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Oles on the Election

Women in the 2016 Electoral Campaign: Bad Practices, Oppression, and Inadequacy of the Discourses Presented

By Guillermo Gorrin Castellano October 9, 2016

Originally published on the Star Tribune Blog.

It is no secret that the sphere of information that we know as the media–be it social media, news outlets, or any other comprehensive source–was bombarded in the last two weeks with the outrageous, offensive, and misogynist discourse exhibited by Mr. Trump. My intention here is to provide you, the reader with a set of considerations that hopefully will motivate you to think carefully; why is it that this campaign has been a terrible stage to address women issues and the inherent oppression that emerges from certain implicit and explicit practices.

Let us begin by mentioning Venezuelan Miss Universe, Alicia Machado. Reminiscing last week’s article, we now understand why candidates appeal to negativity when campaigning: to have a better informed public. Given the Machado ad, we now know new information regarding Mr. Trump’s micromanagement and interpersonal skills when it comes to one of his flagship brands: Miss Universe. The substance of the matter here is not only what was expressed by Ms. Machado in the ad, but the response that followed from Mr. Trump’s corner. I was born in Venezuela; Ms. Machado is not a stranger to me. The fact that Mr. Trump appealed to her past, shows a deeply-embedded ignorance when it comes to understanding the oppressive nature of our society towards women. Mr. Trump seems alien to the conception that his pageant promotes an environment in which beauty standards and other oppressive mechanisms prevent women from strengthening their self-esteem in all corners of the world. Ms. Machado, is but a victim of a society–the Venezuelan society that is–that prioritizes getting plastic surgery above getting a college degree. Miss Universe is an institution that promotes this distorted worldview at an international level, and Mr. Trump is the one pulling the strings behind this disgusting circus. As a presidential candidate, no individual should resort to such dehumanizing response. It is concerning that amongst all the strategies that could have been pursued; including the most obvious, to apologize; he used the most misogynist one: to smear her sexuality.

Grab them by the *****. This quote will infamously be imprinted in the books of misogyny and oppressive behavior. What should surprise the public even more, is the fact that some voters see this incident under the dangerous assumption that boys will be boys. There is nothing honorable, accomplished or even gratifying about the things heard in that audio, thinking that men are naturally like this is part of the systematic problem that prevents future generations to depart from such absurd ideas. This is a serious problem. With the Machado incident, it appeared clear that Mr. Trump is misogynist and has never heard of intersectional theory. His racial and misogynist remarks display a concerning lack of understanding on how to provide alternatives and opportunities to the oppressed; who in this particular case is a Latino, immigrant woman. The audio however, gives us an extra piece of information that the public should carefully consider: Mr. Trump is a sexual assaulter. With the most callous attempt for neutrality, I must add that this is extremely worrisome, especially for someone that is running for the highest position in a nation. The abuses described in the audio are systematic in our society. The same things he says he does, are happening and going unpunished in America’s work environment, in high schools, in colleges, and in prison. A President cannot incur in the same faults that a nation is trying to correct.

The GOP reacts: Do not insult our white women. After the release of these pieces of information, the support from the GOP for Mr. Trump is crumbling. This seems as an appropriate response, given the seriousness of the matter. However, under intersectional theory, it is important to note that this response has been long overdue. Mr. Trump has run a campaign based on fear of the other. He has attacked immigrants, Muslims, women of color, his contender because she is a woman, etc. How is it that now, that the audio is released -involving the mention of white women- that the GOP reacts and despises his hateful discourse. This is but an example of the institutional crisis within the GOP. How can such an institution so highly demerit the importance of improving the inequalities present in our society when it comes to gender. Women empowerment should not be an ownership issue in the U.S. The ethnocentrism that is displayed by the party will not do them any justice if they seek to attract undecided voters like let’s say the naturalized Latino community, and it certainly will understandably cast aside the female vote. No woman should be the subject of a President that sees her existence as that of an object or mockery.

On the other side of the spectrum, Secretary Clinton’s campaign should consider to address some issues. Let us address the elephant in the room: Secretary Clinton is a woman, but that is not enough to address gender inequality and provide satisfactory solutions on the matter. We are not stranger to her origins. She has overcome many challenges imposed by the oppressive nature of the American society towards women. Nonetheless, she enjoys certain privileges that could potentially cloud her understanding of the struggles of the oppressed. In the same that hot sauce is not an adequate response when asked about her understanding of the Latino community; I’m a woman equates to them but in terms of women’s issues. I intermingle these two discourses, because there is a thick line that connects them. The struggle of a Latino, single-mother, working woman, are not the same as those of a middle-class, PhD, white woman. Secretary Clinton’s platform should seek to address these issues, from a position that is less paternalistic/maternalistic, and more tailored to the multidimensional nature of oppression.

Given the aforementioned commentary, I hope the readers can understand why this campaign displays some bad practices that inherently promote the continuation of a systematic, oppressive idiosyncrasy within the American society. The intention here is not to dissuade the voter, or to push for one candidate or the other. The idea is to provide facts and impressions so that voters can potentially evaluate all the available facts and make an informed decision. In a Democracy, the public has the duty to demand systematic change in societal behaviors that prevent the individual from accomplishing its goals while enjoying freedom and respecting that of others.

About the Author

Guillermo Gorrin is a St. Olaf senior from Caracas, Venezuela majoring in Political Science, Management and Latin American Studies.