As an American politician, Hillary Clinton has spent most of her adult life in a man’s world. So when Donald Trump interrupted Clinton an astounding 51 times during the first presidential debate, her calm composure was not surprising. Trump repeatedly barreled over Clinton while she patiently withdrew with a slight shimmy and a smile on her face.
These tactics gained attention on Twitter as other women shared how they could relate to Clinton’s situation. In an election where both candidates are historically disliked, sympathy is a necessary advantage for Clinton. By continuing his belligerent and aggressive debate style, Trump has unintentionally boosted Clinton’s image and hurt his own.
In the 2000 New York Senate race, Rick Lazio infamously doomed his campaign and political career by attempting to dominate Clinton. During a debate, Lazio strutted over to Clinton’s podium and urged Clinton to sign a pledge on soft money, even pointing at her forcefully. After the incident, the media portrayed Lazio as a sexist bully, and he lost by a wide margin.
During a 2008 primary debate, a moderator asked Clinton what she would say to a voter who found Barack Obama more likeable than she, and she responded, “Well that hurts my feelings.” Obama later added, “You’re likeable enough, Hillary.” The moment was interpreted as a patronizing misstep for Obama.
The past consequences of sexism towards Clinton should send a message to Trump to ease off his typical debate aggression. Clearly, Trump’s abrasive demeanor towards other Republican candidates would not fly in the presidential debates. His hostile comments about Carly Fiorina hurt his image enough during the primary.
However, Trump fell into the same trap that has undermined so many before him. His repeated interruptions during Clinton’s speaking time served as yet another opportunity for voters to observe his misogynistic behavior.
Of course, Trump is not alone in his chauvinistic overbearing. Frequent interruption is a subtle way that sexism manifests itself in almost every aspect of life. Extensive research shows that women are more likely to be interrupted than men, and outspoken women are viewed more negatively than their male counterparts.
Many have seen this prejudice in their everyday lives whenever a woman is ignored or interrupted only for a male colleague to be praised for offering the same idea.
Women watching the debate took to Twitter to express their sympathy for Hillary. @LailaLalami wrote, “There is no working woman in America who doesn’t recognize the pattern of interruption that Trump is using against Clinton. #debates.” @JessicaGoldstein tweeted “It’s almost like Hillary is used to rude men interrupting her, like she’s a woman in the world or something.” @bitticisms wrote “Thoughts & prayers to every woman watching the #debates & getting painful flashbacks to dudes talking over them at work, school, home, etc.”
During her coverage of the first debate, late night host Samantha Bee acknowledged how relatable the phenomenon was, saying “I think the experience of listening to a man who just discovered a topic on the internet three weeks ago belligerently correct a woman who has been studying said topic her entire adult life felt very Monday to most women.”
This overwhelming compassion towards Clinton proves that she does not have to call out female voters by name to get their attention and support.
As voters continue to describe Clinton as cold or untrustworthy, sympathy is a crucial way to attract the female demographic. Calling out sexism is one of Clinton’s signature strategies, and it has been working for years. During this election in particular, her opponent has called women pigs, slobs, fat, ugly, and disgusting. There are even multiple rape accusations against Trump, including one from his former wife Ivana Trump.
In the aftermath of Trump’s leaked video, Clinton’s public rejection of sexism is more important than ever. By expressing her support for women and distaste for Trump’s disgusting actions, Clinton can distance herself from the revolting words that are close to destroying Trump’s campaign. This yet another opportunity for Clinton to reach out to female voters who understand the sexism she faces all too well.
Clinton has been deliberately honing her response to sexism for years, so it’s no surprise that it continues to work so well for her. If she can continue to hold her ground against Trump’s belligerent misogyny, women may win her the presidency.