CLEVELAND, OHIO — Each day of the Republican National Convention, as tens of thousands of delegates, reporters, and curious onlookers pushed and shoved their way down a single narrow street leading to the arena’s main stage, a group of vendors hawked t-shirts and buttons attacking Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Delegates and other convention-goers eagerly purchased items that called Clinton a “bitch” and a “tramp,” suggested she be imprisoned, and described her “fat thighs” and “small breasts.”
Mary Patterson, a guest of a delegate from Racine, Wisconsin, perused the merchandise on Sunday morning with her friend, Carol McNeill-Skorupan. Both women stopped in their tracks to buy pins featuring Clinton’s face and the words: “Life’s a bitch. Don’t vote for one.”
“This sums it up right here,” Patterson told ThinkProgress. “She comes off as a bitch, quite honestly. She doesn’t have a warm personality. She seems very cold. It has nothing to do with the gender.”
Her friend agreed. “She is just not a pleasant person,” McNeill-Skorupan said. “Her husband had some charisma, which allowed him to get away with a lot of things, obviously. But she does not have it and she does not have a winning personality. She is kind of a screamer. In my mind, if you’re just out there screaming, you’re negative, you are not positive, you’re a bitch.”
A few paces down, wearing a rubber Hillary Clinton mask and holding a large neon yellow sign reading “Trump vs. Tramp,” sat Florida resident and longtime political gadfly Bob Kunst.
Is this sexist? Go fuck yourself.
“Is this sexist? Go fuck yourself. Excuse my language,” he told ThinkProgress when asked about the sign.
“I could have said she was a killer, but this rhymed,” he continued. “This is the door-opener. This gets people’s attention. It works.”
Once a fervent Clinton supporter, Kunst said he changed his mind after she “got in bed with Obama” on Middle East policy. “Fuck her, I’ve had it,” he concluded, adding that he now supports Donald Trump.
The misogyny and gendered attacks directed at Clinton and heard in the streets of Cleveland were echoed in the RNC’s official program. On the opening night of the convention, U.S. Senate candidate Darryl Glenn (R-CO) mocked Clinton’s signature pantsuits, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn joined in on a chant of “Lock her up!” and an earlier speaker offered, “Hillary for prison. She deserves to be in stripes.”
Actor Scott Baio, another opening night speaker, recently posted a photo on Twitter of Clinton standing in front of the word “cunt,” adding, “This may be the best meme out there.”
Trump’s supporters may be taking their cues from the candidate himself.
He has called her “weak” and “tired,” criticized her for “screaming” at rallies, noted that she got “schlonged” during the 2008 campaign, and said her political success is dependent on her gender. “If Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote,” he said in April.
For many decades, Trump has attacked other women who disagree with him, be they conservative or liberal. Last summer, for example, he attacked Fox News host Megyn Kelly for asking him a question about his history of sexist statements, implying she was menstruating at the time.
Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort attempted this week to deflect criticism of Melania Trump’s apparent plagiarism by blaming Hillary Clinton, though Clinton had yet to comment publicly on the episode.
“When a woman threatens Hillary Clinton she seeks out to demean her and take her down,” Manafort said.
The real war on women
During this election cycle, female voters are examining the Republican Party’s policies as well as its rhetoric. And the GOP’s official platform, finalized this week, goes farther to the right than any previous version when it comes to reproductive rights.
The document formally condemns Planned Parenthood, the largest women’s health care organization in the country. It also calls for a constitutional amendment providing fetuses with constitutional rights, the appointment of Supreme Court justices who will reverse decisions in favor of abortion rights — like the recent decision allowing clinics to stay open in Texas — and demands legislative prohibitions on the the use of body parts from aborted fetuses in research. The party wants women banned from combat, and the platform includes no mention of equal pay for women.
Those positions have hurt the party’s reputation among women. National polls show the GOP’s rhetoric and policies may be alienating female voters and suggest that Trump and Clinton may have the largest gender gap in more than 60 years — women favor Clinton 51 to 38 percent, while men support Trump 49 to 40.
But at an event for conservative women outside the RNC on Tuesday, high-profile Republican speakers scoffed at the accusation that their party is waging a “war on women.”
Penny Nance, the CEO of Concerned Women for America, said that the real “war on women” is being waged by ISIS, a group that she said rapes women and has no concern for their well-being.
“I’m disgusted with anyone that somehow equates those two things,” she said, referring to Republican-backed laws in the U.S. and the extremist group in the Middle East.
Breitbart reporter Alex Swoyer also rejected the notion that women should vote for Clinton because of her gender, or that the party’s dismissal of reproductive rights will hurt its chances this November.
“Women go to the ballot box to vote with their brains, not their lady parts,” she said.