Hillary Clinton is subject to more extreme scrutiny than any other politician in the Western world. She has endured the media spotlight for over three decades, as First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States, New York Senator, Secretary of State, and as a presidential candidate.

Every aspect of her character, appearance and voice – from her “cackle” of a laugh to her perfectly reasonable trouser-suits – has been fair game. Her marriage has been under the microscope, with journalists and TV pundits wondering out-loud what role she played in her husband’s infidelity, and what their sex life must be like.

Scandal after scandal has been manufactured against her by her political opponents, with the help of the ratings-hungry press. Republicans spent $7 million on 33 hearings about her role in the Benghazi incident, even after it was proved time and again that she acted reasonably and responsibly, performing her duties as Secretary of State to the best of her ability.

What has all that effort spent on discrediting her actually uncovered? An e-mail “scandal”, which revealed that she broke no law, and in fact behaved exactly as her Republican predecessor Colin Powell had.

Ah, come off it, the critics respond, but Powell never ran for president. Shouldn’t we be allowed to vet a potential leader of the free world?

Fine, but where is the proper scrutiny on Donald Trump? Where are the column inches devoted to to airing the secrets of Trump’s three marriages, two of which ended in infidelity and acrimonious divorce? Where are the endless exposes into how he ran (and ruined) his various companies? Where’s the analysis over the pending lawsuit over fraudulent practices at his Trump University?

While body language experts are employed to determine whether Clinton’s posture indicates she is being misleading, Trump is getting away with countless outrageous lies – from the levels of black-on-white criminal violence to his own success as a businessman.

Hillary Clinton over-heated on Sunday at a 9/11 memorial service, and her doctor later released a statement saying she had been diagnosed with pneumonia. Donald Trump has capitalised on his opponent’s illness, pledging to release his own medical records in response. And the media is lapping it up – why did Clinton not divulge her illness earlier? How ill is she really? Don’t we have a right to have access to her private medical records?

No, actually. Health is an extremely personal topic, and when you know your opponents are desperate to find weaknesses in every cough (as if none of us have ever had a coughing fit in a meeting before), it is more than understandable why Clinton might want to keep intimate details about her health private.

Meanwhile, no one has mentioned that Trump’s generous transparency does not apply to his tax returns – which it is alleged prove he has made misleading statements repeatedly about his net worth and charitable giving – making him the first Republican nominee since Nixon not to make his tax records public. But of course, that’s not nearly as exciting as browbeating Clinton for opacity over her health, gleefully theorising about all the things that might be wrong with her.

There is something deeply sexist about the media’s attitude to Hillary Clinton. It isn’t that she is above criticism – and there is much to criticise, both about her policies and her campaigning style. But the endless refrain is that she is a weak candidate, uninspiring, who has been in the public eye too long to be electable.

Given her experience and high ratings in office, Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate for president the US has ever seen. What she lacks in charisma she makes up in her ability to listen and connect with individuals on a one-to-one-level – something which has come through again and again in interviews with her former colleagues.

And yes, she has been in and out of the public eye since 1979. That is how she has been able to become the first female nominee of a major party in the history of the United States. This is not a conicidence: the level of exposure a woman needs to make to the top, the amount of experience she must have to be considered half as qualified as the men in the room, that takes time. Clinton did not have the luxury of running for president at age 45 like Marco Rubio – she would have been laughed out of the room as a lightweight had she tried. It took time to be taken seriously, and now that time and hard work is being used against her because the media have decided she isn’t fresh enough.

If I had gone through what she has, spending years practising the perfectly-calibrated smile and tone of voice necessary for a woman to command attention but not be perceived as “bossy”, I wouldn’t trust the press either. If I’d been blamed for my partner’s indiscretions, I wouldn’t feel comfortable revealing personal information. If I’d seen how the media lapped up my opponent’s patently false and contradictory outbursts but fixated on my every minor mistake, I’d probably come across as cold and closed-off too.

I certainly wouldn’t be in a hurry to release my medical records. And if Clinton were a male candidate, that would be seen as a strength, not a weakness.