In a stunning show of sexism and misogyny, the two front-runners for the Republican primary have bashed both the dignity and intellectual capacity of their wives in the past several weeks. The argument began when an anti-Donald Trump super PAC released an image of Melania Trump posing nude in an advertisement. The image encouraged people to vote against Trump, implying that Melania’s body was representative of the main reason one shouldn’t vote for Trump.
Trump responded to this advertisement by attacking Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi Cruz—even though the Cruz campaign was reportedly uninvolved in the publication of the advertisement. Trump tweeted an equally degrading announcement of his wife’s physical attributes by posting a photo of Heidi next to a photo of Melania, with the words: “No need to ‘spill the beans,’ the images are worth a thousand words.”
While this argument is shocking in many ways, I am most appalled by the fact that it has increased Trump’s and Cruz’s popularity amongst media outlets, rather than hindering their political agendas or reputations. Honestly, I doubt anyone is surprised about Trump’s comments regarding Cruz’s wife as well as his own, given his long history of misogynistic commentary. Trump has perpetuated the idea that wives of presidential candidates are only useful as eye candy for the media.
Interestingly, one of the most ironic outcomes of this “fight” was Cruz’s response to Trump’s tweet, in which he stated, “Donald, real men don’t attack women.” Although I would agree with Cruz’s apparent attempt to redefine traditional standards of masculinity, he has unfortunately done nothing but attack women throughout his presidential campaign. Whether it’s through his support to systematically abolish vital healthcare for women by defunding Planned Parenthood and repealing the Affordable Care Act, or his belief that women should be denied the right to terminate a pregnancy, Cruz is, under his own definition, hardly a man.
This subversion of the rights and the dignity of women has repercussions on a much larger scale: the reinforcement of sexism throughout our political system. What does it mean for the future of our country when a woman is likely to win a presidential primary, but half the country can only seem to focus on what color pantsuit she is wearing, or is calling her a “b***h” for knowing what she wants? It seems ironic to me that a politician and leader like Cruz who is so passionately disturbed by Islamic religious (Sharia) law can enact legislation that would disrupt a woman’s bodily independence in a blatantly similar way.
Though Cruz was able to defend his wife from Trump’s misogynistic comments, he did not emphasize their sexist overtones. Instead, he went on to mention that Trump is a coward because “Heidi is way out of his league.” Either outcome of the Republican primary this year will regress women’s rights in the United States further than ever before. Hope for a continuation of anti-misogynistic political progress will be left to the Democrats this fall.