Nasty Woman: Hillary Clinton’s Media Coverage and Choices in the 2016 Presidential Election


  • Abby Bean Tulane University


2016 came to be one of the most influential elections in recent American history; following eight years of the first black president, Hillary Clinton was the first woman to become the first presidential nominee of any major party in the history of the United States. On November 8th, 2016, she received 65 million votes, willing the popular vote but losing the presidency. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her opponent, Republican nominee Donald Trump, faced off in a town hall-style debate on October 9th, 2016. Just a few days prior, an Access Hollywood tape had been released to the public, wherein Trump bragged about committing sexual assault. Quickly in the debate, Trump’s behavior devolved and within only a few minutes, he began pacing, huffing, pointing, and looming behind Clinton. Situated within a context and climate unfriendly to female politicians, Clinton was faced with a choice. Either she could ignore Trump’s behavior and hold onto her composure or she could stand up to him and tell him to back off. The country and the world watched this profound moment that encapsulated one of the most significant themes of the campaign in which Clinton’s role as the first female presidential nominee by a major party placed hundreds of years of gender norms front and center. Stuck in a classic double bind, Clinton made the decision to keep quiet and ignore Trump. The implication of this double bind is that women vying for power and leadership must choose between being perceived as either too aggressive or too meek for the job, and two hundred years of precedent have supported the notion that the American presidency is a man’s job. Of course, although Clinton won the popular vote by 2.8 million votes, Donald Trump won the Electoral College, and thus, the presidency (Begley 2018). As we move forward into an age in which more and more women and other marginalized groups assert themselves in politics, we must reckon with how we talk about women’s ability to lead in comparison to men.


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