A social experiment tested the waters to see if people would react the same way to President Donald Trump if he was a woman. The experiment was inspired by concerns that candidate Hillary Clinton had lost the election due to bias against the possibility of a female president, but results have shown that might not have necessarily been the case.

What happened to set up the project?

Maria Gaudalupe, an associate professor of economics and political science at the French business school INSEAD, had been the one to come up with the idea, and invited Joe Salvatore, a clinical associate professor of educational theater at New York University, to help her with the experiment.

Together, they had developed the play, “Her Opponent.”

In the play, there were two candidates, Brenda King, a female candidate based off of Donald Trump, and Jonathon Gordan, a male candidate based off of Hillary Clinton. In addition to repeating what had been said during the election, the two also copied posture, gestures, tone, and facial expressions from Trump and Clinton. Having invited an audience to gather their opinions of the two candidates, Gaudalupe hypothesized that Trump's aggressive behavior would be deemed significantly off-putting from a female candidate, but that Clinton's behavior would be praised as authoritative if it had come from a male candidate.

People found themselves surprisingly drawn to a female Donald Trump

According to results collected by Guadalupe and Salvatore, people actually respected Trump’s behavior through Brenda King. One anonymous commenter said that they had a high level of “respect for her and her level of confidence.” Another admitted King’s refusal to back down from an attack caused them to be “struck by the strength of the technique.” One commenter went as far to say that the experiment made them question why they had supported Clinton during the original debates.

Another claimed that the show made them see the metaphysical “bubble,” and another even suggested that perceptions of gender that had made them “hostile” towards Trump’s behavior were dropped when it came from a woman. One person went so far, according to Salvatore, as to say that King made them think of a nurturing “Jewish aunt.”

Results became a bit more complicated as different types of people gave their reactions.

One Trump supporter went in expecting to favor King over Gordon, but had a mixed reaction to show, admitting that they would still have supported King, but found their own behavior during the election to be overdone. Another attendee who claimed to hate both Trump and Clinton claimed that the show made them wonder if we label people all too quickly. Many also reportedly were surprised to learn that they could not find in Gordon what they valued in Clinton, according to a released statement.

Ashe Schow of the Observer discussed the experiment in an article, and, while acknowledging the margin of error that a limited audience does not speak for the entire country, suggested the experiment may hint that female politicians may often have a political bias in their favor, and that it was almost funny that an experiment that attempted to expose sexism proved it, just in a way that was opposite from what was intended.

That said, Schow also highlighted how female Republican politicians appear to be the least well-off when it came to treatment from political media, citing Christine O'Donnell, who had to defend accusations of being a witch, and Sarah Palin.

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