Less than three months ago, American women across political party lines had a reason to celebrate—a woman had reached the near-pinnacle of success by becoming a major party’s presidential nominee for the very first time. Shortly thereafter, there was another reason for bipartisan applause—a Republican candidate had taken the unprecedented step of promising paid maternity leave, marking a radical shift in the party’s relationship with working moms. Donald Trump’s plan had followed Hillary Clinton’s introduction of her own paid family leave policy, and it seemed the challenges and economic contributions of working women had finally garnered the attention they long deserved.
If women were feeling any kind of high during this election cycle, they came down from it with head-spinning speed starting Friday afternoon when The Washington Post revealed a tape from 2005 of Donald Trump making lewd and sexually aggressive remarks about women, reducing them to body parts and gatekeepers of sex. In an attempt to deflect the onslaught of criticism, Trump held a press conference last night to reintroduce America to women who accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct and to claim Hillary Clinton had attacked her husband’s alleged victims.
The debate that followed deteriorated things even further as the two nominees talked about women in terms of sex and their relationship to powerful men—Trump and Bill Clinton—turning the campaign into a contest of which candidate treats women the least-worst.