Trump’s trash talking is more effective that we might like to admit. It’s meant to feed into sexist suspicions that are already deeply embedded in our collective unconscious. Trump is activating these notions the same way he activated dormant concerns in voters’ minds about “low energy Jeb’s” seeming lack of enthusiasm about running for president, “Lyin’ Ted’s” inexplicable creepiness or “Little Marco’s” youthful demeanor.
Trump’s allies are in on the game. Republican National Committee chief Reince Priebus complained that Hillary didn’t smile enough at NBC’s Commander in Chief Forum, as if the Democratic nominee for president was a participant in the Miss America pageant. But women are expected to smile, even when discussing serious topics. Men aren’t. Which is why nobody complains about how infrequently Trump bares his pearly whites.
Trump and his friends know there is a sexist double standard and they are exploiting it. Unfortunately, there is very little Clinton can do about that. Her job is to not fall prey to what undid those who came before her: She can’t let Trump get in her head.