Ok everyone. I have some news for you. It’s kind of hard for me to write this, but I think I need to be honest. I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton in the last Democratic Primary Election.
I voted for Obama. I lived in Chicago at the time and got caught up in the excitement surrounding his campaign. I also fear, in hindsight, that maybe I didn’t vote for Hillary because of internalized sexism.
Don’t get me wrong. I was thrilled that there was a female candidate. Although I didn’t identify as strongly with feminism then as I do today (thanks to Social Work School and a feminist partner!), I was proud that there was a strong female candidate who was smart, well-informed, and experienced, and I certainly thought that it was about time we had a female nominee. But, nothing about her campaign — nothing about her policies — excited me. More than that however, I was bombarded by criticisms of her in the media. Policy.Mic did an excellent job of rounding up some of the most sexist attacks of Hillary in the last election. She was called “cold” but also “emotional.” “Ruthless.” “A harpy.” “A bitch.” Newspeople constantly criticized the way she dressed and the way she looked. And I think there was a part of me that agreed.
I don’t remember ever coming up with these critiques on my own. Before she ran for the nomination, I loved Hillary Clinton (I am from Arkansas after all!). It didn’t matter that these weren’t my own ideas however. I started to think that everyone perceived her the way the news did. I somehow believed that everyone thought she was nagging when she spoke; that she was “too emotional” to be an effective leader. I simultaneously knew that what the media said was sexist and that what they were saying was true. I had internalized the sexism that they threw at me day after day.
It makes me sad to realize this. It also makes me really angry. Because if it happened to me, I know it happened to a lot of other women out there. I’m frustrated that I didn’t recognize my own sexist thoughts. But apparently I was not alone in my oblivion, and in the second half of the Policy.Mic article (link above), the author presents a solution to this issue. We have to talk about the sexism. Last time, the Clinton campaign made it seem like she was “just like” the other candidates — that her being a woman did not make her different. The writer argues that this time, in order to combat sexist attacks, Hillary Clinton must highlight — not downplay — the gender difference. She doesn’t need to “prove” she’s as tough as men like she tried to in 2008; she needs to let people know she is going to break down the glass ceiling. She can’t understate that she’s a woman; she’s got to use it.
Now, does that mean that she should win because she’s a woman? Absolutely not. There will hopefully be many more female candidates — and if Elizabeth Warren chooses to run, I’m going to have a tough decision ahead of me. But for right now, I’m saying “Hillary for President” because she’s the sharpest, most experienced, and most thoughtful candidate we have. She should win because she’s willing to fight for women’s rights, no matter what the sexist anti-feminists say.
I’m excited this time. Are you?