When I visited my family this past weekend, mere days before the presidential election, the first thing my father asked me was whether I was still voting for the “criminal.” As a conservative Republican, he was, of course, referring to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, but my response to him was simply: “are you still voting for the criminal who is also a racist, misogynist and just a bully in general?”
Though I wasn’t surprised he asked me this, it did get me to think more about the allegations both nominees have faced in this election, the weight each one carries and what they mean considering that one of these individuals was destined to be the leader of our country.
This election has garnered an unprecedented amount of media attention thanks to numerous scandals both candidates have been involved with, but each side has their own arguments for why one nominee’s alleged actions are substantially worse than the other’s.
The main controversy that plagued Clinton throughout the election was undoubtedly the investigation into her use of a private email server to conduct work-related correspondences during her time as secretary of state. Though she has been cleared of any criminal activity relating to this not once but two times, it still affected her performance in the polls leading up to the election, and raised concerns from both parties about whether her actions are something a candidate worthy of being president would do. But regardless of whether or not Clinton was wrong in this scenario, it doesn’t even remotely compare to the alleged crimes that Trump is accused of, and the implications they have for his character as a person.
Trump hasn’t been known to hold his tongue when it comes to sensitive issues; he has called women fat and ugly and belittled them, made fun of a reporter with a disability, called for a “Muslim ban” and the list goes on. But possibly the most troubling controversies floating in a sea of concerning behavior are the multiple allegations of sexual assault claimed against him. All of these examples have one thing in common: they are all reflections of Trump’s character as a human being. While Clinton’s actions may have highlighted her ability to make careless mistakes, Trump’s actions portray him as a man seemingly without empathy and who not only talks about women in inappropriate ways, but physically acts in those ways as well. So then why did Clinton’s scandals get just as much — if not more — scrutinization and judgment from the general public?
There are many inherent biases present in our society, but one the most prevalent is in regards to gender. According to a study presented by NPR, women are often held to higher ethical standards than men simply because of their gender. In an interview with NPR social science correspondent, Shankar Vedantam, they discussed an experiment that was performed where a group of volunteers were given a hypothetical situation in which a hospital employee intentionally created a false Medicare claim. The volunteers were split into two groups, and each was given the same scenario, but the name of the made up employee was Jack Moranti for one group and Jane Moranti for the other. When asked how much jail time this employee should receive for their actions, the recommended sentence for Jack was 80 days, while the other group sentenced Jane to around 130 days for the same behavior.
Though this is an isolated scenario that isn’t necessarily illustrative of the U.S. as a whole, it does provide insight into the inherent bias that women are often expected to behave better than men, and if they veer from that assumption, they are punished more severely as a result.
When I provided my response to my father, he shrugged it off by saying all those allegations are just speculation and have no real evidence to back them up — and he may have been right, to an extent. But based on everything Trump has said during the course of this election, it’s hard to imagine that a person like him would not be capable of committing such horrible acts, especially given the sheer amount of women who have come forward claiming they have been sexually assaulted or harassed by him in some form.
Clinton may be called a “criminal” by many of her opponents, but even if she is, I would rather have elected someone who is called a criminal because of a careless mistake as president than someone whose criminal activity is a direct result of deplorable characteristics, and has possibly irreversibly damaged lives as a result. But it’s clear now that much of the country does not share this sentiment.