Hillary Clinton traveled to Australia this week for a sit-down interview with that country’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, and the two had much to say about sexism in politics and in general.
Clinton, who wrote a book about her defeat in the 2016 presidential election, continues to analyze and comment on why she lost.
During the interview, Clinton and Gillard extended the discussion to include the “absolute forensics” that are done on how women look. Gillard had served as Australia's prime minister from 2010 to 2013.
“The double standard is alive and well, and it is more difficult for women in public positions – we’ll talk about politics – but it’s true in business, it’s true in the media, it’s just true across the board," Clinton said. "Because there are expectations about women’s appearance that are deep in our collective DNA, so that people feel free to comment, either favorably or unfavorably, about hairstyles, clothing fashions, and all the rest of it."
Men, Clinton said, do not face the same level of scrutiny about their appearance.
“In politics, men come in all sizes and shapes, all kinds of hairstyles or no hair at all, and it is not remarked upon, because you are used to seeing men in these roles," Clinton said.
Society’s over-emphasis on how women look is a way to undermine their confidence, put them on the defensive, and dismiss their qualifications, Clinton said.
Did Clinton bring up Trump?
Clinton turned her focus to President Donald Trump who “insulted women’s looks repeatedly,” while campaigning, she said. Among his targets were 2016 Republican nomination hopeful Carly Fiorina, and news commentators and interviewers, Clinton alleged.
"Now why did he do that, other than the fact that he is what he is?” she asked.
Clinton said it was done to undermine the women he was insulting.
“And there is a big audience for that, I regret to tell you,” Clinton said. “There is still a very large proportion of the population that is uneasy with women in positions of leadership. So, the easiest way to avoid looking at someone on her merits is to dismiss her on her looks.”
What did Gillard say about her experience?
Gillard said the emphasis on women’s looks can start out somewhat benign and then “really cascade into a nasty end.”
“I, as prime minister, referred to as a witch,” Gillard said. "A commentator said I should be put in a chaff bag and drowned at sea. I had to point out that you couldn’t drown a witch, so they needed to work out exactly what they wanted to do.”
“It just dismayed me,” Gillard added, explaining that it’s like the Salem witch trials all over again.
Media and political consultants fuel the behavior because it's an effective strategy, Clinton said.
“The other side knows the power of misogyny,” she said.
Accusations and the imagery associated with them linger and have an impact, Clinton said.
Clinton maintained she is putting the election loss behind her, but is continuing to support causes and candidates she cares about. She said she is focusing on November elections, as the entire House and one-third of Senate are up for election. It's imperative that Democrats take back at least one of them, Clinton said.