“And then she laid off all the 40,000 people. And she says she’s a great CEO. Every time I see her on TV, I want to reach through and strangle her.”

So joked a veteran at a campaign event for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire early last week. The woman he playfully fantasized strangling is none other than Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and currently one of two female presidential candidates. Clinton responded as many adept politicians would: by laughing comfortably rather than suggesting that strangling—even when presented as a joke—might be an unsuitable reaction to listening to someone with a different political perspective.

The veteran could have conceivably quipped something similar about any Republican presidential candidate, so it is silly to suggest, as did the press secretary of the RNC, that Clinton’s laughter demonstrates her inability to stand up against sexism. Everyone jokes hyperbolically—when they do, few if any actually mean what they say in any literal sense.

What is more telling than the interaction itself is the reaction to it, or rather the lack thereof, from Democrats who typically jump on Republicans spewing misogynistic and otherwise hurtful declarations. When Donald Trump said of Fiorina: “Look at that face . . . Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said that his “misogynistic comments” revealed his true feelings about women. When one co-host of The View said: “[Fiorina] looked demented” during a debate and another followed up with the idea that her face should be made into a Halloween mask, the response from Democrats was largely muted.

None of the aforementioned comments are inherently sexist. After all, male candidates are frequently criticized for their appearances. Yet why is it that when Trump targets Fiorina’s appearance, he is assumed to be a chauvinist, but when co-hosts of The View criticize her in the same way, they are assumed to be feminists cracking an innocent joke? Differences exist between the two instances but without any meaningful distinctions: Trump is a politician, while the co-hosts are comedians; and Trump carries with him a past of offensive and disparaging language, assumedly unlike the co-hosts. But neither of these differences changes the intents or effects of the statements themselves.

If a Republican joked about strangling Clinton at a rally for Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush, and the candidate responded with unaffected laughter, the reaction from Democrats would be swift and pejorative. In truth, it probably should be. Statements never exist in a vacuum, and superficial attacks against female candidates should be heavily scrutinized. But the series of comments to date reveals a pervasive irony about modern American politics: for a presidential election long fated to feature a Democrat capable of shattering the highest glass ceiling, the female candidate that seems to be the most unfairly treated on the basis of her gender is campaigning as a Republican.

Among Democrats at Duke, it is almost second nature to say that Fiorina has engaged in a war on women. We take it as given that to support conservative policies is to oppose women’s health. And as a result, Democrats do not notice the partisan double standard applied to women: Clinton can use her gender as a qualification at every campaign stop without question, but Fiorina’s campaign is considered by many to be disgraceful to women in general. While as a Democrat I disagree with the majority of Fiorina’s policies, her candidacy so far has been characterized by competence and compassion. To suggest otherwise—her critics have called her heartless and anti-feminist—on the basis of her conservative policies alone represents a dramatic oversimplification. All policies produce winners and losers, and no one policy comes wholly as a benefit or cost to a particular demographic group.

Even one’s stance on abortion, which today is used more than anything as a litmus test for determining whether an individual “supports women,” is the product of a complicated sense of morality more than it is a determinant of one’s compassion for women. While the United States has developed in a rapidly progressive nature over recent decades, public opinion about the morality of allowing abortions has remained virtually unchanged. This is not because society’s conceptions about the rights of women have been unaltered since Roe v. Wade, but rather because a majority of Americans, men and women alike, acknowledge that policies regarding abortion involve more than women’s rights alone, at least at some point along in pregnancy. I believe, as someone who is vehemently pro-choice, that opposing abortion does not equate to opposing women. Women oppose abortion in striking numbers; in fact, religious attendance and political ideology are often stronger determinants in predicting one’s stance on abortion than is gender.

Carly Fiorina says: “A feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses.” Certainly her definition may very well be an oversimplification of women’s status in society today—consider how many choices made by women are only made once filtered through existing and oft-ignored patriarchal institutions. Regardless, her intentions are clear. Fiorina, as do the many women who identify as Republicans, wants to make this country better. Rather than dehumanize her as a disgrace to women, Democrats should engage in a dialogue about why certain policies yield more positive social outcomes for men and women alike.

Brendan McCartney is a Trinity senior. His column runs on alternate Thursdays.