Donald Trump knew what he was doing when he trailed Hillary Clinton across the stage during the US presidential debates.
Whenever Clinton took the chance to speak, Trump was there. Lurking behind her, violating her space, smirking, and attempting to intimidate her into a cowering mess.
It didn’t work of course. Clinton carried on the debate like the seasoned professional she is. Her points were clear and well articulated unlike Trump’s often garbled retorts.
But despite her professionalism, I remember wishing that the outcome had been different. Trump had ultimately gotten away with his brazen tactics. The man accused of multiple sexual harassment charges had once again, evaded consequence.
But now, Hillary Clinton has broken her silence. In audio excerpts of her soon-to-be-released book ‘What Happened’, Clinton expresses how she felt during the debates and the discomfort she experienced at having her space repeatedly invaded by Trump.
“It was the second presidential debate and Donald Trump was looming behind me.
“We were on a small stage and no matter where I walked, he followed me closely, staring at me, making faces” she said.
Clinton recalls feeling incensed that only two days prior to the second presidential debate, the audiotape of Trump bragging about groping women had emerged. Now, he was on stage, un-remorseful, using his physical presence to intimidate her.
“It was incredibly uncomfortable. He was literally breathing down my neck. My skin crawled,” Clinton recalls.
“It was one of those moments where you wish you could hit pause and ask everyone watching:
Well, what would you do?’ Do you stay calm, keep smiling and carry on as if he weren’t repeatedly invading your space? Or do you turn, look him in the eye and say loudly and clearly: ‘Back up, you creep. Get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women but you can’t intimidate me.'”
Clinton chose the first option, conceding that a lifetime of dealing with similar situations and men trying to throw her off had shaped her response.
But she also questioned whether her decision had been the right one. Should she have confronted Trump at the time?
“Maybe I have over-learned the lesson of staying calm, biting my tongue, digging my fingernails into a clenched fist, smiling all the while, determined to present a composed face to the world” she explained.
Of course, we can’t blame her. Every woman in the world has experienced a similar internal dialogue. The one which holds us back from speaking up, afraid we’ll be accused of being too emotional, too hysterical, too female.
For Clinton, the situation was heightened ten-fold. Trump’s camp and vitriolic supporters had spent months framing her as a crooked, crazed witch. Had she chosen to call him out during the debates, she would have only fuelled their fire. The injustice of it all is sickening.
But with Trump as president, his voter approval-rate dwindling rapidly, his daily ineptitude on full display, perhaps Clinton’s chosen her moment aptly after all.
Perhaps her account will hit home. Perhaps it will cause the American electorate (particularly women) to pause, take stock and ask whether their president reflects the world they want to live in. A world where women are not equal. Where intimidation tactics are the only tactics.
Maybe, just maybe, they’ll end up saying: ‘back up you creep. We’re done.’