He’s called women slobs, pigs, fat and ugly, has said women should be punished for having abortions, and has near double-digit accusations of sexual assault.
The election of an overtly sexist, racist and bigoted businessman with no experience in politics was a shock to many, who were expecting to celebrate the win of their first-ever female president on Tuesday 8th November, a true woman’s champion in Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump on the other hand has plainly legitimised misogyny through his campaign – and yet 53% of American women voted for him.
Donald Trump claims to be a champion of women. The irony of that is just a little too overwhelming, given his less than poor track record of insulting them throughout his career in the public eye. Trump, however, has certainly expressed himself in matters concerning women. He likes to brag about being “irresistible” to them, comically brushes off his “locker room talk” in which he openly brags about sexual assault, and has some worrying views on contraceptive and fertility rights.
But little has been discussed about direct policies. The question is whether the rhetoric, official and unofficial, released throughout his campaign will match his policies as president.
There is, however, some good news for working mothers. Thanks to Trump’s oldest daughter, Ivanka, who has helped develop this policy, working women will be guaranteed the right to six weeks paid maternity leave. The US is currently the only industrialised nation in the world with no mandatory paid leave.
Republicans also tend to be pro-life. But Trump has the ability to directly threaten the contraceptive and fertility rights of women, at least in certain states. In an interview with MSNBC host Chris Matthews, the president-elect said that “there has to be some form of punishment” for women having abortions.
Though not specific as to what kind of punishment this would be, Trump’s stance is worrying. Abortion has been legalised since the 1973 Supreme Court ruling on the landmark Roe v. Wade case. However, Trump has already named 11 conservative options to fill the Supreme Court, all of which are pro-life. This could, theoretically, give the president-elect the power to repeal the laws on abortion, making it more difficult for many women to have access to abortion clinics.
Trump has further promise to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides free reproductive healthcare, including abortions and contraceptives, to some of the poorest women in the US. Furthermore, if Trump dismantles the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – insurance companies will not longer be required to cover birth control.
Then you have the sexual assault allegations. There are about nine instances in which Trump has been accused of sexual assault, from the 1980s until as recently as 2007. How might this affect his policies? I think the question that needs to be asked is: will Trump actually do anything about the alarming number of sexual assault victims in schools, universities, and the workplace?
In the US, 1 in 5 women will be victims of sexual assault in her lifetime. Trump has said that were his own daughter sexually harassed in the workplace he would “encourage her to find another career or find another company” rather than take action against her harasser. This is worrying because it shows his reluctance to accept sexual assault as a valid issue. If no legislation or laws are put in place concerning sexual assault for the duration of Trump’s four years in office, this problem will worsen, and progress will be at a standstill. He is helping the abuser, rather than the victim.
We should also have a discussion about what Trump’s presidency means for women, worldwide. The US claims to be the number one promoter of human values such as freedom, democracy and equality, taking pride in their superior standards and ideals. His influence will not be confined within the ‘walls’ of his nation. A man who laughs about groping women without their consent and constantly reminds us that our value is only in our bodies, is now the head of a state that monopolises virtuous ideology. If the president of the world’s most powerful nation can do it, who is to stop anyone else? Trump has not just legitimised misogyny, but racism, xenophobia and bigotry too.
It is difficult to predict the outcome of a Trump presidency on women, just based on his rhetoric and his past behaviour. But we can already see the foreshadowing of an alarming trend, such as his appointing of pro-life politicians to positions of power in the Supreme Court, or a men’s rights activist with domestic abuse allegations as his chief strategist. There is a reason why people are nervous about the next four years.
In the best case scenario, Trump will improve his rhetoric once he is in the White House and brush off, as he has done so many times, the “big talk” so prevalent in his campaign. We can only hope that he does not repeal Obamacare or Planned Parenthood and thus deprive women of safe access to contraceptives and abortions. Perhaps popular sentiment will persuade him to legislate progressive laws against sexual harassment in workplaces and universities. Maybe his daughter, Ivanka, will have a positive impact on more of his policies towards women.
It was not the outcome most people expected. Since the results surfaced there have been protests, demonstrations and cries of anger and disbelief. Many women feel upset and disheartened about the future. The next four years will certainly reveal whether a presidency under Trump will stagnate progress for feminism and equality in politics, or whether it is merely a bump in the road.