The GOP's Woman Problem Goes So Much Deeper Than Donald Trump

Photo: Rex/REX USA.
Donald Trump does not have time for political correctness. Our nation, he says, doesn’t, either. Unfortunately, he has yet to realize that what he calls “political correctness” is little more than having a basic filter, and his lack of one is finally getting him shunned by the Republican Party.

“Frankly, what I say, and oftentimes it’s fun, it’s kidding, we have a good time, what I say is what I say,” he rambled to moderator Megyn Kelly on Thursday night, during the first Republican presidential primary debate, in response to a question about how he talks about women. “And, honestly, Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I probably could maybe not be, based on the way you’ve treated me, but I wouldn’t do that.”

But he did do that. That night, he retweeted that the Fox News host was a bimbo, and the next day he lashed out at her — in a event that has since been dubbed “Wherevergate” — implying that her menstrual cycle affected her performance as a moderator. “She’s a lightweight,” he told CNN’s Don Lemon of Kelly. “She came out there reading her little script, trying to be tough, be smart. When you meet her, you realize she’s not very tough, not very smart…. You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”

Later that day, Red State editor Erick Erickson (who himself once called Michelle Obama a “Marxist harpy”) disinvited Trump from an upcoming right–wing gathering. The conservative editor had been willing to back The Donald on a lot of stuff, he said, but this was crossing a “line of decency.”

“I just don’t want someone on stage who gets a hostile question from a lady and his first inclination is to imply it was hormonal,” he wrote. Think what you like, but please don’t say it out loud. There’s a line here.

Menstruation has historically been used as a reason to exclude women from positions of power, and every woman has had to endure aspersion about being on her menstrual cycle.

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It’s not surprising that Trump let his misogynistic tendencies show — he isn’t one to parse words when it comes to those of the female persuasion. What is fascinating, though, is that so many on the Right jumped on him for this, for suggesting that Kelly might be on her menstrual cycle. This was the final straw, the reason to try to kick him off the campaign trail. Because he insulted a lady. (Trump tried to back off his comment, insisting that by “wherever” he meant “nose,” but nobody bought that.)

On one hand, it’s a little encouraging that some in the establishment are standing up for women, if not in any meaningful way, at least by saying that men can’t accuse a woman of being on her period when they don’t like what she says. Menstruation has historically been used as a reason to exclude women from positions of power, and every woman has had to endure aspersion about being on her menstrual cycle. But what this development really shows is just how willing some conservatives are to use this incident to try to snare women — a key demographic, they do seem to realize — and distance themselves from a wild-card candidate on a stage full of Koch-funded talking points wearing red ties.

It’s no secret that the GOP has wanted Trump to go away for quite a while — maybe because he keeps insulting the party’s old guard, or perhaps it’s his lack of actual policies, or maybe it’s just that Republicans are feeling exposed whenever their collective id does the Sunday talk shows — so, to be fair, they’re merely using any ammo they can get to take him down. But the irony, it seems, has been lost on them.

Just last year, in the lead-up to the midterm elections, an internal Republican report warned that the party was woefully out of touch with women, particularly the single ones. The report offered some solutions, like “deal honestly with any disagreement on abortion, then move to other issues,” and “inject ‘unexpected’ GOP policy proposals into the debate as a way to sway female voters.” Mansplain, move on, distract women with something shiny. Got it.

Donald Trump is a misogynist, but not merely because he said that Megyn Kelly might be menstruating.

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus came to the conclusion that “women actually aren’t really moved on these issues as much as…the pundits and everyone believes that they are,” and that the GOP needed to just continue focusing on jobs, debt, and education, and the women would be won over. But his words were lost under a pile of Republican actions — most beautifully summed up in a College Republican National Committee ad, which tried to equate voting for a presidential candidate with picking out a wedding gown, because young women are totally into Say Yes to the Dress and love to make bridal Pinterest pages. But the ad didn’t work, and the gender gap stuck around through Election Day.

Which makes this move against Trump seem more than a little disingenuous, and just the latest in a series of tone-deaf stunts that show just how little respect the GOP gives to women. Please ignore the fact that Jeb Bush bragged how his state defunded Planned Parenthood, and that Marco Rubio all but declared that the rights of a fetus are more important that the rights of rape victims. (Also ignore that no one even touched on paid family leave or income disparity.)
But the Grand Old Party won’t let you stand here and take it when someone tells you you’re on your period. They take you seriously, but you look a little flushed, so go sit over there while the boys go to bat for you on this.

Donald Trump is a misogynist, but not merely because he said that Megyn Kelly might be menstruating. He’s a misogynist because deep down he does not believe that women — no matter what time of the month — are capable of discourse in the public sphere. But that doesn’t make Trump unique in this Republican presidential field, and using his PMS crack against him to bring down his presidential run doesn’t change that.

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