On Friday, the FBI announced that it had found a few new Hillary Clinton emails to investigate. Since then, many have mused that if Clinton loses this bonkers election, she’ll have been blocked from the presidency by a bunch of dicks.
Bill Maher suggested that Clinton’s political future will be decided by “out of control cocks,” aka the genitals (and the brains that govern the genitals) of Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and Anthony Weiner, the ever-sexting husband of Clinton’s right-hand aide Huma Abedin. Likewise, Trump lackey Wayne Allyn Root gleefully imagined Clinton and Abedin committing suicide in the manner of the final scene of Thelma & Louise, remarking that “Hillary and Huma have been done in by a leaking wiener.”
The FBI found the latest Clinton emails during its investigation of Weiner’s alleged sexual messages to a 15-year-old, so there was no avoiding the puns that followed. For Root and many other Trump supporters, the sight of two ambitious women being cock-blocked from power by a man’s dick pics was no doubt a pleasant reflection of the imagery of sexual violence they’ve invoked throughout the campaign. “Hillary sucks, but not like Monica,” these fellows said. “Trump that bitch,” they said. “Put Hillary’s face on a blow-up doll,” they said. Now, it seems possible that the first woman to beat back a lifetime of sexist attacks all the way to the door of the Oval Office might be thwarted in the final push by the misogyny and sexual predations of three lecherous men.
Granted, the most recent FBI email thing has made a tiny dent in Clinton’s poll numbers. There’s no need to expedite that visa to Canada. But there’s no getting around the fact that Weiner’s unwillingness to curb his sexting habit has harmed his wife’s career and Clinton’s shot at the presidency. Trump has used Weiner’s ill-advised (and potentially criminal) sexts to cast doubt on Clinton’s judgment in hiring a woman who married a compulsive virtual cheat. Bill Clinton has been an undeniable liability to his wife’s campaign, both because of his unpredictable outbursts and his history of infidelity and alleged sexual assault. The Trump train has used Bill’s past to pick away at Hillary’s commitment to gender equality and embarrass her by trotting out Bill’s accusers, who have credible claims against Bill but not Hillary, at every opportunity. Remember when Newt Gingrich attempted to force Megyn Kelly to say the phrase “Bill Clinton, sexual predator”? That was stupid, but wouldn’t it have been nice if Bill had just been a good person and not done anything wrong, sexually, so hypocrites like Gingrich wouldn’t have had any ammunition in the first place?
Then there’s Trump, whose entire worldview is projected through the warped lens of misogyny. That is undoubtedly why women of all political stripes have turned against him, and why some Republican women are starting to have broader misgivings about their party at large. But it’s also why many men, and probably some delusional women, love him. It’s one of the characteristics that makes him a politically incorrect straight-shooter, an everyman who says what he thinks, a symbol of unapologetically toxic, hostile masculinity that a certain chunk of voters love so much that they’d vote for an anthropomorphized jockstrap before electing a woman to the presidency. Trump’s misogyny is an integral part of his appeal; if Clinton loses, misogyny—Trump’s particular brand of misogyny, not just the misogyny of the modern electorate—will be partially to blame.
And so we, the women of America, find ourselves watching in horror and rage as the repulsive sexual behavior of three pathetic men threatens to obstruct the election of a supremely capable first female president and her equally brilliant No. 2. It would be an extraordinary feat of poetic injustice if the most qualified female presidential candidate in history got within a nose hair’s breadth of the office just to be thwarted by a trio of men who’ve disrespected their marriages and prioritized their own sexual proclivities over their wives’ careers and ambitions.
The issue here is not whether the emails Weiner inadvertently revealed are of legitimate concern—compared to anything Trump has ever done, they’re not. The issue is not whether women should be punished for their husband’s sins (they shouldn’t). It’s that people are using those emails and those sexual misdeeds to cast Clinton and Abedin as power-hungry schemers who overlooked their husbands’ moral failings to get ahead. Or worse, to paraphrase the favored Trumpkin narrative, frigid wives whose sharp elbows keep them from properly satisfying their husbands.
These narratives persist not because successful, ambitious women keep making poor decisions about their mates. (Still, Huma—glad you finally realized you didn’t need your joke of a husband.) They continue to stymie the ascension of some of our best political minds because too many men are careless, insecure egomaniacs who engage in malicious deceits of their families and constituents. Clinton and Abedin’s current situation is the perfect allegory for the politics of misogyny and the misogyny of politics in America. This is a magnified version of every time a man has stunted a woman’s career to satisfy his own base desires; every time a man has chosen to harm his wife and his marriage in some pitiful attempt to shore up his fragile ego; every time a man has made dumbass decisions to suit only himself, not caring whether or how he might fundamentally alter the courses of others’ lives for the worse.
If one were prone to conspiracy theories, one might wonder whether all the world’s grossest men collaborated on a generationlong plan to keep the first viable female candidate out of the West Wing. (This author is not prone to such theories but encourages those who are to send her the receipts and we’ll talk.) Or the three-sexually-predatory-men vs. Clinton setup might be just the plot device we need to make a Clinton victory an even more cathartic triumph over the hundreds of years of U.S. politics working against women who seek power.
But here’s the sad reality: The sexual predations of those three nasty men have about a 1 in 4 chance of delivering the presidency to Donald “grab them by the pussy” Trump. On Saturday Night Live, just after Trump earned that moniker with the release of the Access Hollywood recording, Michael Che advised “old, rich white dudes” to “always assume you’re being recorded.” I’d add this: Imagine how you’ll feel when your sexts and extramarital affairs end American democracy as we know it.