During a Donald Trump rally in Atkinson, New Hampshire, on Friday, former Gov. John Sununu made a joke about Hillary Clinton's sex life. Not aiming for originality, Sununu went for a Monica Lewinsky reference. "You think Bill was referring to Hillary when he said, 'I did not have sex with that woman?'" The crowd responded by clapping, cheering, and laughing, and it was a frustrating reminder that, yes, we have an anti-feminist who encourages this kind of talk running for president.
This is far from being the first time a Trump surrogate made a misogynist comment about Clinton. At the same rally, Sen. Bob Smith did an impersonation of Bill contemplating his wife going to prison. "If she goes to jail, I will be free as a bird to do what I wanna do," he quipped.
In September, Rudy Giuliani characterized Clinton as "too stupid to be president" for not immediately believing that her husband had indeed been involved in an affair with Lewinsky once the story broke. In the same month, Republican strategist Andre Bauer mocked Clinton's appearance when referencing an instance where one of her home servers was allegedly wiped clean to get rid of wedding photos and pictures of Clinton in yoga pants. “Of course, if I saw her in yoga pants, I’d probably think the same thing–I’d want to Bleachbit it too,” he said. On Thursday, Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway referred to Clinton as "the most joyless presidential candidate." These are just a few examples.
Trump and his team have consistently dismissed criticisms of sexism surrounding the Republican campaign, some have even gone as far as to say he's a feminist, but with surrogates like the ones mentioned here, that claim is hard to take seriously.
Trump's own history of committing sexual assault and harassment, talking down to women, and his restrictive and antiquated views on women's rights — including making abortion illegal, not really believing in equal pay for equal work, and a parental leave plan that excludes paternity leave — are egregious enough to make the claim of him not holding misogynist views ridiculous on its own.
Yet the company he keeps is almost as revealing as his own transgressions. When the people helping run a candidate's campaign share the tendency to resort to gendered attacks against a female opponent, it emphasizes the point that the candidate in question must appeal to people who have derogatory views of women.
To make this election worse, not only are sexist attacks against Clinton limited to the Trump camp, it's also a disturbing trend among a large amount of his supporters. Merchandise attacking Clinton's body, wishing she were dead, mocking her sexuality, and comparing her to Lewinsky are staples at Trump rallies.
According to a poll released in October, 72 percent of Trump supporters think American society has worsened since the 1950s, and 62 percent of Republicans disagree with the idea that America would be improved by having more women in political leadership roles. It is not a coincidence that a candidate with such abysmal approval ratings among most women in the United States is appealing to a demographic with largely negative views of women as a whole.
For those of us who would rather not return to an era where marital rape was legal, abortion was outlawed, the wage gap was even worse, and women's opportunities in the work force were extremely limited, this election is possibly the most important one we've had to vote in yet.