The 2016 Election was the first in American history that pitted a female candidate against a male one. That the erratic, rude, and arrogant man beat the calm, confident woman has proven to be a mystery to supporters of the latter. So a group of academics at NYU decided on an experiment. They hired an actress to play a Donald Trump character named Brenda King and an actor to play a Hillary Clinton character named Jonathan Gordon, They reenacted excerpts of some of the debates, with each actor replicating the speech patterns and body language of the person of the opposite gender they were portraying.

The assumption was that Trump’s demeanor would not be attractive coming from a woman and Clinton’s behavior would show well coming from a man. The supposition was that sexism played a role in the outcome of the 2016 election.

The results were unexpected, to say the least.

The audience found the male Hillary character to be sneaky, stiff and too well rehearsed. They found the female Trump character to be passionate, authentic, and clever. The realization was soul stirring for the audience members, many of whom were Hillary supporters and who had been at a loss as to how Trump could have won.

Trump won because he had the better message and the presentation style. Sexism, if anything, worked against him as he buttressed the more boorish aspects of his personality.

But what was off putting in a male candidate turned out to be assertive and attractive coming from a female.

To be sure, the experiment just focused on a few of the debate excerpts. Much of election 2016 was decided by events that happened outside the cut and thrust of the debates. How would an electorate have responded if a woman had behaved the way Trump did on the Access Hollywood Tape?

On the other hand, what Hillary Clinton did to Kathy Shelton would have seemed even more heinous has a man done it.

The experiment is only in the first stage. But we can now conclude that gender perceptions when it comes to politics are far more subtle and complex than one would think.