At a town hall meeting in Haverford, Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton was asked about an issue that no other presidential campaign has made much of in the past, an issue that has dominated the headlines since the first presidential debate with Donald Trump. 15-year-old Brennan Leach took the microphone to ask the Democratic nominee about body image.
"At my school, body image is a really big issue for girls my age. I see with my own eyes the damage Donald Trump does when he talks about women and how they look," Leach said. "As the first female president, how would you undo some of that damage and help girls understand that they are so much more than just what they look like?"
As Leach finished her question, the audience erupted in cheers, and Clinton herself seemed eager to respond. Commending Leach for asking the question, she said:
You're right — my opponent has taken this concern to a new level of difficulty and meanness. And it's shocking when women are called names and judged solely on the basis of physical attributes... Young women begin to get influenced at earlier and earlier ages by messages from the media: forget your mind, forget your heart, care only about what you look [like] because that's all we care about. And we have to stand up against that, women and men, mothers and fathers, teachers — everybody.
In this non-traditional election season, voters have been subjected to issues neither substantial nor savory (no one really wants to hear how purportedly well-endowed a candidate is). But Trump's habit of shaming and blaming has elevated the topic of young girls' body image to the presidential election, if only for his opponent to counter the GOP nominee's long history of fat-shaming women.
In Pennsylvania, Clinton criticized Trump for his behavior towards Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe whose weight gain he reportedly mocked both publicly and privately.
"Think about it, my opponent insulted Miss Universe! How do you get more acclaimed than that?" she asked the crowd. "So we can't take any of this seriously anymore. We need to laugh at it. We need to refute it. We need to ignore it. And we need to stand up to it."
As the first woman to become a major party's presidential nominee, Clinton is a living, breathing example of what women can achieve. Having endured decades of public scrutiny over her refusal to conform to traditional gender roles — only to be criticized when she does — perhaps no one else is more suited to counter Trump's misogyny and sexism in this election than Clinton is.
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