Clinton called out Donald Trump’s history of sexism at the debate, which seemed unavoidable

Monday night’s debate was pretty much the hot mess you’d expect it to be: Donald Trump lied about his past stance on the Iraq War and endlessly interrupted; his opponent highlighted her plans for affordable college and family leave, and, of course, Hillary Clinton also called out Trump’s sexism at the debate, which frankly seemed inevitable given his long history of it.

“This is a man who has called women pigs, slobs, and dogs,” Clinton reminded audiences, from the debate stage. “And someone who has said pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers, who has said women don’t deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men.”

She went on to reference a particular anecdote about Trump’s comments on Alicia Machado, a Latina who won Miss Universe in 1996: “And one of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest. He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman ‘Miss Piggy.’ Then he called her ‘Miss Housekeeping,’ because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name. Her name is Alicia Machado.”

Debate moderator Lester Holt steered the debate back on topic, but didn’t give Trump an out on his history of judging women based on looks.

Holt brought up Trump’s comment earlier this month claiming Clinton didn’t have “a presidential look,” which might have something to do with the fact that she looks a little different from our nation’s past 44 presidents (you know, as a woman and all, which Trump may or may not have noticed).

Trump immediately steered the dialogue to Clinton’s stamina; in turn, she pointed out that she’d traveled to 112 different countries negotiating all kinds of deals as secretary of state, before adding, “One thing Lester, he tried to switch from looks to stamina,” forcing Trump to answer for his sexist obsession with women’s looks. That’s not to say Trump putting Clinton’s stamina on blast wasn’t (obviously) rooted in sexism, too. For crying out loud, they’re both pretty much the same age, Trump being one year her senior. This whole “she lacks stamina” argument is literally just because Trump perceives women as the weaker sex, period.

Other than when Clinton briefly talked equal pay for women’s work at the beginning of the debate and later called out Trump for his discriminatory comments on pregnant women in the workplace, key women’s rights issues such as abortion and access to health services weren’t brought up Monday night. It would have been helpful to hear about those issues or see Trump put on blast for his backwards maternity leave plan, but that being said, as predictable as it was that Clinton would go after Trump’s record of sexist comments and behavior (Megyn Kelly wasn’t there so someone had to do it this time), it still matters that she did.

She could have referenced so many more sexist aspects of Trump’s past, from his perceptions of his ex-wife Marla Maples when she became a career woman, to his period references regarding Kelly and all the awful times he’s called her a “bimbo.” But the comments she did bring up were enough to highlight his outlook on women, whom Trump appears to assign value and respect for based solely on their looks.

His comments about “presidential looks” and pregnancy as an “inconvenience,” like his stance on maternity leave and women’s access to health services that would allow them autonomy over their lives, reveal exactly where he thinks women belong.

Hillary Clinton And Donald Trump Face Off In First Presidential Debate At Hofstra University
CREDIT: Getty Images

The back-and-forth Clinton and Trump had on temperament was also deeply telling. Trump accused Clinton of lacking the temperament of a leader, which, given his famed penchant for Twitter tantrums, was nothing short of ironic, claiming she wasn’t “strong” enough (nothing to do with her gender, surely!). The issue of Clinton’s “temperament,” and her appearance of inauthenticity, calmness, and what some perceive as lack of emotion, was brought up by Clinton in an interview with Humans of New York earlier this month. The Democrat discussed how, from the 1960s as she took her LSAT in the face of a barrage of gendered pressure and harassment, she understood that as a woman, she had to conceal her emotions for respect.

However you might feel about Clinton, the pressure to conceal one’s feelings or appear a stereotypical weak woman is a phenomenon frankly every female faces, and paradoxically, if Clinton were to come off as less “walled off,” Trump would cite her displays of emotion as weakness and improper “temperament,” too. There’s also the fact that, let’s be real, if Trump did perceive Clinton as “strong,” it’s not unlikely he’d identify her as “bossy” and overbearing, as women who dare to take charge often are.

Hillary Clinton And Donald Trump Face Off In First Presidential Debate At Hofstra University
CREDIT: Spencer Platt/GettyImages

So, Trump is sexist, and Clinton and Holt put this on full display to Americans Monday night. But what does that mean for women across the nation? We already know his stances on abortion rights, that “women don’t deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men,” and his belief that maternity leave is all this nation needs because women belong in the kitchen taking care of the kids and fuck stay-at-home/gay dads, etc. But the simple facts that he lacks respect for women, and, as we can tell through his obsession with our looks, views us as objects to be critiqued, speak as much about the kind of leader he would be as his stances on specific women’s rights issues do.