them hadn’t heard of Wednesday’s anti-Trump “Pussy Power” protests; they’d just come to show that moms and women outside the city have political opinions too.
All at once, everybody lost their minds; Donald Trump had arrived, and we knew it from a swarm of SWAT guys and police officers clearing a corridor to the entrance of Trump Tower. His presence was genial and larger-than-life—he pumped his fist, waved, and before we knew it, he had disappeared into his property. The crowd stood in place for minutes after, cheering in the hopes that he might come back to the sidewalk for an encore. But he never did, so people broke for cigarettes and TV interviews.
“We’re here to support our guy,” said Bette, 57, a blonde Long Island Air Force veteran wearing a navy t-shirt, tortoise shell sunglasses and holding a handmade sign: “I AM IN A PURRR-FECT MOOD TO VOTE FOR TRUMP. MEOW!”
She tossed her cigarette and I asked her why “Women for Trump” specifically, rather than “People for Trump.” “He’s under attack by all these frickin’ feminazis,” she said. “These women who are all over the media don’t represent us; I know plenty of supporters in suburbia who are married, single, mothers, gay women.” She added that suburban women are invisible, partly because they’re working, and the problems are the same everywhere– the kids still live at home, their friends work three jobs, and the vets are stranded. (Bette inserts a story about a 70-year-old man in Northport who committed suicide after he couldn’t get care at the VA. “Yup,” she said. “Blew his brains out in the parking lot.”)
Anyway, all this about “guy talk” is overblown, Bette continued. “My sister is the biggest prude in the world, and you know what she said? He’s a frickin’ man, who cares? All men talk like that. At least for us, outside the city.”
That was the consensus among the women I spoke with—he’s a guy, like any other. “In my day, we would call it ‘putting the moves’ on you,” said Susan Gurney, 61, a former CUNY Hunter mathematics professor who paired the iconic red baseball cap with a tweed jacket and pencil skirt. (She tells me she knows she doesn’t fit the “profile” the media paints of the uneducated Trump supporter.)
“I don’t believe this story about the woman on the plane,” she said, referring to the Jessica Leeds’s accusation the Trump kissed and groped her for 15 minutes on a first class flight (which has devolved into a nit-picky debate about whether a 1979 airplane armrests would have made groping physically possible).
“To be kissed for 15 minutes is not a terrifying situation—you can press the button for a flight attendant or say ‘I don’t feel like kissing you,’ and he’ll stop. 15 minutes is a long time to be kissed and not say anything.” She looked at her watch. “See? One, two, three...”
Gurney, who holds masters degrees in mathematics and epidemiology, believes, though, that it comes down to the candidates’ brain function. “Women have a tough time getting hired over 55 because of cognitive decline,” she suggested.
But Trump is the same age as Clinton, I note.
“Yes, but if you watch Trump, he hasn’t changed; if you look at his speech rhythm and cadence... I think if they both took a cognitive function test, he would pass and she would not.” She asked for my name again, which I’d only mentioned quickly about five minutes earlier over a “Lock-her-up” chant. “I forgot your name,” she said. “See what I mean about cognitive function?” She smiled.
Another round of “Lock-her-up!” started again, but this time with a little less muster after the high of seeing the man himself.
Hecklers heckled and snapped photos; a small skirmish broke out between Bette and a biker with pink hair—I couldn’t hear their argument because of a woman standing on a planter and screaming “Trump will save your life!” at no one in particular.
Around 5:30 I heard an attendee ask her friend, “Wanna get outta here?” The rally was supposed to last until seven, but it was getting dark, and we were tired; the news guys had packed up, and people had a long ride home.
On her way out of the barricades, I caught Zulma, who’d been holding a “Latina for Trump” sign and stopped to give me a quick spiel on immigration. “Women are the ones affected by open borders,” she said. “Last year 70,000 women were assaulted by illegal immigrants. I have two daughters, and I’ll be damned if that happens to them,” she said. “That good?” She marched off.
Barbara, a black minister from Harlem, believes that Obama and Clinton are “godless” in their stances on marriage equality and abortion, and she’s tired of the “same Democratic games.” “If [Trump] hated women so much, how could he be married three times?” she asked. “The Democrats who are accusing him are probably the same ones shacking up around the corner. And watching pornography!”
All of this media bickering is tiring to Barbara and everybody else who feels that the locker room talk is a diversion tactic.
“Women are tired of being lumped into one group,” said Madeline Deluca, a 67-year-old retiree from Staten Island. “All women [against Trump] who read Fifty Shades of Gray, who listen to rap music, Hollywood stars who sexualize themselves in movies—they’re hypocrites.”
Deluca’s 13-year-old granddaughter was there, too. “We’re trying to show her she can think for herself.”
Whitney Kimball is a freelance writer covering fringe politics and culture from New York City.