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Monday, October 10, 2016

On women and the 2016 election

A few points after listening to the 2nd presidential debate, October 9, 2016.

1. These are mostly thought about the harassment of women. I'm going to use the term harassment here, but clearly some of this behavior is beyond harassment. Let me state at the outset that I am not a woman. I have 7 aunts (1 uncle), 4 sisters (no brothers), 1 wife, 2 daughters (no sons) -- but this is NOT the same as being a woman.

2. Donald Trump's relationships with women clearly show a lack of respect. The affairs, the locker room talk (which seems to be more than just "talk"), the need to have a trophy, arm-candy wife, all indicate objectification.   Is this the type of person we want as president? No.

3. What kept the debate from being entirely X-rated was likely the presence of four women in the audience who've accused Bill Clinton of various improprieties. There's an awful lot of smoke there, and at least some fire with the settlement with Paula Jones and the Monica Lewinsky affair.

4. I'm not going to defend Bill Clinton on this. I voted for a 3rd party candidate in 1996 because I didn't think Bill Clinton was trustworthy, and that was before Monica. I can't, and I won't try.

5. Bill's not running for president; Hillary is. But the allegations that Hillary was in the lead group of trashing the female accusers seem credible.  Was she doing the noble thing of standing by your man or making a cold political calculation for the two of them? And in that cold political calculation, was she selling out her sisters for their political future?

But now I'm getting to the part I really wanted to get to.

6. Do we have a syndrome here? Trump has responded that he's had a fair number of female executives. On Frontline (I think; somewhere on PBS) they interviewed a woman who Trump put in charge of managing the contractors on Trump Tower in New York City, an unusual job to be give to a woman, particularly at that time.  Bill Clinton appointed more women to cabinet posts and judgeships than his predecessors. And I am reminded of Senator Robert Packwood, who had a strong reputation for years for being a supporter of women's issues in the U.S. Senate, before his career collapsed in a harassment scandal.

For years, Packwood, the embodiment of a quirky Oregon species, the socially progressive Republican, has been a strong supporter of women's causes. A leader of the abortion-rights brigades, he introduced the first Senate bill to legalize abortion in 1970; a decade later, after Bill Bradley and Daniel Patrick Moynihan demurred, he led a lonely filibuster against his own party's bill to make abortion the equivalent of murder. He has also regularly hired women to run his campaigns and to serve as his top aides.
But after the first wave of news accounts, many more women came forward with accusations of sexual misconduct, raising the total to at least 24.
http://www.nytimes.com/1993/08/29/magazine/the-trials-of-bob-packwood.html?pagewanted=all 
 7. So what's the nature of this syndrome? What do these cases have in common?

  • Man with charm, good looks, money/power.
  • Man either thinks because he's supporting women in some areas (women's issues) he can harass them in others? 
  • Or maybe, man is trying to balance out the sexual harassment by promoting some women to responsible positions?
  • We might call these men with charm, good looks, and money/power alpha males.  Which means, culturally, that in order get sex they wouldn't need to resort to bad behavior. So why do it?  Is it perhaps a desire for conquest? And is that conquest more satisfying if it's over a member of a class of people (women) that you've ceded some power to? (sort of like beating another pickup team in basketball after you've given them a good player to make the game more competitive?) 
  • That line of reasoning seems to work a bit, but he have to recognize that many of the victims (e.g. all those women accusing Bill Clinton) were not powerful women at all. So I'm left with that either/or argument in italics above.