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Pussy grabs back: Why feminism is the real winner in this extraordinary US election

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Ask A Feminist is our regular column tackling issues on sexism and womanhood in a real-life, 21st century context. This week, Stylist contributor Léonie Chao-Fong argues that, despite the slew of rampant sexism present in the US presidential campaign process, this election will be a win for feminism - whoever wins at the polls. 


My fellow humans, dear comrades in this nightmare that is 2016: it's almost over.

Finally – oh finally – the end is within sight, so agonisingly within reach of our fingertips. The end to what has felt like an interminable stretch of (pardon my language) shit-slinging and political mayhem, of pussy-grabbing and literal bloodletting (or so according to the Republican nominee). 

In a matter of days, the next leader of the free world will be crowned under a shower of garishly coloured balloons (the balloons really are quite the highlight, just look at Bill's face). That is, barring any catastrophe leading to the complete meltdown of American politics. Which, all things considered, isn't impossible. 

As we dust ourselves of the ashen remains that has been the 2016 United States presidential election campaign, let us take some small delight in the one silver lining of this earthbound inferno. 

Because on November 8th - despite who wins at the polls - there will be one clear winner: feminism. And it's all thanks to the most shameless and unrepentantly sexist political figure in modern history.

Clinton Trump finger

The 2016 US election campaign: giving the middle finger to our sanity

To all intents and purposes, Hillary Clinton would appear to be the ultimate feminist icon. Yet when she announced her candidacy in April of last year, it quickly became clear that securing 'the women's vote' would be much harder than expected. America's first female presidential nominee for a major party was having serious trouble winning over women.

Young women, in particular, were struggling to muster enthusiasm for Clinton. Many instead felt the Bern, with 82% of them voting for Sanders in the New Hampshire primary in February. For many, feminism was a secondary factor — if a factor at all — that was made up of largely "outdated" issues, far outweighed by Sanders' liberalism and democratic socialist principles.

Plus, from the very onset, Clinton faced a huge image problem: as many as 68% of Americans consider her to be dishonest and untrustworthy. Besides the ongoing controversy over her use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State, she has also come under fire for the somewhat shady practices of her family's foundation. Clinton's coziness with corporate Wall Street is unsettling at best, and she has displayed a military hawkishness that leaves many voters wary.

Clinton and Sanders

Clinton initially struggled to win the support of young women, many of whom preferred her opponent Bernie Sanders

Then Donald Trump happened.

In what will be remembered as the election's defining moment, a 2005 tape was leaked in which the Republican nominee revealed to Access Hollywood anchor and fully-fledged creep Billy Bush that he had "grabbed" women by the pussy" without their permission. In other words, he was bragging about sexual assaulting women. 

When multiple women came forward to confirm what he had already said he'd done, he denied the allegations, saying that the women were too ugly to assault or that they actually "welcomed" it.

Trump has consistently demonstrated that he values women purely as sex objects to objectify, dehumanise and assault at will. The full list of vile (and sometimes downright weird) things that Trump has said about women is too long to go into full here, but choice highlights include:

And so the feminist backlash began.

Within a week of Trump's charming genital-grabbing comments, Clinton's support among women had surged and she was leading by 20 points among female voters.

In an unprecedented move, rock-ribbed Republicans began breaking ranks. As high-profile Republicans rushed to withdraw their support, married white women - traditionally safe conservative voters - became hostile to the idea of a president who might move on women "like a bitch". Evangelical Christian women spoke out against his comments. Trump has even suffered a blow in support from military women.

When Trump called his opponent a "nasty woman" during the final presidential debate, women took to social media and claimed it as a empowering phrase. #NastyWoman instantly trended on Twitter.

What Trump managed to do — and that Clinton's campaign team had failed to do this entire time — is that he made her relatable to women across America.

For those women who had distanced themselves from feminism, who felt that the barriers no longer applied to them, Trump's words cast a spotlight on the everyday sexism that affects us all.

They proved that the battle for equality is so, so very far from being over. 

Because every woman has, at some point in her life, encountered a Trump-like caricature of a woman-hating chauvinist. Every woman has been judged on her appearance, reduced to weight measurements and hair colour and genitals. Every woman has been shamed for her sexuality or belittled for her gender. And because nearly one in five women in the US say they have been sexually assaulted.

Happy Halloween! With love from a Grabbed Pussy ✋🐱 📸 by the very tolerant @jenna_wb #imanasshole

A photo posted by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on

As Michelle Obama said, "I feel it so personally. The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. It is cruel. It's frightening. It hurts.

"It's like that sick, sinking feeling you get when you're walking down the street and some guy yells out vulgar words about your body. Or when you see that guy at work that stands just a little too close, stares a little too long, and makes you feel uncomfortable in your own skin."

The (fingers tightly crossed, because polls are hinting at an extremely close result) election of America's first ever female president will no doubt be a groundbreaking moment. 

Will it bring an end to sexism in the US? No, it will not. 

For one thing, there are legitimate reasons to question Hillary Clinton's feminist credentials. While her campaign has eagerly jumped onboard the bandwagon, pro-women issues actually form only a small part of her platform. She has been accused of using stigmatising language when discussing abortion. And while she claims to have the interests of all women at heart, her concerns often really only address those of privileged, white women

As First Lady, her support of the welfare 'reform' act of 1996 helped threaten the lives of poor and working class women and children. As Secretary of State, Clinton was a staunch supporter for military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria — all which have disproportionately affected the women in those countries.

But for now, let us take a break from all the despair and instead rejoice. Women have come together like never before. If only women voted on election day, Clinton would win in a clear landslide. The gender split is stark, and the message is clear: enough is enough. 

If Clinton wins, the feminist fight must continue. Trump has breathed new life into the movement, by forcing women's bodies to the very forefront of the national conversation. But feminists must continue to strive to debate the issues that have barely seen light in the past year: equal pay, affordable childcare, reproductive rights, intersectional feminism and socioeconomic equality. 

As Clinton said towards to the end of the second presidential debate, "This is not an ordinary time." No ma'am, it certainly is not. It's time for the pussy to grab back.

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Pictures: Rex Features

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