Appearing on Chris Hayes’s MSNBC show on Monday night, New York magazine reporter Rebecca Traister best captured exactly what made the second presidential debate feel so … gross.
Here’s part of the transcript:
TRAISTER: To have first of all the tape, in which [Donald Trump] is openly sort of literalizing this way that he’s been talking about women throughout. We have the pattern of him talking about them as objects, evaluating them aesthetically and sexually, and talking about, you know, women who breastfeed or pee as disgusting.
HAYES: Things for one’s use.
TRAISTER: Right. His use, for the use of men in power. Right? But then we have this very literalized instance of it in terms of "I can just grab them by the genitals, I can assault them." And that’s the preamble.
Essentially, Trump has repeatedly seen women as objects for his gain. We have seen this time and time again — most recently, with Trump’s suggestion in leaked 2005 audio that he can "grab them by the pussy" if he so pleases, just because he’s a celebrity. But if women rebuff him, he’s willing to dehumanize, insult, and demean them by any means necessary — typically by focusing on their looks, as he did during his feud with, for example, Rosie O’Donnell.
Traister made the case that Trump is essentially doing the same to Hillary Clinton — specifically, by using the women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault to try to shame and humiliate Hillary Clinton:
There is a reasonable feminist conversation to be had about Bill Clinton. We’ve been having it in various ways for many years about Bill Clinton, his sexual power abuses. Right?
Donald Trump doesn’t care about that feminist conversation. That is not what Donald Trump was there talking about last night. He wanted to humiliate her in the way he knows how to humiliate women. Which is sexually. To shame them. To make them feel bad about themselves sexually. To remind the country that her husband cheated on her, which he views as sort of the worst thing you can say about a woman — is that she didn’t hold the attention of her husband. That’s what he was doing last night.
He wasn’t making that feminist argument about Bill Clinton — which, by the way, has nothing to do with whether Hillary Clinton should be president anyway.
What Trump is doing against Clinton, then, isn’t new. It’s part of a broader pattern in how he treats women. But it is now at the top of his strategy to become president of the United States. So the woman who has gotten closest to the presidency is now facing the same type of misogyny women face in other contexts all across the US.