Who’s the bigger sexist, Donald or Bill?
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We have never scrutinized the spouses of our presidential candidates as much as we are scrutinizing Bill ClintonBill ClintonBoos for Obama as Trump speaks at Boy Scout jamboree Feehery: Winning August OPINION | Dems need a fresh face for 2020: Try Kamala Harris MORE and Melania Trump. There are many reasons for this, and that’s especially true for Bill Clinton; he was president; he’s still a public figure.

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The real reason Bill is being scrutinized now is that his wife, Hillary, is the person with the power in their relationship. As a society, we’re not sure what to do with this. When we judge her through the traditional lens we have used for men in power—that they are responsible for what happens in their families—this makes Hillary responsible for Bill and all of his baggage. And this doesn’t quite sit well either.

The Hot Issue in the 2016 Election Is Sex

We know a great deal about Bill, most of which is very good. Yet some things about his personal life — or to be clear, his sexual life — remain very troubling.

Sex appears to be a major concern in this presidential election. Targeting spouses was kicked up a notch when presidential hopeful Ted CruzTed CruzMcCain votes to advance ObamaCare repeal, replace after vowing to oppose Senate rejects ObamaCare repeal, replacement amendment Senate Dem: We’re trying to block a recess appointment to replace Sessions MORE posted nude pictures of Melania Trump, whose husband, Donald, returned the favor with the accusation that “Lyin’ Ted Cruz is married to a former call girl.” Donald’s affairs and his treatment of women have become a prominent issue that continued with his ongoing attacks on a former Miss Universe when urged his followers to “check out” a sex tape of her that may not exist. And don’t forget that Donald even blamed his opponent for her husband’s affairs.

Male Privilege on Display

Both Donald and Bill are examples of male privilege; they have access to social, economic and political advantage by virtue of their position and their gender. Both men have taken their male privilege to an extreme by using their power to pursue their personal sexual goals.

My concern is how Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump turns up heat on AG Sessions over recusal Mellman: Trump love? Overnight Cybersecurity: Senate Judiciary reportedly drops Manafort subpoena | Kushner meets with House Intel | House passes Russia sanctions deal | What to watch at 'hacker summer camp' MORE and Melania Trump are affected by this male privilege, especially when viewed through the lens of their girly thoughts, which is a term I coined to describe how women internalize toxic, external societal messages that take away their personal power. Let’s look at the impact:

Hillary Clinton:

  • In the past she acted in this societally sanctioned way and blamed “the other women.” But she’s grown.
  • She no longer misdirects her energies by trying to be what society tells women to be: always nice, forever young, subservient to her man.

  • Now, and with her husband’s support, she’s doing the exact opposite of what girly thoughts tell her and other women to do: she’s carving new ground for women to achieve, and in this way she’s exposing and challenging these cultural expectations.

Melania Trump:

  • Is basically a silent wife at her husband’s side as he continues to exert dominance over women in his traditional old man way by calling women pigs, dogs, fat, by firing women in public positions who don’t meet his personal standards of beauty, and by launching attacks on public women figures for not treating him nicely.

Who Is Responsible for Donald and Bill’s Sexist Behavior?

While both of these men are sexists, one appears to be evolving while the other appears to be stuck.

Are they responsible, or are their wives? All of Donald’s wives have lead public lives: Ivana was a model, Marla an actress and Melania another model who recently tried to launch a cosmetic line. Hillary is running for President of the United States. So what’s the real difference?

Is it about control? Do we blame Hillary for not being able to control her husband?

We fault Hillary for staying married, honoring her vows—for better or worse—in this age of easy divorce. We question her for doing the hard work involved in being committed to another despite her rather public challenges. We appear to doubt the considerable growth and resilience she has demonstrated over the last twenty years.

Is this a reasonable expectation in any marriage? Is it fair to assume that if she can’t control her husband, then she can’t control the country?

But would we have faulted her any less for cutting and running and trading in one “model” for another newer one, literally? Isn’t this another form of sexism? Whether Donald or Bill is the bigger sexist is a moot point. The real point here is that women have the ability and responsibility to overcome their girly thoughts and become truly equal with men.

Learn more about overcoming girly thoughts at The Powerful Woman: Women and Resilience

Patricia A O'Gorman is a psychologist, speaker and author of nine books, her most recent being: The Girly Thoughts 10 Day Detox (HCI).   

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.