Donald Trump's women problem is so bad that he is breaking up relationships

Donald Trump's women problem is so bad that he is breaking up relationships

Donald Trump might be wreaking havoc with all the traditions of United States presidential politics but that's apparently nothing compared with what's happening on the home front, where planning to vote for the Republican candidate is increasingly becoming a relationship ender.

The US media, mainstream and social, have suddenly honed in on stories about couples who can no longer tolerate the other's political preference. In some cases, it's leading to sexual friction: "If there were a sexual position called the Trump, it would be the one where you don't have any because you're too angry from fighting about Trump," writes Mandy Stadtmiller, who documents her marriage in her regular New York magazine column Unwifeable.

For other couples nothing short of divorce will deal with the irreparable rift that Trump has brought into relationships that once could work things through.

In mid-August the New York Times reported that Dr Kerry Maguire had told her husband of 20 years: "If you vote for Trump, I will divorce you and move to Canada."

US presidential contender Donald Trump is scary but Australia's same-sex marriage situation is humiliating.

US presidential contender Donald Trump is scary but Australia's same-sex marriage situation is humiliating.Credit:AP

What is notable about this couple is not just that Trump had seemingly broken them up but that they are not the classic so-called "non-college whites" who are supposedly the demographic foundation of Trump's vote. Maguire is a dentist and her husband, Dr Thomas Stossel, is a professor of medicine at Harvard.

Trump is the second biggest turnoff, after smoking, in people seeking new relationships according to a match-making service in New York, while a Monmouth University poll last week reported 7 per cent of voters have ended friendships because of the election.

And now the ante has been upped by a column last week in Time by feminist lawyer and blogger Jill Filopovic who argued that women whose boyfriends planned to vote for Trump should leave. Now.

"If your partner's response to [Trump's] bigotry is 'So what,' that tells you everything you need to know about their character," Filopovic wrote. "If you're a woman, this isn't some ephemeral idea or hazy theory – it's about you, and your very humanity. Your partner hears that someone hates women – a category to which you belong – and this person thinks you're less capable than men and even less than human, and his response is to validate that person's aspirations to one of the most powerful positions in the world, and shrug off your concerns as 'So what'."

Filopovic was even more explicit in a tweet on the day of the first presidential debate:

Hillary Clinton used the presidential debate to highlight Trump's disgusting attitudes to women to the television audience of 84 million people. "This is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs," Clinton said. She also said her opponent had referred to a former Miss Universe as "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeping" (because she was overweight and is Latina).

None of this went down well with a lot of women watching. Even Trump's own people, reports the Wall Street Journal, have conceded that Trump did nothing to win over women.

In fact he might have totally turned off a group he needs if he is to win: Republican women.

It was not just the reminders of Trump's denigratory language. Trump interrupted Clinton 51 times during the 90-minute debate, an example of dominant male behaviour that was a big turn-off for a focus group of suburban Republican women in the crucial battleground state of Pennsylvania who watched the debate.

These women are also not going to respond positively to the threats made by Trump or his surrogate Rudy Giuliani that Bill Clinton's infidelities are no longer off political limits. In the past, attacking Hillary Clinton for her husband's sexual misdemeanours has backfired badly with women, many of whom feel sympathy for the way she was treated (both by her spouse and by political enemies who sought to deepen her humiliation).

For Trump and Giuliani, both of whom have been married three times, to bring Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinski etc into play could turn the current gender gap into the grand canyon.

It will highlight the misogyny that is at the heart of Trump's campaign.

He does nothing to stop his crowds constantly calling Clinton "a bitch". He has not condemned supporters wearing "I wish Hillary had married OJ" T-shirts or selling "Hillary sucks but not like Monica" or "Trump that bitch" merchandise at his rallies.

Not surprising, perhaps, that at least some women are starting to wonder if their partners' implied – or maybe even explicit – endorsement of Trump's sexism and misogyny towards Clinton might be a sign of how they feel towards women generally. Including them.

It must be a very uncomfortable realisation: my husband, the misogynist ...

As voting day approaches more and more American women may have to confront this, and the question: what do I do about it?

Twitter: @SummersAnne

Anne Summers is a Fairfax Media columnist.

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