Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has bragged about “being out four or five nights a week, usually with a different woman each time” during his youth and described avoiding sexually transmitted infections back then as “my personal Vietnam.” But it was the sexual history of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado that he derided early Friday morning as “disgusting” and urged people to “check out sex tape and past.”
Trump, who told Howard Stern he had watched Paris Hilton’s sex tape despite having known Hilton since she was 12, also said that Hillary Clinton had falsely portrayed Machado as an “angel” and “paragon of virtue” after she referred to the former pageant winner in Monday's debate.
Clinton, in fact, had focused on Trump’s behavior, which included ambushing the then-19-year-old Machado with television cameras during her workout.
But for feminists, by putting Machado's character on trial, evoking her later and entirely irrelevant sexual history, Trump is engaging in classic slut-shaming. That would be holding women to a higher standard of chastity and assuming any unsanctioned display of sexuality is self-evidently damning.
“It’s a total double standard,” said feminist author Erika L. Sánchez. “It’s the whole virgin/whore dichotomy.”
Trump’s terminology also suggested only two categories for women: “angel” or “disgusting,” the latter being a word he also used for a female lawyer who pulled out a breast pump and for comedian Rosie O’Donnell.
“In these tweets is this assumption that in order to wrong a woman, that woman must be a saint, otherwise what you’ve done to her doesn’t count,” said Emily Lindin, founder of the UnSlut Project, which raises awareness about sexual bullying.
In addition to Trump’s dozens of conversations with Howard Stern about his own sexual adventures and preferences, the hypocrisy of Trump using Machado’s public sexuality against her is that he himself owned multiple companies that profited off female beauty and sexuality — including a modeling agency and the pageant Machado won. He also tellingly referred to Machado as one of “my” Miss Universes.
“Every woman needs to be sexual on his terms,” said feminist writer Veronica Arreola. “If it benefits him, they can be as free and liberated as possible. And if it doesn’t, hey, you need to button up there …. And it makes him angry to see women who fall outside that assert themselves.”
On Monday night, Clinton also repeated Machado’s charge that Trump “called her ‘Miss Housekeeping,’ because she was Latina,” pouring ethnic stereotyping into the misogyny cocktail.
“I think for many Latinas, being called a housekeeper is not a personal offense as much as a reflection of the person calling them that,” said Arreola. “If Trump thinks that calling someone a housekeeper is an insult, how does he treat his hotel staff, the people who clean up after him and his home?”
She added, “He has continued to frame his campaign as one of the working class, but he uses working class positions as derogatory words.”
None of this is likely to help Trump with Latino voters, with whom he had trouble long before his tweet-storm about the Venezuelan-born Machado. Trump famously launched his presidential campaign claiming that “when Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best …. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
“It’s all related to how he sees us as solely sexual, primitive people, as uncivilized and dangerous,” said Sánchez. “He talks about my community in such a disgusting way, but he definitely benefits from our labor.”
Trump has refused to back down from his comments about Mexican immigrants. In his pushback to Clinton saying he had berated Machado in a racist and sexist way, Trump has not denied any of the account, nor has he apologized.
He has, however, previously insisted that he is not a misogynist.
“I cherish women,” Trump said last year, during his attacks on Megyn Kelly. “I want to help women.”
But Arreola said that attitude, too, is reductive and stereotypes women. “That’s not the way to love and honor women, to put them on a pedestal,” she said. “That chivalrous view of women, as opposed to loving and honoring them as people, leads to what Trump is doing now.”
The Machado incident also highlights yet another example of Trump holding women’s bodies to a standard to which he does not hold himself. Hours after the debate, Trump indignantly went on television to protest that Machado had indeed gained weight, as if it refuted Clinton's charge.
According to Trump’s own medical report, as analyzed by the Washington Post, he is five pounds short of obese. He famously subsists on fast food and told Dr. Oz recently that his campaign trail exercise regimen is “using a lot of motion” as he speaks during his rallies. But one thing is clear, by Trump’s own account: When he deems it necessary, women's bodies are to be used against them.