Four Things Donald Trump Gets Away with Because He’s a Man

How did we reach this place — a self-avowed male chauvinist is poised to square off with the woman who declared women’s rights are human rights? Donald Trump’s comments about the “gender card” have sparked backlash, countless memes, and even decks of “deal me in” playing cards. But the reality is, the “gender card” isn’t specific to women.

Trump has been using his own gender card — positioning himself as the Alpha Male, talking about the size of his hands, threatening to bomb the **** out of ISIS, saying he beats China all the time — and he’ll undoubtedly continue, now that he is the presumptive GOP nominee.

With six months until Election Day, here are four research-backed ways Trump has and will likely continue to use his own gender as an advantage. Or, four things we couldn’t say about Trump if he was a woman.

1. Trump doesn’t need to be likeable.

Donald Trump’s overall image is the most negative of any of the remaining major candidates from both parties who are running for president, according to Gallup daily tracking. He’s insulted and demeaned everyone from minorities to people with disabilities to fellow candidates. Yet, he is the GOP’s standard-bearer. How is that possible? Because men don’t need to be liked to be elected. Barbara Lee Family Foundation research has repeatedly shown that voters are less likely to vote for a woman they don’t like, but are still willing to vote for a man they don’t like if they believe he’s qualified.

Qualifications and likeability are closely linked for women candidates. Women must be consistently conscious of factors affecting their likeability — their voices, their emotions, their language, their facial expressions. The same isn’t true for men. Voters evaluate men’s qualifications separately from how much they like them.

2. No political experience — no big deal.

Trump has never held elected office. In fact, his run for President is his first run for any office. Yet, his qualifications aren’t called into question as they would be if he was Donna instead of Donald.

Victoria Woodhull
Women’s qualifications have been questioned and undermined since Victoria Woodhull ran for President two centuries ago. The reality remains that women are still held to a higher standard — especially when it comes to qualifications and track record.

In a study, for example, voters surveyed felt more confident in a woman candidate who had been a state treasurer when they were told that as treasurer she got the state out of debt than they were in a candidate who did not mention her accomplishments as treasurer. In contrast, men were assumed to be qualified for higher office if they had a resume that simply listed positions of leadership. Women must show, where men can tell.

3. Turn up the showboating.

Trump is a notorious braggart. If he were a woman, he couldn’t get away with that.

New research unpacks what makes women candidates and officeholders appear likeable. One key takeaway: For women, sharing credit with their teams can boost likeability. Voters want to hear a woman acknowledge the team that helped her get things done. Taking solo credit is critical, because it helps reinforce her qualifications, but does little to boost likeability.

That mixture of taking and sharing credit is less important for men running for office; it doesn’t boost likeability in the same way it does for women, and it doesn’t need to.

4. Grandiose is believable.

“We’re going to have great plans.”

“We will make it stronger and smarter than ever, ever, ever before.”

“We’re going to have strong, strong borders. We’re going to have tremendous trade deals.”

“We’re not going to lose. We’re going to start winning again, and we’re going to win bigly.”

These quotes from Trump speeches highlight that for him, grandiose language is the core of his message. This ability to focus on style over substance is a distinctly male privilege. Research consistently shows that women candidates must hit the ground running, come to the table hyper-prepared and have detailed policy plans, especially on typically “male” issues, like the economy.

Men can get away with prioritizing sweeping statements over substantive policy plans; being wildly unlikeable without consequence; and having questionable qualifications for the office they’re seeking. Women don’t have those luxuries. Will Trump get away with these traits in the general election? Time will tell.