Donald Trump fears that Monday’s debate will be unfair. He assumed that the moderator, Lester Holt, was a Democrat.
Trump was wrong about that. Holt has long been a registered Republican.
Trump is right, however, when he says the debate will be unjust.
The debate is rigged from the get-go.
Hillary Clinton doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being judged fairly by the millions expected to watch the debate.
National Public Radio did an excellent job of delineating why that is:
The bar for Donald Trump is relatively low — he just has to show he’s a plausible president, and not the outrageous, offensive character some voters see on the campaign trail. But she has to prove that she’s more honest, trustworthy and likable than most voters think.
In other words, voters grade Donald Trump on a curve, while setting unrealistically high expectations for Clinton. She’s in a damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t catch all.
The underlying cause of this is the patriarchal cultural in which all Americans have been raised up under, particularly so if you belong to the household of faith, any faith.
In other words, most all of us have grown up within a social system that decrees women as “less than” men. This “less than” mentality has led to some pretty ridiculous myths about women that persist in some form even today.
Hippocrates wasn’t the first to come up with the theory of a”wandering womb” – that a woman’s uterus has a mind and will of its own = but his writings helped popularize that myth. The notion that a woman could be “taken over by her wandering uterus” underscored, at least in the minds of the culture, that women cannot be trusted. Plato helped mainstream the belief that a wandering womb left a woman susceptible to bouts of hysteria, since the uterus could strike a woman anywhere at any time causing a multitude of reactions.
To simplify it, that wandering womb renders the woman “less than” because it leaves her physically and emotionally unstable.
So when Donald Trump railed at journalist Megyn Kelly “that there was blood coming from out of her eyes, out of her wherever”, he was evoking the long-held belief that a woman’s uterus renders her unstable, and thus, inferior to her male counterpart. In fact, Trump followed up his reference to Kelly’s uterus with the comment that “She was off-base, and not just in my opinion, but in the opinion of hundreds of thousands of people.”
Off-base is a code-word for unreliable, unstable.
Voters, beware, you just can’t trust a woman because who knows when that uterus of hers will rise up and cause a scene?
Educated women, in particular, are not to be trusted because their women parts are completely hacked. This is why for much of our nation’s history, women were denied an education. Dr. Edward H. Clarke, a former member of the Harvard Medical School faculty, published a book, Sex in Education, or a Fair Chance for Girls, in 1873 outlining the ways in which education is harmful to women. Clarke insisted women had smaller brains which left them incapable of handling the same level of mental stimulation as their male counterparts. Intense brain activity would likely cause a girl’s reproductive organs to fail, putting the entire human race at risk. The only way to avoid this surely dire end to civilization was to deny girls an education. Two hundred copies of Clarke’s book sold in one day in Ann Arbor, Michigan even though by the time the book was published, women had been attending the University of Michigan for three years. The book, ridiculous as it may seem to us now, was a bestseller. It’s conclusions proved to be a real danger to women for decades to come as the public wrestled with how much knowledge could a woman handle.
We may scoff at Dr. Clarke as just a silly, doddering old fool now, but when it comes to our patriarchal social structure, and our religious and political structures, we harbor a lingering sense that women just aren’t up to the task of leading the way men are. That’s why we hold women to a higher standard and grade men on the curve.
We just assume a male, no matter how dimwitted, can do the job blind with one arm tied behind his back, whereas, a woman, no matter how intelligent, has to prove herself capable. Reliable. Trustworthy.
Trustworthiness, the pollsters tell us, is Hillary’s biggest hurdle. People just don’t trust her. Even though the facts don’t support it, Clinton is widely perceived to be less trustworthy than Donald Trump, who lies blatantly and without compunction. PolitiFact evaluated 203 of Trump’s statements and 226 of Clinton’s. It found just fewer than a third of Clinton’s claims as “mostly false” but found 71 percent of everything Trump claims as false. Trump lies so much, so often that the New York Times took the unusual step of actually calling out Trump’s false statements for the lies they are.
Trustworthiness isn’t just a problem for Hillary Clinton. Women, in general, lack credibility, even with other women. Growing up in a system that teaches us, overtly and subtly, that men are the ultimate authority over women and children, the head chief as it were, renders us suspect of women, especially those who seek to be on equal footing with men.
That’s why you will hear people saying that one of the reasons they don’t trust Hillary is because she’s politically ambitious. Under our patriarchal system, we expect men to be ambitious, but when a woman is, all manner of ugliness is assigned to her character. Just hop over to Twitter or Facebook and take a look at the horrific things being said about Hillary. Whereas, all manner of grace is offered to Trump no matter his wrongdoing. There is always a defense of his ill-mannered ways, despite the fact that almost no one regards Trump with respect, or admiration, not even those voting for him.
No matter, Trump sees himself as the father of the tribe called America. He, and only he, has the smarts and the wit and the know-how to save us. We just need to trust him, leave it all up to him, forget about how he might do what he promises, he’ll take care of it. That’s his job. Ours is not to question. Not to worry. Father is here. He’s got this. It is the job of the patriarch to rule over all others, to lord himself on high.
This tendency to see all women as untrustworthy is embedded in our culture. Just consider how many women have accused Bill Cosby of sex abuse and yet, these dozens and dozens of women are completely discredited simply because we don’t want to believe that America’s favorite black father could do such horrible things to women, incapacitated by the drugs Crosby plied them with.
Journalist Jessica Valenti, writing for The Guardian, sums it up this way:
The notion that women are fundamentally untrustworthy snakes through almost every area of our lives. Managers distrust women who ask for flextime, women who show anger are less trusted than their male counterparts; and people think the more makeup a woman wears, the less trustworthy she is.
Our nation has a long-history of laws that have been designed to keep women subjugated to men. An issue that Hillary has long fought against, thus, her comments before the UN World Conference in Bejing: Women’s Rights are Human Rights.
I once had a student, a girl student, declare in class that the reason women don’t hold more positions of power as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies or political offices is because they don’t want to, not because they can’t. She, too young to understand herself yet, all the many ways in which a system teaches all of us that women are “less than”.
Here in Oregon, widely considered a progressive state, women hold very few political offices at the local or state level. In our own county, our county commissioners have always been men. Men who are making decisions about policy that primarily affects women and children Decisions about things like domestic violence shelters and such.
This general untrustworthiness with which we regard women is what compels us to question with suspicion victims of domestic violence. We suspect they may have had it coming. It is also the reason we question women who have been the victims of sexual assault. We suspect they may have been asking for it. We see the results of this patronizing and patriarchal system played out in our courtrooms everyday and in our pulpits every Sunday, in on our TVs daily, especially when it is Trump at the mic.
Keep these things in mind on Monday as you watch the debate. Thoughtfully consider the obstacles a woman has had to overcome to be on that stage alongside a man widely regarded as someone you would never want your children to emulate.
Yes, Trump is right. The debate is rigged.
It’s just rigged in his favor, no matter how well Hillary Clinton performs.
The first thing everyone will talk about is what Hillary is wearing and how she looks.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of BURDY (Mercer University Press). She can be reached via Twitter @karenzach