This post is less about politics and more about critical thinking. I’m not going to tell you who you should vote for—that’s your prerogative. I will challenge you to think critically though. Dr. Eskue Ousley is dusting off her Ph.D., so you’ve been warned. If you’re okay with thinking about tough issues, read on.
This week I read an article where Donald Trump stated, “Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote.” He went on to say, “The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card.” My point is not to defend Clinton (she’s capable of doing that herself, and already has), but to say that Trump has a history of making misogynistic statements. He also has a history of making generalizations.
What’s a generalization? Allow me to explain it using an example from grad school. I had this fantastic mentor at the University of Arizona named Gary Rhoades. He’s a brilliant professor with a gift for telling stories. One day his young daughter threw a banana at him. He got on to her about it, telling her not to throw things at people. Her response? “But Daddy, all little girls throw bananas.” A generalization is a concept inferred from specific cases. However, as in the above example, it may not be grounded in facts. It should be, if it aims to be credible.
Back to Trump—he too is making a sweeping statement (on par with a justification for throwing fruit), but where are the facts? What’s his source for saying a candidate would get five percent of the vote? Is he citing a poll? Has he done quantitative research, conducting surveys with representative samples? Doubtful. In all fairness, other people make generalizations as well. I daresay we all do (and that’s a generalization right there).
But what, exactly, is the “woman’s card”? I guess he is saying the only reason women will vote for Clinton is because she is a woman. Maybe some women will vote for her because of that. I cannot speak for other women voters, but I feel confident I can choose the candidate who best represents my interests without regard to gender. I also feel confident there is no force in hell that would make me vote for somebody who vomits sexist comments like he’s got diarrhea of the mouth, but I said I wasn’t going to tell you who you should vote for, and I won’t tell you who you shouldn’t vote for.
I would like you to think about those sexist statements, however, and to consider how even small aggressions based on gender affect society. (By the way, aggressions can go both ways, and they are not harmless.) We’ve lived in a world where rules were made based on gender. Some things have changed, to be sure. That’s why I have more education than my great-grandmother did.
There are some things that still need to change. I would like to see a world where my great-granddaughter can walk down the street without being harassed because she happens to be female. I would like her to never experience the fear she could be abducted and raped because some man drives past her as she’s walking alone, and tries to convince her to get into his car. That happened to me when I was a teen. The guy drove slowly past me, and when I crossed the street to avoid him, he turned his car around and followed me. He stopped when I entered the parking lot of a shopping center, where there were other people. This didn’t happen in a big city, rife with crime. It happened in my small, supposedly safe home town. The real tragedy? Every woman I know has a story like this. This is not a generalization. This is qualitative research, supported by quantitative research.
I would like to live in a world where I form my own definition about what it means to be beautiful. Beauty is, after all, subjective. It is in the eye of the beholder. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve observed that Trump often makes statements about beauty. He seems obsessed with the topic, using the phrase “beautiful women” and ranking women by attractiveness. To my ears, “beautiful women” sounds like some kind of sacred voting demographic, or perhaps a type of mythical beast, too ethereal for the likes of us lesser mortals. If you want to have a laugh, read his quotes, substituting the word “unicorns” for this phrase. As in: “I tend to like unicorns more than unattractive women.” Or “I love unicorns and unicorns love me.” Ridiculous, isn’t it?
I know beautiful women. They are smart and kind, and because of that, they are beautiful in my eyes. I believe Trump’s definition has nothing to do with intelligence or character. I suspect it has to do with genetics and surgery. I’m not against genetics or surgery. If your DNA has provided you with highly symmetrical facial features, good for you. If you feel you can’t be beautiful without altering your body, go for it. Who am I to tell you what to do with your body?
Do whatever makes you feel beautiful, whatever your gender. Wear what you want. Wear makeup. Or don’t wear makeup. Plank. Or don’t plank. But don’t tell me I can’t be beautiful because I choose to do something different, or because I believe being educated is part of what makes me beautiful. I’m certain I’ll never make Trump’s list of beautiful women, and I don’t care. Why would I even want to be on that list? It’s demeaning. He can say anything he wants (and he does), but that doesn’t define me as a woman or a voter. Like I said, I’ll vote for the person who best represents my interests.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016