On Oct. 7, Presidential candidate Donald Trump released an apology for his misogynistic comments in an infamous 2005 tape, which records him bragging to Access Hollywood host Billy Bush about sexually assaulting women. However, his apology merely brushed off the incident as “locker-room talk” while shifting the focus onto Bill Clinton, who had nothing to do with this incident. This attack on Bill Clinton, however, is not an isolated event in this election; rather, it fits into larger, disturbing political dialogue that has trouble distinguishing between Hillary Clinton and her husband. Hillary Clinton is not her husband, nor do her opinions necessarily build off her husband’s. The assumption that Hillary’s opinions reflect or are analogous to Bill’s creates a sexist political discourse that questions Hillary Clinton’s suitability for president because of her gender.
Donald Trump is not the only one with a tendency to equate Hillary’s presidential platform with her husband’s past. In the second presidential debate, Anderson Cooper asked Hillary, “Your husband called Obamacare the ‘craziest thing in the world’ [….] Was he mistaken or was he simply telling the truth?” Despite the fact that Bill is not running for president, the way in which Anderson framed his question places Bill’s opinions on par with Hillary’s. The media’s fixation likewise creates a dialogue where Hillary must answer for her husband’s political views rather than her own.
This fixation on Bill also implicitly assumes that Hillary is merely an extension of her husband rather than a candidate with her own platform. As Donald Trump’s apology exemplifies, her opponent and the media attempt to use Bill’s history of adultery and personal shortcomings as means to criticize and invalidate Hillary’s campaign. The consequence of using her husband as a tool against her campaign is that Hillary’s policies are merely a reflection of her husband’s. This casts doubt on whether she is even capable of forming her thoughts or handling the demands of the presidency. According to the rhetoric that blames Hillary for her husband's faults, Hillary is a wife first and a presidential candidate second.
The fact that the media does not align Donald Trump with his spouse particularly highlights the sexist undertones this election. Melania Trump’s plagiarism scandal in July tested this double standard; however, several media sources brushed off the incident as the result of poor speech writing and fact-checking, rather than a reflection on the Trump campaign or Donald Trump himself. In fact, articles describing the incident barely mention Donald at all. Trump Campaign chairman Paul Manafort likewise told CNN, “The controversy you’re talking about is not meaningful at all [because Melania] is not a candidate for office.”
The same excuse, however, apparently does not apply to the Clinton campaign. The hypocrisy of the Trump campaign and the double standards set by the media only illustrate the deeply ingrained sexism Hillary combats in this election. Despite her qualifications and experience, the media depicts Hillary as a wife and First Lady rather than a valid presidential candidate.
This treatment of Hillary Clinton is unfair, and is an inappropriate way to treat any woman—professional or not. In Hillary’s case especially, it bolsters the false assumption that women do not belong in politics. In order to set a better standard for women in the professional sphere in general, the Trump campaign and the media need to exclude Bill Clinton from the political discussion and give Hillary the respect that she deserves.