Are powerful women Trump's Achilles heel?

Story highlights

  • How will Trump react to women who are working to enact the checks and balances on his power?
  • When it comes to checking Trump's power, women, it turns out, are the ones leading the charge, she writes

Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and Nairobi and the author of the forthcoming book, "The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness." Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)If there's one thing Donald Trump can't stand, it's a woman who stands up for herself -- which makes women standing up to him all the more crucial, and all the more delectable, in his administration's turbulent early days. How will our new President respond when women are not his subordinates or paramours, but are the ones working to enact the checks and balances on his governmental power?

Jill Filipovic
Petulant and bullying attacks on opponents are standard for the Trump administration, but this one had a whiff of something else -- a kind of outraged condescension, the way an abusive parent might berate a misbehaving child. Women who step out of line seem to trigger a particular kind of rage from this President.
Throughout his campaign, Trump has made use of a handful of compliant women who will do his bidding: his daughter, Ivanka, whose polish and charm lulled many voters into thinking her father couldn't be that bad; his campaign manager turned counselor, Kellyanne Conway, whose artful deflections and word-salad obfuscations cover for her boss' lies and ill temper on the Sunday morning shows; and his wife, Melania, a smiling, silent partner whose presence doesn't seem to register with her husband until he needs an attractive prop for a photo. His well-known, vulgar and misogynist comments about women coupled with his penchant for beauty pageants and his string of model wives reveal a man who doesn't see women as his peers but as his playthings. It's no wonder his Cabinet has so few female members -- women, for him, are objects for his aesthetic and sexual enjoyment, not intelligent and competent advisers worth taking as seriously as men.
    So former acting Attorney General Sally Yates' decision to put her duty to the law above her instructions to carry out an awful executive order on immigration was all the sweeter, as it managed to goad Trump into a sexist crouch while sowing delight among his opponents.
    Trump, so thin-skinned he is incapable of turning the other cheek to criticism even from random people on Twitter, predictably had a toddler-style meltdown over Yates' insubordination. His team sent a huffy statement to the press calling her fidelity to the constitution and her oath of office "betrayal." Not content to go after her decision alone, they also launched an attack on her record and character, calling her "weak" on borders and "very weak" on immigration (Trump provided no evidence to support these claims, but perhaps they're just some of those "alternative facts" we've been hearing so much about.)
    Of course, Trump got his revenge on Yates. But he may have a harder time countering the impacts of Judges Ann M. Donnelly, Allison Burroughs, and Dolly Gee, who all issued rulings curbing parts of Trump's order. When it comes to checking Trump's power, women, it turns out, are the ones leading the charge. And women who misbehave are very much Trump's emotional Achilles heel -- so we should all keep at it in ways large and small.
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    Trump prefers his women lined up like show ponies. How satisfying to see a few of us kick him in the teeth.