Is Donald Trump really sexist
Rich, white, and above all: male - that's Donald Trump's government team. The President employs only a handful of women in official positions. Among them is his daughter Ivanka. What drives these women? How can you reconcile working for a man who repeatedly disrespects women? Elisabeth Wehling is a linguist at the University of California at Berkeley. The 36-year-old researches how moral concepts and thought patterns lead to sexist attitudes in society and politics. She says: Trump and his top female employees share the same view of the world - and in which men play the leading role.
SZ.de: Ms. Wehling, Donald Trump recently replaced his killed communications boss Scaramucci with a woman: the 28-year-old ex-model Hope Hicks. Surprising for a president who is regularly accused of sexism?
Not really, although she differs from other employees in that she looks very feminine, is young, has worked as an underwear model - so all in all she embodies the naive type, stereotypically. Hicks isn't the first woman to have given Trump a central role in his communications. Check out his spokesperson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, or his advisor, Kellyanne Conway. I can well imagine that there is a strategy behind it. That Trump thinks: "If I put a woman in front of the desk at the press briefing, some journalists will not attack so hard."
He's hoping for bite inhibitions on the part of the media?
When Sean Spicer was the president's spokesman, verbal fights were the order of the day. Trump could now speculate on defusing unpleasant moments in the discussion by making a woman his spokeswoman. Don't get me wrong: it doesn't have to happen that way - and it would be nice that it doesn't. But such a pattern of thinking fits Trump, who has a very strongly gendered worldview. And even if journalists are more enlightened and are just as critical of Huckabee Sanders as they were of Spicer, Trump can still take the sexism card.
What do you mean?
Trump has had in the past that he was accused of sexism when he attacked journalists harshly. Now he could turn the tables and use exactly what they once accused him of against the hated media representatives. That they behave sexistically towards his press spokeswoman. Of course, that doesn't sting. Trump has always defended himself with the statement: "No, why? I would attack a man just as hard - that's just equality." He attacked women on a completely different level than men. By blaming Hillary Clinton for her husband's affairs in the TV duel, he was clearly sexist. The only question is: do his voters see and do Americans see this important difference?
What drives young, well-educated women like Hicks or Huckabee Sanders to work for a man who in the past has boasted of being able to sexually assault women with impunity, who sees women primarily as a decorative accessory? Can you explain that to me?
There are two types of women in Trump's world. First there is the woman who is desirable for the man and - in the broadest sense - becomes his property. Trump once said in the election campaign: "It doesn't really matter what the media write as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass." Loosely translated: It doesn't matter what the media write about you, as long as you have a young and hot woman by your side. When Trump compliments the French President for having a beautiful wife, he is indirectly saying: "Well done, you brought a good-looking woman into your house." The woman is valued, she becomes an object. I would put Hope Hicks in this category. In Trump's world there is a second kind of women: the workers.
Like Sarah Huckabee Sanders?
Exactly. As a businessman, he has often explained why he brings women into his teams: because women work harder than men, because they have to prove themselves more. These are exactly women like Conway or Huckabee Sanders. With them he knows: He's giving them a position and they'll work really hard to do their job justice because they can't rest on male privileges. Trump therefore benefits from a zeal for work that arises from the lack of equal rights in the workplace. At the same time, he can write himself on the cards to employ women. According to the motto: "Look here, I'm not a sexist - I'm a feminist!"
And what makes women play this game?
It's basically very simple: there are many women who are sexist themselves. The assumption that sexism is gender based, that men are sexists and women are not, is wrong. However, it is widespread: we speak of the battle of the sexes and feminists are often accused of hating men. This is an artificial separation - in fact, women can be sexists and men can be feminists. People believe in worldviews and also represent them, even if they occupy less positions of power in these worldviews.
How does a woman with a sexist worldview interpret her own role?
To put it prototypically: If, as a woman, I have a worldview according to which the man is the absolute authority in a group - he has to be strong, he has to earn the money, he says what is right and wrong, women and children have to submit to it - then my goal is probably to look for the most influential and powerful man possible who will fight for me in the world. This man also has the internal authority to give me rules, for example, how our relationship should work out. In America, many women would rather be a Melania Trump than a Hillary Clinton. Such women judge their worth by whether they please the man and less by whether they assert themselves in the world.
Trump recently sent his wife off a stage with the words: "You go and sit down now."
It is noticeable that Trump treats the First Lady rather disrespectfully and roughly in public, likes to ignore her presence and gives her instructions in front of the whole world. That seems extremely authoritarian and not exactly as if he perceived her as an equal partner - a stark contrast to Barack Obama, who often emphasized that he sees Michelle as an equal partner who is also superior to him in many ways. "Team" was the label here. The Trumps don't look like a team, and you don't get the impression that the president gives his wife an authority of her own.
In contrast, Sarah Huckabee Sanders appears emphatically self-confident. She ricochets off unpleasant reporter questions with an arrogance that is more familiar from men.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders is a sexist - albeit an atypical one. She does not interpret her own role in a classically submissive way, but in an authoritarian manner. But that does not mean that she cannot fundamentally stand behind the gender and value understanding of a sexist worldview. To come back to your initial question as to why a young, educated woman defends a man like Trump: Her view of the world allows her to be completely d'accord with a man in the locker room bragging about what he pulls out of women. Huckabee could never play the role of Melania Trump and she probably doesn't want to. Because in that moment she would be devalued: for her appearance, her deep voice, her harsh facial expressions and gestures. It is not, as Trump would say, a "nice piece of ass".
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