The greatest failures of the past generation concern men, women and sex — and there could not be two more awful representatives of what has gone wrong than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Hillary Clinton delights in presenting herself as a feminist icon — but she is weighed down by the weaknesses of feminism and can boast few of the strengths. The weakness is her itchy trigger finger on accusations of sexism. She’s playing in the biggest of big leagues yet reaches for the sexism charge with dull predictability. If you criticize her cattle futures deal, the Clinton Foundation, her email server — anything — she or her minions will protest the double standard. One of her followers, Lena Dunham, published a list of words that ought to be forbidden when discussing Clinton. They included “shrill,” “inaccessible” and “difficult.”
Clinton uses feminism the way she has used people, ideas and institutions throughout her long career — merely as instruments of her own advancement. When it’s convenient, she is the feminist role model. When her husband is being accused (accurately) of sexually harassing a cavalcade of women, she becomes the Wife Enforcer. The women who accused Bill Clinton were “trash,” she assured the world. Monica Lewinsky was a “narcissistic loony tune.”
Among successful women worldwide, Hillary Clinton may be one of the least self-made. Her own rise was due entirely to her alliance with her husband. Had there been no “Mrs.” in her title, there would never have been a “Senator” or “Secretary of State.” If she were capable of embarrassment, she’d pipe down about the “I am woman! Hear me roar” bit. Her shameless use of feminism is one of the things that drives people crazy about feminism — the feeling that too many use it as a cudgel to demand, rather than reject, double standards.
Donald Trump is a lout — even a chauvinist pig. If ever there were a fitting object for that nasty piece of feminist agitprop from the 1970s, he is the living embodiment. But it would be a mistake to see him only as a throwback. In some ways he is — the focus on women’s looks, for example. On the other hand, Trump demonstrates none of the virtues the traditional gentleman demonstrated toward women. There is no trace of respect, no protectiveness, no chivalry, no honor. He is a post-feminist, emasculated male searching for masculinity in all the wrong ways — as are his most fervid followers.
There are fewer and fewer ways for men in our society to gain ratification for their masculinity. Football may be the last socially acceptable expression of manliness. The busy natural energy of boys is labeled pathological. The roles of father and husband are disparaged, while single motherhood is everywhere praised as noble and heroic. To be a white male is to be scolded at every turn for your “privilege” — even if you come from a broken home of high school dropouts. Colleges presume young men guilty of rape even when both parties are drunk and irresponsible. Our schools and workplaces continue to provide material and psychological support to girls and women — even as women outpace men in education and income growth. The Democrats’ persistent recycling of the fraudulent “79 cents” myth about women’s earnings angers everyone: those who are deceived by it, and those who know it’s a lie.a
Trump brings his own peculiar baggage to this cultural confusion and appeals to men in the worst ways. He is not manly; he is a caricature of a manly man. He makes physical threats to protesters at his rallies (e.g., “I’d like to punch him in the face”) from behind the cordon of Secret Service officers. He avoided the draft and disparages the heroism of those who served and suffered. Despite his many wives and concubines, he finds femininity itself confusing and threatening. He is made uncomfortable by the idea of menstruation: something most boys get over about the age of 14. He found Hillary Clinton’s bathroom break during a Democratic debate “disgusting.” He isn’t able to say accurately what Supreme Court justices do (he thinks they “sign bills”), but he is ready and eager to pass judgment on the appearances of women — especially accomplished women, such as Carly Fiorina and Heidi Cruz — who come within his orbit. Like misogynists everywhere, Trump is ready to defame the women he’s mistreated. Hillary Clinton called Monica Lewinsky a liar. Trump did the same to Michelle Fields.
Trump is no more a manly man than Clinton is a feminist model. Both use the gender wars to advance their own bottomless personal vanity and ambition. Plague. Houses.
Mona Charen is a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
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