Donald Trump has a wife problem.
First, he took issue with a silent wife. Now he’s asserting that another wife’s loose tongue jeopardizes the safety of our entire country.
Beneath Trump’s bluster and hyperbole lies a double bind that constricts not only wives but so many women: You either have nothing to say and are dumb or you speak inappropriately and are dangerous.
For Trump, Ghazala Khan fits into the first category while Huma Abedin falls into the second.
He said Monday, in response to the latest revelations of Anthony Weiner 3.0:
I only worry for the country in that Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity to highly classified information. Who knows what he learned and who he told?
Trump’s remarks this week continue the thread he began earlier in the summer, long before Weiner’s latest scandal.
“I don’t like Huma going home at night and telling Anthony Weiner all of these secrets,” he said at a news conference in July.
In other words, a horny dude exhibits a deep pathology and Trump places the blame on the wife, a top aide of his arch nemesis. But I think we can all rest assured that Weiner is driven by penis – not policy. No doubt, there’s now a detailed, public record of his illicit sexts – going back to 2011 – and there’s nothing wonky about his weiner talk.
But still, let’s blame the wife. Because for Trump a “blabbering” wife is a dangerous wife. But the subtext is that a powerful wife is a “dangerous” wife. (Trump’s previously gone on record excoriating his wives who work.) This bring us to Double Bind No. 2. When a married woman is successful in her career – and even outshines her husband professionally – the home life is ripped to shreds and perversity reigns because the husband’s masculinity is bulldozed. (But if a wife doesn’t work outside the home then she has little to offer her husband and society apart from her experiences relating to grocery shopping, coupon clipping and bed-time routines.)
Trump clearly attempts to undercut Huma Abedin’s professional position by demeaning her as a woman who merely excels at pillow talk – not policy. She is a serious powerbroker and for Trump that’s a problem.
When Weiner 2.0 tore through the news cycle back in 2013, we were offered a gem of a political cartoon by Taylor Jones that presciently highlighted the gender dynamics still at play in Trump’s comments:
In the strip we see Abedin and Clinton conspiring over cups of tea (Women enjoying a hot beverage together must only mean Danger Ahead!) They lean toward each other in glee, nary a man in sight. “You know, Huma,” Clinton begins – her blue eyes drawn wide with wonder and possibility. “In a perfect world, women would rule and their men would be eunuchs.”
Today Weiner has been figuratively castrated thrice over through searing media attention and humiliation of Old Testament proportions. And Bill Clinton’s handlers appear to have neutralized any threat (i.e. emerging sex scandals) he poses to Hillary Clinton’s ascension over the past two decades. He appears tamed: The former president now enjoys swatting at balloons and has long ago eschewed a mannish, artery-clogging diet in favor of more urbane vegan food after a quadruple bypass surgery in 2004.
Meanwhile, the cartoon featuring two powerful women is proving almost prophetic. As political reporter Annie Lowrey noted in June: “[T]he single most powerful person on Earth without an army at her beck and call” is Janet Yellen, who heads the Federal Reserve. The person who heads Europe’s largest economy is Germany’s Angela Merkel. Christine Lagarde is the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (whose predecessor, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, resigned to fight sexual assault charges stemming from a scandal in 2011.) And of course Theresa May is Britain’s recently elected prime minister.
This is not fantasy. If Hillary wins, this is simple reality. Her most powerful peers — save for the president of the People’s Republic of China — will all be women.
And these women are – or, in some cases, were – married to seemingly less-powerful men. So it would behoove Trump to set aside the terrors of “pillow talk” as women’s most dangerous weapon.
Women may not “control” the world. But increasingly they control armies, economies, nations. And husbands who can’t deal with that will either adjust or move on.
Like a good wife.