This is because the US is one of the most influential countries on the planet, and not just because it’s powerful and wealthy. American culture affects the whole world, and the person America chooses for their president can’t help but set the tone for that culture.
When Hillary Clinton brought up Alicia Machado in America’s first presidential debate of 2016, it was to illustrate Donald Trump’s problematic, misogynistic dealings with women.
After Machado won the Miss Universe beauty pageant in 1996, Trump, who was an executive producer of the pageant at the time, began to verbally abuse her for gaining weight.
Apart from fat-shaming, many of Trump’s comments were also racist. To quote Clinton, “He called this woman ‘Miss Piggy’, and then he called her ‘Miss Housekeeping’, because she was Latino.”
Machado, who was only 18 at the time, would go on to struggle with eating-disorders. Trump would go on to acknowledge pressuring her to lose weight, calling her weight gain “a real problem”.
So ten years ago, Donald Trump bullied a teenage girl about her weight. That’s bad enough. What really bothers me is the way Trump tried to turn it around to make himself seem like the good guy.
First of all, there’s absolutely no acknowledgement from Trump that what he did was wrong. It would have been one thing if Trump had said “Look, this was ten years ago, and of course I am deeply sorry for my conduct”, but when questioned, his explanation for his behavior is simply “she gained a massive amount of weight”.
A teenage girl he found physically attractive gaining a little bit of weight was, to him, the real crime, and, he seems to feel, fully justified his treatment of her.
Second, Trump’s now infamous 3am tweet storm, in which he called Machado “disgusting”, encouraging his followers to “check out” her “sex tape”.
Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2016
Let’s put aside the fact that a man who wants to become one of the most powerful and influential political figures in the world was up at 3am, angrily ranting on Twitter.
Let’s also put aside the fact that a man who wants to lead the United States of America posted accusations that are nothing more than purposefully misleading misinformation. Where Trump’s informants and fact checkers are is anyone’s guess, but two seconds on snopes.com and Trump might have known that the “sex tape” that’s supposed to feature Machado actually just features a porn actress named Angel Dark. The only thing Machado has ever done is a mildly risqué scene in a TV reality show that didn’t involve any nudity, and appear topless in Playboy.
His accusations show not only his complete disregard for the truth, but the double standards he subscribes to, as it recently came to light that Trump himself has in fact been featured in a soft core porno, seen popping a bottle of champagne while accompanied by Playboy playmates.
But let’s just focus on this: Trump was in trouble for fat-shaming a woman, and when called out for this, his immediate instinct was to slut shame her, thinking if she can be proven to be a “slut”, then he’s off the hook for verbally abusing her.
All this reveals what Trump believes about women: that women must be sexually pure and thin in order to have value. If a woman is fat, she deserves to be verbally abused. If she’s sexually free, she’s “disgusting”.
Trump is missing the point. Machado could be the “fattest slut” in the world and it still wouldn’t make the way he treated her, or views and treats women in general, OK. And his instinct to call a woman a “fat slut” just because he feels threatened by her is, frankly, alarming on a human level, never mind as a presidential candidate.
Donald Trump might just become the next American president. If he does, it’s not just bad news for American women – it’s bad news for women all over the world. And that’s why, even though I’m South African and have no vote in the US presidential elections, #ImWithHer.