A common misconception presented to me both on campus and beyond Bates is that, at this point in time, women and men have the same rights, face similar obstacles and are exposed to similar educational and economic opportunities; the only thing women face that men do not is the likelihood of rape (or so these sources say). However, if you are looking for any evidence that male privilege does still in fact exist beyond the facet of sexual assault, you only have to look towards the current presidential election.
While the presidential debates and this year’s election as a whole have been an overwhelming unveiling of privilege of all types (globally as well as domestically), for the sake of brevity I will focus mostly on privilege as a repercussion of Trump’s maleness versus Clinton’s femaleness. While it is important to recognize that both candidates present as white, heterosexual, and cis gender, I am not positing that any of these factors contribute to Clinton’s “oppression.” In fact, I think her treatment as inferior would be even more shocking and belittling if she identified as any sort of oppressed minority group other than the umbrella “woman.” Secondly, this is in no way the only or primary flaw of the presidential election and the privilege it displays. The conflict in Syria, the refugee crisis, and the BLM movement are just three small examples of global and national emergencies that didn’t get mentioned at the first debate.
Nonetheless, the treatment of Trump versus the treatment of Clinton as candidates is a display of male privilege that is too disturbing to ignore. According to PBS, Clinton was interrupted at the debate 51 times. According to USA Today, Trump interrupted Clinton 25 times within the first 26 minutes. This potentially means that Clinton could have had one full minute of interrupted talking. One. Not only is it extremely disrespectful and demeaning for one candidate to blatantly interrupt another candidate this many times, it is equally as disrespectful and demeaning that the mediator, Holt, did not intervene.
Sadly, this kind of behavior linearly follows our cultural narrative all too well. Men can speak whenever they want; men have important opinions; male voices matter. This narrative excludes female power by silencing the voices of women. This narrative excludes any prospect of female success by interrupting a woman before she can make her point. And this narrative excludes any prospect of female leadership by making sure that women do not have oratory authority.
By allowing this kind of behavior to go unchecked, unnoticed, and unaccounted for in our political system, we are supporting a system that places men as talkers and women as listeners. We are supporting a system in which women are subordinate to men in every intellectual capacity, in a system that is already created to support inherently masculine qualities. The candidate with the louder, deeper voice, assertive behavior, and ability to fill a room with their presence is favored. So allowing the candidate who stereotypically does not have this skill set (as it was systemically trained out of her at a young age) to be continually silenced is disgusting.
The labor Hilary Clinton must commit to in order to obtain a voice, an identity, and a body of her own was overwhelmingly apparent at 2016’s first Presidential Debate. And the labor that Clinton must continue to commit to in order to forge her own voice as an American woman is not an isolated labor.