2016 was supposed to be the year of women, but fittingly, it’s been all about men.
Although it’s the first time a woman is genuinely close to winning the White House, her campaign has been overshadowed by transgressive male behaviors: alleged criminal acts inspired by their dicks.
Take your pick: accusations that Trump went through the ’90s groping women left and right, allegations of Bill Clinton’s alleged rape and sexual harassment, Anthony Weiner’s old sexting problem (with a new pedophilia/child endangerment twist), Trump’s ex-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski manhandling a female reporter on video, or Fox News pushing out disgraced CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment claims, with Ailes just going on to advise Trump’s campaign. This election really has it all.
But this wasn’t how 2016 was supposed to be. This was going to be a year when children got to see a whole new kind of role model: a strong woman making her substantive case for becoming the first woman president. She’d go toe to toe with a man. She’d hold her own, maybe even beat him. It was supposed to be a year about the issues — one where a woman got to be taken seriously on the merits of her ideas and her ability to govern — not about whether we’re a nation of pussy grabbers.
Instead, parents are having a different kind of conversation with their children — they’ve been forced to have premature conversations about topics that aren’t even tangentially related to policy. Because of this election’s vomitrocious news cycle, parents had to explain what pussy means, why sexual assault is bad, what sexting is.
Maybe a better option could have been family conversations about, I don’t know, pressing issues? But there’s been so little room for that this year. In fact, although a presidential debate moderator has had to ask one of the people running for president if he understands what sexual assault is (and Trump’s answer clearly showed he doesn’t), no moderator has been able to fit in a single question about climate change.
To make matters worse, Clinton is a policy wonk. She’s so outstanding on policy that it’s been called a weakness. That’s right — knowing too much is her weakness. (And it’s okay, gender totally has nothing to do with it.) But she’s hardly been able to lay out her vision because she’s had to repeatedly explain why women are people.
Even first lady Michelle Obama, her top surrogate, set the internet on fire not with a stirring defense of Clinton’s skills as a leader but with a moving speech that climaxed with the argument that women are worthy of respect and love. Respect and love. Obama was near tears. And she should be.
To make matters worse, female journalists who have tried to responsibly report on this revolting news cycle have been faced with chauvinistic attacks themselves. There was Morning Joe’s Katty Kay, whom Ben Carson patronizingly screeched at when he commanded her own producers to “turn her microphone off” after she asked about Trump’s accusers; and Megyn Kelly, who has been accused of being “obsessed with sex” by three conservative white-haired men who clearly don’t understand the difference between sex and sexual assault. Women simply trying to do their jobs during an election year infused with a dizzying amount of male indiscretion are somehow being blamed by men for it. What a time to be alive.
When Liz Lemon said women “can have it all,” I don’t think she meant balancing a career, family, and being held responsible for the mistakes of men they have never met.
And this October, a sexting surprise is the cherry on the 2016 misogyny sundae. Although Paul Ryan says Clinton has “nobody but herself to blame,” Clinton is not the reason new emails have emerged — Anthony Weiner is. According to latest reports, the emails aren’t even from Clinton’s server. But the headline harms Clinton and helps Trump. So in other words, this new “scandal” hurts two women (Clinton and Huma Abedin, Weiner’s estranged wife), because of the actions of a man (Weiner), while benefiting another man (Trump). Which, frankly, feels like a metaphor for being a woman in 2016.
Over the past few years, women have been having self-reflective conversations about their gender’s place in society, what role they should play, and how they can be better to each other. Now seems like a good time for men do the same thing. Men are having a really bad year, and they need to ask themselves why. Male spaces need to facilitate that uncomfortable yet paramount discussion. Perhaps dissecting and criticizing toxic masculinity can become the new locker room talk.
The reality is that Hillary Clinton is probably going to survive all of this — just as she and women everywhere have for all eternity. Maybe once she's in the Oval Office, she'll get to make history the way she should. And who knows, maybe her presidency will mean we live in a world with fewer unsolicited updates about what men’s dicks are allegedly up to. I guess a girl can dream.
Or take it from a man. As Leonard Cohen put it in 1971 to Rolling Stone, “Women are really strong. You notice how strong they are? Well, let them take over.”