The “woman’s card” was dealt, played, and traded so quickly, it was hard to tell who was winning.
Donald Trump wielded it Tuesday to dismiss Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate whose only asset is her gender. In her own victory speech that evening, Clinton seized the “woman’s card” to gin up feminist energy. By Wednesday, women were flooding social media with ironic comments about how little benefit their own women’s cards were delivering, and the website WomanCard.org was registered and linked to Clinton’s official campaign site.
By Thursday, Clinton’s campaign was offering new donors official “woman cards” and Trump was doubling down on his comments dismissing Clinton. “The primary thing that she has going is that she’s a woman,” he said on the “Today” show, “and she’s playing that card like I have never seen anybody play it before.”
In this funhouse mirror of an election, both sides claim to look good.
Democrats claim that voters will take the comments — so derisive of their front-runner — as sexist and dismissive of more than half the electorate. Republicans hear a note of truth in Trump’s criticism, amplified by Clinton’s own effort to seize upon it.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat and Trump critic on social media, slammed his comments as sexist.
“Donald Trump clearly feels threatened by Secretary Clinton’s qualifications to be president, so he’s attacking Hillary Clinton for being a woman,” said Warren. “That’s what weak men do. It is an old story, and I don’t think the American voters will fall for it.”
In an interview with the Globe, Warren posed a question of her own — whether Trump is a sexist — and quickly answered it:
“That’s like asking if he has bad hair,” she said. “He wears the sexism out front for everyone to see.”
Warren’s Republican counterpart in New Hampshire, Senator Kelly Ayotte, was not as eager to pick up the phone. Through a spokeswoman, Liz Johnson, Ayotte offered a statement: “As New Hampshire’s first female attorney general, Kelly believes women should be judged based on their qualifications and merit, not their gender. And she believes that’s how voters will evaluate candidates this November.”
Some voters are just as dumbfounded as ever by the tone of Trump’s campaign.
“I don’t even know what the ‘woman’s card’ is,” said Kerri McGlynn, a credentialing specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital. “It’s typical Trump. He’s just trying to stir things up.”
Kristen Scanlon, an attorney in Boston who specializes in liquor licensing and permitting, said, “When he says she’s playing the ‘woman’s card’ he’s playing the ‘man’s card.’ His position is that only men are fit to be president.”
The Rev. Laura Everett, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, was among those tweeting under the #womanscard hashtag, finding deep irony in the suggestion that women have a career advantage in a male-dominated field. (In her own field of religious leadership, she said, the few women refer to it as a “stained-glass ceiling.”)
“Those who complain about playing the woman card refuse to see that we’ve been playing with a deck of all-male cards for a very long time,” Everett said. “Our norms, our standards of comparison have been predominantly and sometimes exclusively male for many professions.”
Trump had tossed out the “woman’s card” a few days before the Tuesday primaries that both he and Clinton dominated, but the barb caught fire with both candidates’ victory speeches that night.
“If fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card,” Clinton said, building to a hoarse crescendo, “then deal me in.”
What Trump said: “Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card. And the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her.”
Before you could say “Boy the news cycles are getting fast,” Twitter erupted in delight with the hashtag #Womanscard.
A user named @abbygoldgirl tweeted a graphic of a “Woman Card” credit card. Among the benefits: “20% off your income,” and “Gov’t makes all of your health decisions for you.”
“To qualify for this card all you have to do is smile and look pretty!” the tweet read.
State Representative Keiko Orrall, who was recently elected Republican national committeewoman, said, “Hillary Clinton and her supporters routinely refer to the need for the first female president, which fosters gender politicism.”
She add: “I believe Donald Trump’s statements are highlighting that, and that he is trying to emphasize Clinton’s failed record as secretary of state and the many negatives that have been associated with her career.”
Kirsten Hughes, chairwoman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, said Clinton is “absolutely” using the so-called “woman’s card” and accused her of theatricality that could rival Trump’s own.
Hughes accused Clinton of “pandering” to women throughout her campaign.
“That’s her stock in trade,” Hughes added. “She panders like nobody’s business. That’s her talent, right?”
Hughes said she was not put off by them.
“I think it’s a campaign, there’s a lot of ramping up,” she said. “They’re trying to define each other, so I’m not insulted.”
Others were more than a little offended.
MiShaune Blanks, a senior at Wheelock College, said Trump’s assertion makes it sound like he thinks women are in a position of power: “He’s not thinking that females are oppressed and he’s being an oppressor.”
But, she said, women are “oppressed, especially when it comes to having positions of power.”
To many women, the notion that their gender is a perk in politics is a hoot.
The United States has never elected a woman as president. In Congress, women hold just one-fifth of the seats in the Senate and 19 percent of the House.
In states across the nation, they make up less than 25 percent of governors and other statewide officeholders, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
“To try and define Hillary Clinton, who is the most qualified presidential candidate in American history, as somehow only being successful because of her gender is not only demeaning and sexist, but I also find it highly ironic,” said US Representative Katherine Clark, a Democrat who is backing Clinton.
“The so-called women’s card had a 100 percent failure rate in electing a president and its success rate is not much higher when you look at women in Congress, in holding governorships around the country, or in our state legislatures.”