The Real ‘Woman Card’

Anti-feminist stereotypes traditionally lobbed at politically ambitious women now legitimately apply to Donald Trump.

The Real ‘Woman Card’

(Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

By Peter Fenn | Contributor

June 20, 2016, at 3:15 p.m.

In the early 1980s when I started my political consulting firm, I began working for the Women’s Campaign Fund. Some of my first clients in the election of 1984 were Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, chair of the platform committee and nominee for vice president, and another candidate for Congress, Jane Wells Schooley of Pennsylvania, former vice president of the National Organization for Women.

At that time, there were two women in the United States Senate and 22 members of the House, a grand total of 24 out of 535. Today, we are up to 20 female senators and 88 representatives for a total of 108 – still not enough, but an improvement over the last 30 years.

During those early years, female candidates faced very tough obstacles: Do you have enough experience? Do you know “the issues” well enough? Are you “tough” enough to handle a campaign and the office? Do you have other “obligations” – children and family? Are you too “emotional” to govern? Do you understand budgets, foreign policy, legal issues, defense policy? In short, are you competent enough to handle all these “complex” governance problems as a woman?

Women had to be smarter, more knowledgeable, more experienced, cooler and calmer under pressure, even more “ready” for office than men to get elected. That situation has changed for the better, though some of the same prejudices are still present today.

Women like Ferraro and Wells Schooley were trailblazers, no question, and the Women’s Campaign Fund and later Emily’s List had to constantly fight against stereotypes.

That brings me to one theory of the 2016 presidential election. We are seeing a very serious role reversal in the Clinton-Trump race. The very criticisms that men unfairly hurled at politically ambitious women are now actually true about Trump. The old stereotypes and attack lines for women have suddenly become part and parcel of who Donald Trump really is:

Who is the most emotional, off-the-wall, candidate? Donald Trump.

Who is shrill and flailing at his rallies? Donald Trump

Who has little knowledge or understanding of the issues confronting the country? Easy one, Donald Trump.

Who lacks basic competency in governing? Donald Trump, hands down.

Who routinely makes statements that lack credibility, don’t rely on facts and depend on his “mood” at the time? Yup, Donald Trump.