The point of this post is simple: If women can see the crap that Clinton is taking because she's a woman and relate it to the crap they take in their lives, Clinton can't lose. The rest explains my thinking here.
Before the industrial revolution, there tended to be two worlds - the public world where men could go when they overcame the biological survival needs. The women stayed in the private world. As Europe evolved and with the arrival of the industrial revolution, women began moving out into the men's world. Some jobs were almost exclusively reserved for women - sewing in factories, nursing, elementary school teaching. But whenever women ventured into male domains - in the crafts, in factories, in higher education, in the professions - they were second class citizens. There's so much documentation on this it seems unnecessary to provide links. One example I recently read was Barbara Goldsmith's biography of Marie Curie Obsessive Genius. In it she documents all the ways that Curie had to fight against barriers that kept women out of science. They weren't allowed in the best schools. (Her father taught her and hired tutors.) They weren't accepted into the universities. They didn't get appointments to academic posts. Their work was belittled.
Deborah Tannen's Talking 9 to 5 examines the how the language of men and women use differs, and how this disadvantages women in male dominated settings. She also talks about norming - how the white male is the norm in the US and in male dominated organizations. As people differ from that norm (less masculine men, women, people of color) they stand out as lesser. But as women, say, try to be more like the norm they become less 'feminine' and they get criticized for that as well. And this seems to be a lot of Clinton's image problem - she's a woman trying to fit a role traditionally limited to men. She doesn't fit as a man, but as she tries, she doesn't feel right as a woman to many either.
Sexism is often hard to prove. Often employees have been forbidden to talk about salaries so women don't know that their male colleagues get significantly more for the same work. And women usually didn't have more than their own anecdotal experience. But here is one study cited in Scientific American that does give proof of what I'm talking about:
"research from Yale . . . had scientists presented with application materials from a student applying for a lab manager position and who intended to go on to graduate school. Half the scientists were given the application with a male name attached, and half were given the exact same application with a female name attached. Results found that the “female” applicants were rated significantly lower than the “males” in competence, hireability, and whether the scientist would be willing to mentor the student."Another example is powerful men taking sexual advantage of less powerful women. The Roger Ailes case is just the most recent. Significant here is how long this went on and all the pressure on women not to say anything. And the pressure of those inside Fox not to challenge the all powerful boss who was accused, not to mention the network of other men who took advantage.
So most women understand what they're up against. They've all experienced this in some realm of their life. If they are lucky, they've been able to live in a relative safe bubble where it didn't happen often, but the more they ventured out of the small protected group, or up in an organization, the more likely they were to face obstacles. And there is no question that men deal with crap from male competitors within organizations as well, but being beaten by a woman is worse than being beaten by a man. Being reprimanded by a woman is much worse than being reprimanded by a man.
There's no other explanation I can see that explains her negative perception. OK, she's more a wonk and her work is her life. But so were Dukakis, Gore, and Romney and their ratings were much higher. She has issues in her past, but that's been true of every high level candidate. But men can be wonks in our society, but women should be warm and fuzzy. That's changing, but given the polling numbers, lots of folks haven't made that move yet.
Reagan got the Iranians to keep the hostages until he was elected* then did the arms for hostages deal with Iran. That wasn't a problem, but Clinton's emails are a problem? Give me a break. Benghazi and email are manufactured problems, that in the larger scheme of things are trivial. They aren't venal, and no serious damage has been proven. If they want to talk about civilian deaths due to drone strikes, then that's a different issue. But they don't care about dead foreigners. Issues about Clinton's close ties to Wall Street are problematic, but few politicians get to her level without having a number of difficult connections. They should be talked about. But compared to her opponent, well, there's just no comparison.
Sure, it's more than just a woman thing. It's also about winning the presidency and all the power that gives to one faction or the other. But the fact that Clinton's a woman is being exploited by her opponents. That's the very definition of sexism.
So, if Clinton can figure out how to get most women voters in the US to see that her negative ratings are a result, to a great extent, of our culture's inherent sexism, the same kind of sexism they deal with daily, then Clinton will win big. Especially if the women then explain it all to their fathers, brothers, sons, and husbands. Tell them the stories of the harassment they deal with daily, the stories they don't usually share because, because it doesn't seem worth the trouble.