“The President of the United States is an extremely important role model to future generations,” said Jennifer Lawless, the director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University. “And we have a generation now of young boys who will have watched an election where that there were no consequences to behaving that way and speaking that way about women.”
Young girls who watched the election have received that message as well. And there is already evidence to suggest that Trump’s comments have had a negative impact. A national poll of teenage girls conducted for The New York Times found that forty-two percent said that the way Trump talks about women has influenced the way they think about their own bodies.
Here’s what some of the girls surveyed had to say from a report in the Times:
“That hits me hard when people like Trump say people who are skinnier than I am are too big,” said Morgan Lesh, 15, in Moro. “It makes me feel extremely insecure about myself.”
Morgan’s friend Jordan Barrett, 14, agreed with her, even though they disagree on who should win the election.
“Especially for girls in high school, rating girls on a scale of 1 to 10 does not help because it really does get into your head that they think I’m ugly or I don’t look good,” Jordan said.
For at least four years, Trump will command a highly-visible platform from which to speak his mind whenever he chooses. When he speaks, his words will carry a significant amount of weight and influence. The message he sends will matter. And now that he has won the presidency, Americans may feel even more emboldened to echo his words.
To the extent that they do, rape culture—a term coined in the 1970s to describe the various ways that society normalizes sexual violence by blaming the victim and failing to hold the perpetrator accountable—could spread. Women may be more hesitant to speak out about sexual assault in the future after witnessing the way that Trump not only retaliated against and threatened his accusers, but did not appear to suffer any serious penalty stemming from the accusations.
The results of the election may also give women and young girls pause when considering whether to run for political office. Clinton herself faced a sexist backlash during her campaign, voiced not just by some Trump supporters, but by Trump himself. Trump framed Clinton’s entire candidacy as a cynical ploy to use her gender for political gain when he accused her of playing the woman card. He suggested she did not have the stamina for the job, a line of attack that built on a long history of attacking women’s health in an attempt to discredit them. And he won. Women may conclude that they would face a similar backlash if they entered into politics, and may consequently decide against it, especially if they believe that enduring it as Clinton did is no guarantee of victory.