Views / Opinion

How American women managed to defend the indefensible: Supporting Donald Trump

Casting support for Donald as incompatible with womanhood went nowhere.

Kellyanne Conway, a senior advisor to President-Elect Donald Trump, takes questions from the media at Trump Tower on November 21, 2016 in New York City. Conway has suggested that Hillary Clinton overplayed her appeal to women voters on the basis of Trump's sexism.

Getty Images

Kellyanne Conway, a senior advisor to President-Elect Donald Trump, takes questions from the media at Trump Tower on November 21, 2016 in New York City. Conway has suggested that Hillary Clinton overplayed her appeal to women voters on the basis of Trump's sexism.

When Hillary Clinton beat the drum of the woman card along the 2016 campaign trail — “Deal me in!” — it was the grandma joke that landed a little flat.

Fighting for women’s equality and rights was a desperate need for many of her supporters, but as a punchline, the deck-of-cards analogy hardly blew your socks off. And for the majority of white American women who voted in Trump, it clearly didn’t make the difference.

Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign-manager-turned-advisor, appears to now interpret Clinton’s loss as proof that Trump isn’t actually sexist or misogynist.

“All this anti-woman stuff,” she said this week, after being asked at a Washington, D.C., event how she “rationalized” Trump’s pussy-grabbing tape with the fact he’s denied allegations of sexual assault. “And you know how America’s women answered? They gave the would-be first female candidate, I don’t know, what was it, 56 per cent of the vote, 57?” (Pew Research Centre has it at 54 per cent.)

“She should have gotten 60 or 62 percent of the female vote,” Conway continued, according to Politico. “And part of why she did not is women tired of the same argument and the same thing that you’re presenting to me now, even though you’re trying to be personally mean about it.”

Conway is objectively right. Focuses on Trump’s sexism and misogyny didn’t give Clinton the win. The questioner had asked how Conway “rationalized” Trump “as a woman.” And Conway, and many women, answered, basically, screw you.

The problem for feminism — for the state of women under a Trump world order — is just how resolutely the appeal to women’s interests failed to sway women’s votes; just how readily sexism and misogyny are accepted by women as well as men. The election has offered an educational conundrum: How do you explain gender inequalities to people who refuse to believe they exist or — more worryingly — don’t think they matter?

Some are appealing to Ivanka Trump, the top female surrogate for her father, in Instagram posts that begin “Dear Ivanka,” and continue with pleas to support women’s reproductive rights, fight HIV/AIDS, improve access to child care and tackle climate change.

According to a separate Politico story, Ivanka apparently does plan on using a first-lady-esque position in her father’s White House to address climate change. But I expect her impact, on any given issue, will have all the force of a polite sneeze.

In the reporting so far into who Ivanka is and what she believes, there’s nothing to suggest she is substantially unlike her father.. She appears just as policy-thin (her proposed child-care policy would do little for families most in need), corporate-driven (she’s committed to running Trump’s businesses despite a high-profile role in the transition team), and entitled (her memoir gives herself, and not her inherited wealth, all the credit).

Left-wing hopefuls seem to be reaching out to Ivanka — and not, say, her husband, Jared Kushner — purely in the misguided belief that her womanhood indicates a secret harbour of progressive views.

It’s a conclusion as faulty as Clinton’s faith in the woman card. And one that will do nothing to aid American feminism at the onset of a dark and demanding four years.