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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/9/17

What If Clinton Were a Man and Trump Were a Woman?

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by Gaius Publius

The latest outrage from the Republican Wet Dream Team is Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, cheered by almost every Republican in elected federal office. We have seen and will see plenty of commentary on that world-historical event. It's not hard to be horrified by it, and it may even help, though until real climate hawks -- people who are deadly serious about making real and revolutionary changes at the fastest possible rate, of which I see few -- get their hands on the levers of American power, it's hard to see how.

My own comment on this announcement was published last December, almost immediately after the election and well in anticipation of the much more recent news. You can read it here. The headline is no exaggeration, and the piece gets fairly specific about why the headline statement is true.

The other topic being bandied about these days is -- what's going on in the Democratic Party? Or more specifically, how are mainstream Democrats dealing with being out of power, and how is having lost the White House being post-mortem-ed? The current crop of public questions include -- Was it Russia's fault? Was it sexism's fault? Was it Bernie's fault? Was it the fault of the voting mass of the "deplorables"? Or something else entirely?

Among mainstreamers, the question "Was it Clinton's fault?" seems not to be asked at all, at least publicly.

Of these questions, one of the most intriguing in terms of its subtlety is "Was it sexism's fault?" In other words, was it the fault of inbred American sexism that Clinton, who would have been the first woman president, was not elected? The question needs answering even if there were other factors in her loss, including the unpopularity of Clinton herself -- a factor that's difficult for many to disentangle from the simple fact of her gender.

For example, if Clinton were a man, would she have been more successful? Answering that would go a long way to disentangling the Clinton-as-Clinton thread from the Clinton-as-woman thread.

We can take that further. If Clinton had been a man, Trump had been a woman, and all other things (or most of them) had been the same, would the electoral results have been the same? If not, how would they have been different?

Testing the Response to Gender in the Presidential Election

We at la Maison are not the first to ask those questions. Two academics pursuing the problem of the role of gender in the last election, Professors Maria Guadalupe and Joe Salvatore, have created an interesting virtual test tube for helping find the answers. They excerpted material from one of the debates between Clinton and Trump, switched the genders while keeping almost all the language -- including the body language -- the same, and performed the result as a play-cum-research project. You can see a sample of what they did in the video at the top.

There are no simple or clear answers to the above questions -- Would the results have been the same? If not, how would they have been different? -- but there is suggestive data. Again, the key factors include not just the fact of Trump's behavior as a man, but also as the kind of person he is. Same with Clinton -- it's not just that she's a woman that had an effect, but also the kind of person she is.

Because these elements are hard to separate doesn't mean that they can't be separated, at least on a viewer-by-viewer basis. That is, even if not every person has the same reaction to the gender switch, each person will have some reaction, and that reaction can be instructive.

Try it yourself. If you haven't already watched the video, do this:

  • Ask yourself, what was your impression of Trump -- as a person first, then as a male person -- before the election? What did you like about him and/or his message? What did you dislike?
  • What was your impression of Clinton -- as a person first, then as a female person -- before the election? What did you like about her and/or her message? What did you dislike?

Then watch the video and ask yourself:

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A writer who contributes to a number of publications, including digby's Hullabaloo, Down With Tyranny, Naked Capitalism, Truthout and Alternet.

On Twitter — @Gaius_Publius

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