Like every woman I know, I spent most of this weekend grimacing over Donald Trump. His latest disgusting comments, caught on video in 2005 and describing his plans for sexual assaults, took up most of the pre-debate news cycle -- and will probably help clinch Hillary Clinton's victory in November.
Even if Trump manages some sort of currently unlikely comeback in the next month, this weekend made me So. Very. Glad. that Clinton was willing to take on what is, by all appearances, a pretty thankless task.
I'm not talking about becoming president; of course, that office would offer plenty of rewards for Clinton, who's spent most of her career working toward it. But running for president, as the first female nominee of a major party, has been predictably gruesome.
This is not about politics or parties. It's about table stakes. It's about the reality for any woman who wants power, and all of the ugliness she must ignore or somehow overcome to succeed.
Whether you're Republican or Democrat, love Clinton or hate her, or are just really tired of this election, you can't deny the fallout of her candidacy. We now have a woman closer to the White House than ever in history. And as that groundbreaking individual has approached the Oval Office, the always-ugly behavior that every single woman faces on a regular basis has come into sharp, unavoidable focus.
Being called both "shrill" and "shouting." Being told to "smile" -- and then that she's smiling too much. Clinton's hair, her clothes, her voice, her wrinkles, her makeup, her marriage, her husband's conduct in that marriage, her motherhood, her femininity, and her precise degree of likability -- all have been fair game for the professional pundits, the Twitter hordes, and the harassing stink emanating from the right-wing blogosphere. Not to mention from her opponents.
So I'm grateful to Clinton for putting up with all of it. Her historic candidacy won't end much of the sexism and harassment that she's faced, or that any woman seeking power still faces. But it has made it visible, and that's a first step.
Take the Access Hollywood tape from 2005, in which Trump talks about violently groping women. Would that tape have even surfaced if he were currently running against a man? Would it matter?
The comments are horrific in a vacuum, but they are damaging precisely because they reinforce every ugly thing he's said about women in this electoral cycle, as he competes against a woman. He's been able to say such things for years, with impunity. And that history of gendered violence wouldn't be so relevant if he were competing against a fellow white man.
If Clinton prevails in November, she won't have solved sexism, any more than the election of President Barack Obama ended racism. But his candidacy and ensuing historical presidency, which threw bright light on our country's divisions over race, at least made it impossible to ignore all the discrimination that non-white Americans still face.
Similarly, Clinton's prolonged campaign for president has made sexism and misogyny and rape culture into national news. By swimming through all of the ugliness, she's at least forcing us to acknowledge that there is ugliness. And that's already having some small effect.
Just look at the fate of Billy Bush. Eleven years ago, the television host was able to casually engage in what Donald Trump calls "locker room talk" and what the rest of the world calls "plans for sexual assault." Yesterday, Bush was suspended from his job at NBC News.
"Bush and Trump on that bus are, in so many ways, the apotheosis of what so many of Hillary Clinton's supporters are ready to overturn," including "the cigar-chomping power brokers who think sexual harassment is the woman's problem," the New York Times's Susan Dominus wrote this weekend.
It has been the woman's problem. It is still the woman's problem. But -- thanks in large part to Hillary Clinton's refusal to quit -- it's starting to rebound on some of the men perpetrating it.