You may have seen the news that a member of Donald Trump's staff retweeted a message asking "if Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?" The tweet was hastily deleted, but not before its overtly sexist and demeaning content had caused a firestorm in cyberspace.
Yet we shouldn't really be surprised about the tweet from Trump's account. Given the sexist abuse Clinton has already endured during the fledgling presidential campaign, it should come as little surprise.
When Hillary Clinton finally announced her candidacy for the US presidential election on 12 April, she ended months of speculation and unleashed a torrent of commentary, both positive and negative. Sharp political analysis is to be expected, and accepted, as part of any high-profile run for office. But what Clinton shouldn't have to contend with, though it comes as little surprise, is the bombardment of misogyny that has already commenced just days into her campaign.
From the inane to the irrelevant to the deeply insulting, everybody seems to have a take on how Clinton's gender might impact her hypothetical presidency. Detailed pieces have already emerged about her evolving fashion sense, with one headline claiming: "Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid" – a charge unlikely to be levelled at any male candidate.
The litany of abuse against Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign
- A Republican strategist has said "I don't need her to drawn me in oestrogen every time she opens her month"
- A leading pundit said Clinton was "too ugly" to be President and called her a "damned bimbo"
- A New York Times op-ed accused her of "basking in oestrogen" after discussing granddaughter's birth during campaigjning
- One of Donald Trump's staffers retweeted a message alleging that Clinton "can't satisfy her husband"
Right-wing commentators have also been quick to weigh in. One Republican strategist declared: "I don't need her to drown me in estrogen every time she opens her mouth." Another pundit explained that Clinton will never be president, in part because she is too "profoundly ugly". (His thoughtful and nuanced account also referred to her as a "damned bimbo".) Meanwhile Milwaukee County Supervisor Deanna Alexander decided to cut to the chase and just start referring to Clinton as "Ovary" when discussing her presidential bid on Twitter.
It's worth emphasising that Clinton's detractors have focused not only on her sex but also on the intersecting ageist stereotypes associated with older women. The ludicrous question of whether one person could possibly handle being both President of the United States and a grandparent has dogged her since Chelsea Clinton announced her pregnancy in April 2014. A recent New York Times op-ed entitled "Granny Get Your Gun" accused Clinton of "basking in oestrogen" because she dared to discuss her granddaughter's birth on the campaign trail.
Did you know that Jeb Bush, tipped as a potential Republican presidential frontrunner, is also a grandparent? If you didn't, it's probably because nobody is talking about it. It's not considered particularly relevant to his political career, after all.
Grandchildren aside, other column inches have focused on whether a woman in her sixties will be able to handle the Oval Office at all.
An online piece published by TIME dealt Clinton the supreme backhanded compliment of declaring her "The Perfect Age to be President", before going into great detail about the "hormonal ebbing" she might be experiencing as a post-menopausal woman. An LA Times columnist, meanwhile, wrote at length about her surprise that Clinton would even consider running for the presidency without first having Botox or plastic surgery.
All this before you even get down to the level of the individual comments about Clinton's candidacy, many of which are neatly epitomised by one Dallas woman's Facebook post, explaining that "a female shouldn't be president" because "with the hormones we have there is no way we should be able to start a war". Being president, apparently, is a job that "should be left to a man, a good, strong, honorable man".
Taking up the ageism angle and running with it, another bright spark started the #HowOldIsHillary hashtag, posting unflattering pictures of Clinton alongside images of rusty old cars with imaginative captions like: "Hillary Clinton is older than this".
The day Clinton announced her candidacy, my Everyday Sexism Project created a handy bingo card to keep track of sexist responses to the campaign. Less than two weeks later I can almost call a full house.
The great irony is that those who attack Clinton, or any other political candidate, on the grounds of stereotype and prejudice really are scoring a spectacular own goal.
Even if you are no fan of Clinton's politics, any criticism of her is severely undermined by a sexist slant. A policy-based argument is much more compelling than one that relies on tired stereotyping to make a point. One gentleman's Twitter attack on Clinton, for example, while enthusiastic, was sorely undermined by his insistence on referring to her supporters en masse as "bitches who support abortion". It just didn't inspire confidence in the basis of his argument.
Attack Clinton's politics by all means. But if you want to convince anybody that there's any merit to your case, you'd better come up with something better than a hormone headline to sell it.
Laura Bates is the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, which has collated over 80,000 women's stories of harassment and discrimination at work and in everyday life. She is also a prolific writer and the recipient of several awards. Follow Laura on Twitter here.