Trump's Focus on Weight, Appearance Could Turn Away Female Voters

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Donald Trump posing at his Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes in 2005. (Photo: Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Donald Trump posing at his Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes in 2005. (Photo: Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Charges of sexism have reigned during this week’s press coverage of Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency — first, through the continuing coverage of his public fat-shaming of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado back in 1997, then with allegations that Trump wanted to fire women who were “not pretty enough” from the staff of his California golf club throughout the early 2000s, and now, with a twitter rant posted by Trump in the wee hours of Friday morning.

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As the New York Times points out in a story about the tweets, “Mr. Trump had been modulating his tone in the weeks before the debate, but his uneven performance appears to have caused him to lash out. He has increasingly flirted with leveling more personal attacks on Mrs. Clinton’s history of marital problems and he has doubled-down on his charges that the news media is rigging the election.”

Machado herself took to Instagram on Friday in response to Trump’s statements about her this week, saying: “Through his campaign of hate, the Republican candidate insists on discrediting and demoralizing a woman, this is definitely one of his most frightening characteristics. With this, he’s taking attention away from his real problems and his inability to pretend to be the leader of a great country.”

And women, it seems, are running scared from the candidate: According to an NBC News poll taken after the debate, 27 percent of likely women voters said the debate made them think worse of Trump — while nearly a third, or 30 percent, said their opinion of Clinton had improved.

“There’s a side of him that’s scary to me that I’m seeing more of,” Joan Hume, a 71-year-old retiree in Ohio told NBC. She voted for Trump in the Republican primary, but added, “I thought maybe he would change when he got the nomination, but he’s getting worse.”

According to the poll, women are also likelier than men, by a 12-point margin, to doubt Trump’s personality and temperament. Independent women — a group the Republican candidate needs — were particularly skeptical. When asked if he has the “temperament and personality to serve,” eighty percent said he does not.

“Trump has lost sight of the fact that the average American woman is a size 12,” Republican strategist Ana Navarro said on CNN. “When he is calling people “fat pig,” when he is fat-shaming people, he is fat shaming the majority of America.”

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Jennifer Lim, meanwhile, founder of Republican Women for Hillary, tells Yahoo Beauty that this week’s news “definitely renews our fire.” The organization, already operating in eight states and about to start a new chapter in Texas, was born out of Trump’s well-documented treatment of women, she says. “Recently, I think a lot of people have forgotten about it, especially when he came out with his paid leave proposal,” Lim notes. “But the recent news of how he treated Alicia Machado, and how he acted at the debate, interrupting… are reminders that he clearly thinks of women as second-class citizens.”

An in-depth example of that was revealed on Thursday in a Los Angeles Times piece that focused on Trump’s hiring practices at the Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes. “I had witnessed Donald Trump tell managers many times while he was visiting the club that restaurant hostesses were ‘not pretty enough’ and that they should be fired and replaced with more attractive women,” Hayley Strozier, who was director of catering at the from its opening in 2005 until 2008, said in a sworn declaration, according to the story.

Also among the allegations, which were made as part of a lawsuit, settled in 2013, over a lack of meal and rest breaks at Trump’s golf club: that he spoke condescendingly to female employees and made them “uncomfortable” with questions such as “How’s my favorite girl?” and “Are you still happily married?”; that an employee believed to be overweight was “hidden” from Trump whenever he was on the premises; and that, in general, Trump pressured subordinates “to create and enforce a culture of beauty, where female employees’ appearances were prized over their skills.”

A Trump Organization attorney called the allegations “meritless.” Nevertheless, the female Twitterverse has been fired up about the claims.

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Of course, the narrative of Trump as a misogynist is not a new one, but has followed him throughout his campaign — and career — with various peaks and valleys along the way. He has taken aim at everything from Carly Fiorina’s face to moms who pump breast milk, and has frequently been reductive in his dealings with women.

At a press conference back in March, for example, Trump decided he’d like to instantaneously hire Alicia Watkins, a political blogger and Army vet, because, he said, “she looks like she’s got a great look.” Then, that same day, while meeting with the Washington Post editorial board for an in-depth interview about his policies, Trump was pressed on the issue of racial inclusion by journalist Karen Attiah. After answering, and after the entire meeting had ended, Attiah said Trump told her, “I really hope I answered your question. Then, he added, (“casually, with a smile,” she said), “Beautiful.”

According to both Dana Perino and Megyn Kelly, who conversed on the Kelly File on Wednesday about the recent debate, the sexism problem shouldn’t come as any surprise to the Trump camp. “I tried to warn you,” Kelly said, referring to her controversial line of questioning to Trump, over a year ago, regarding his slew of on-record insults to women. “It was very clear. It’s very clear that that was going to come.”

Perino agreed, noting, “Thirteen months to prepare,” and seemingly bewildered about why Trump didn’t have an answer at the ready when Hillary Clinton brought up the Machado issue on Monday. “He should have an answer ready for it. He didn’t,” she said. “And his instinct was not even to say, I remember her, I remember her fondly, and you know, being the head of the Miss Universe pageant is obviously very different from being commander-in-chief and moving on…”

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