After sweeping five Republican presidential primary contests Tuesday, Donald Trump lamented his Democratic rival's unfair advantage. If Hillary Clinton were a man, he said, she wouldn’t stand a chance.
“The only card she has is the woman’s card,” Trump said, which seemed to prompt a subtle side-eye from New Jersey first lady Mary Pat Christie. “That’s the only thing she has going. And frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote.”
The remark came off to many as sexist. Television host Rachel Maddow quickly responded on her MSNBC show, asserting Trump’s comments will further put off female voters. Seven in 10 women view Trump unfavorably, according to a recent Gallup poll.
“To say about the woman that you're running against that the only reason she’s in the race is because she’s a woman, that her achievement is basically the result of some sort of affirmative action,” Maddow said, “and that as a human being she’s patently unqualified when she’s the former two-term senator from New York and the former secretary of state. … I do think that even Republican women will read that wrong.”
Katie Packer Gage, a Republican strategist who co-founded the consulting firm Burning Glass, said Mary Pat Christie's facial expression matched her reaction:
"Our party could succeed with a candidate who would attack her policies and her failures while in office," Packer Gage said. "But Trump is incapable of anything but personal attacks because he doesn't seem to know anything about public policy."
Trump repeated his point Wednesday on CNN.
“She is a woman, she is playing the woman card left and right,” he said of Clinton. “Frankly, if she didn’t, she would do very poorly. If she were a man and she was the way she is, she would get virtually no votes.”
But a look at the United States' power breakdown shows the "woman card" hasn’t exactly lifted women to the highest offices.
In the United States, women comprise just 19.3 percent of the House of Representatives, according to Catalyst, which tracks gender in leadership. They fill 20 percent of Senate seats.
Just six U.S. governors are women. The local numbers aren't much better. Roughly 18 percent of mayors in towns with more than 30,000 residents are female.
Trump’s “woman card” doesn’t boost women in the corporate world, either. Women hold a mere 4 percent of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies, Catalyst found. Nineteen percent of directors at those firms are women.
Men also rule academia, a majority female universe. While 57 percent of U.S. college students are women, 26 percent of college presidents in the United States are women, according to the American Council on Education.
The reasons for these disparities are complicated and multifaceted. Economists blame choice and discrimination. Women in the United States are both more likely than men to scale back at work to raise families and say they're treated unfairly in the workplace. Researchers found the name "John" is perceived as more competent on a resume than "Jennifer."
Popular opinion also offers a window into the power gap.
About two-thirds of Americans -- men and women alike -- say it’s easier for men than women to reach top political offices and climb the corporate ladder, according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center.
The respondents’ top reason was women are held to higher standards than men. The second reason was businesses aren’t ready to hire them into top roles and Americans aren’t ready to vote them into top office.
In other words, most people don’t think women successfully play the “woman card.” They acknowledge instead that women face an uphill battle.
Clinton quickly responded to Trump in a victory speech Tuesday after winning four states.
"Mr. Trump accused me of playing the 'woman card,' " she said. "Well if fighting for women's health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the 'woman card,' then deal me in."
A Twitter explosion followed:
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