What will a Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton presidency mean for women?

A look at what's at stake for women in America this election. Dan Brandenburg, Getty Images

If Donald Trump becomes president on Nov. 8, academics say women are in deep trouble.

“It would be a big blow for feminism,” warns Amy Kaler, an American voter who’s the associate chair of the University of Alberta’s sociology department.

And feminism, she stresses, is not just about women. It’s about “creating a more humane society that’s better for everyone.”

Kaler thinks Trump’s campaign has highlighted serious issues in the U.S., such as the depth of poverty and desperation for a departure from the status quo.

However she warns that “a Trump presidency would be a disaster on many, many levels.”

When it comes to women, Kaler says a Trump win would not only kill their reproductive rights (because he wants to overturn the historic abortion case Roe v. Wade), but it would also make them poorer.

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Her reasoning is that on the issue of raising the minimum wage (which disproportionately affects women), Trump has flip-flopped.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has consistently vouched for it — along with closing the gender pay gap, and paid family leave.

Kaler admits Clinton, whom she calls a “military hawk,” does have “question marks” surrounding her.

READ MORE: A look at the latest FBI news on the Hillary Clinton email case

But she argues Clinton’s “support for gender equality, women’s empowerment has been consistent.”

A Clinton win wouldn’t necessarily fix everything for women.

“There’s nothing that guarantees having a woman for president will lead to fabulous changes in gender policies,” said Megan Boler, a social justice education professor in Toronto, who’s also spent a good chunk of her life living across the U.S.

“There’s just no assurances. Because, first and foremost, she’s going to be a politician.”

So where does that leave us? Here are a few scenarios we might see following the election.

American women may flee north

Canada’s abortion clinics could become “quite busy,” Kaler says, if Trump gets into office.

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She explains the women’s movement has a “proud history of facilitating abortions for women” who aren’t able to legally access them.

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In 1982, for example, 4,311 Canadian women travelled to the United States for an abortion, according to a 1988 Ottawa Citizen report.

American women already have to sometimes cross state lines to get the procedure, “as more states adopt more restrictive laws and the number of clinics dwindles in the so-called ‘abortion desert’ – an area that stretches from Florida to New Mexico and north into the Midwest,” the Los Angeles Times reported in June.

READ MORE: How abortion access varies across Canada

Kaler also thinks a Trump win could drive some women to immigrate to Canada.

“I think Canada would look like a pretty good place to move to if you’re a young, ambitious mobile woman.”

Kaler has already heard from one American professor who wanted to know her chance of finding work in her field in Canada.

READ MORE: American searches for jobs in Canada spike as US election nears

“I think there are a lot of women who don’t want to live in a world where Trump’s version of relations between the genders has been validated by an election, and been shown to have a lot of popular support,” Kaler said.

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WATCH: Donald Trump’s history of crude, sexist comments about women is lengthy 

“Trump didn’t invent sexism or misogyny,” Kaler acknowledges. “But his unapologetic embrace of it has legitimated these views and behaviour for a whole lot of people.”

The men’s rights movement may grow

There’s no doubt boys and men face a lot of pressure in society — whether it’s the expectation to be “manly” and strong or to provide.

Historically, though, men’s rights activism has fought against feminism. The League of Men’s Rights was founded in 1926 with the goal to combat “all excesses of women’s emancipation.”

Since then, the movement has attracted many “angry young men,” according to Macleans, “whose vitriol is considerably more pitched.”

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“Men’s rights activists will lose their minds if they have to go from a black president … to a [female] president,” Kaler said.

Boler adds that if Clinton becomes president, we can expect to see backlash against women and feminism because of the power shift.

“That demographic does not want to give up any power,” she said. “They feel … emasculated by the loss of jobs.”

Their anger could boil over into backlash against the Democratic party, which the Republicans would use to regroup and rebuild.

According to CNN, they’re “already promising years of investigations and blocked nominees.”

So even if Clinton wins, governing won’t be easy.

Feminism could become radicalized

If Trump is victorious, Kaler wouldn’t rule out the feminism movement growing even stronger in protest to his policies.

“Just like women did in the early ’70s, on the streets protesting, being thrown in jail…or in the ’20s around the right to vote.

“Social movements can become radicalized by extreme opposition.”

His campaign alone has increased the conversation around violence against women and rape culture, the professors point out.

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“Having Hillary running right now, combined with the vitriolic misogyny of Trump, it’s been this perfect storm,” Boler said.

Just after the now-infamous video was released of Trump boasting how he can “do anything” to women, Canadian writer Kelly Oxford urged women on Twitter to speak out about how they’ve been sexually assaulted.

She received millions of replies with the hashtag #NotOkay.

“There’s been a real phenomenal awakening about sexism in the public eye,” said Boler. “I don’t think feminism will just dry up and blow away or disappear.”

“I think we might find that women dig in and keep the struggle going.”

—With files from Rebecca Joseph, Global News


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