As of 3:45 p.m., the Drudge Report was leading with a story about Bill Cosby. “COSBY TO STAND TRIAL IN SEX ASSAULT CASE,” the homepage screamed, underneath a photograph of Bill Cosby speaking as Hillary Clinton clapped approvingly in the background. The implication, of course, is that as long as Clinton stays silent on high-profile cases of sexual assault, she shares the blame with the men who allegedly committed them.
As we approach a general election that will likely be between flatulent leather couch Donald Trump and Clinton, we’re hearing more and more about how each character is uniquely bad for the indistinct mass of voters called “Women.” We’ve seen it in Trump’s numerous attacks on Clinton’s silence in the face of claims about her husband committing infidelity and sexual harassment and assault, and it’s a message that seems to be resonating with the public. Since I wrote about Trump’s latest ad, which features interviews with her husband’s alleged victims spliced with her own laughing, I have combed through numerous emails and hundreds of comments arguing that while, yes, the ad was in poor taste, it had the saving grace of being true. Just one example:
By this logic—by the logic on Drudge Report’s home page—Clinton is responsible for crimes committed by any powerful man that she has not publicly condemned. This logic erases the complex negotiations that come with being a public female figure, with being a wife, and with having to maintain a highly-controlled image. It also allows no room for the fact that Clinton’s rise in the public sphere took place during decades in which few people spoke up for women—think of the long, long silence on Cosby’s open secret—and in which that same gendered lack of respect applied to her too. It also wipes out the cascade of allegations of assault and general ickiness brought against her opponent and allows Sanders supporters to point out that their candidate never had to deal with a cheating spouse in the first place.
Rather handily, it accomplishes all this while wiping away her unique history of championing women’s rights. The logic is powerful, playing to our worst ideas about women, and it can be propagated with a careful crop on a picture alone. Think of the photo of Trump and Clinton at Trump’s wedding, for another example: the implicit blame for his prior and subsequent misdeeds seems to always rebound to her.
Image via Drudge Report.