When I graduated from law school, I worked as an associate at a big law firm. The work was tedious and the hours were long, but I genuinely liked the people I worked with. There was one woman, however, a successful female partner, who just rubbed me the wrong way. I didn’t know her all that well and only worked with her briefly, but something about her seemed a little closed off, unfriendly, and abrupt. She wasn’t overly warm or emotional, and honestly, she scared me a little bit. There was no basis for my opinion — she had been fair, honest, and polite in every interaction I had with her — but my gut told me I shouldn’t like her.
Just like there was something about that female partner that rubbed me the wrong way, I had the same feelings about Hillary Clinton. As a Democrat, I didn’t have a political problem with her, but there was something about her I didn’t like. She seemed too aggressive, ambitious, and unfriendly. Admittedly, I spent little-to-no time investigating the validity of claims against her or her track record, but what I saw on the news and heard people say about her scared me a little. There was no real basis for my opinion, but my gut told me I shouldn’t like her.
Over the years, I realized something, though: My gut was a lying liar and a naïve idiot. It wasn’t necessarily a light bulb a-ha moment, but more like waking up when it’s still dark out and all you want to do is stay warm and cozy under the blankets. It was a slow realization and an uncomfortable realization.
How could I — a liberal, open-minded, ambitious woman myself — be susceptible to sexism? I am woman, hear me roar and all that. Surely, my dislike was justified; it couldn’t be based on sexism. Or could it?
The reality is that we are all susceptible to the perpetuation of sexism. None of us were raised in a vacuum and we are impacted by our environments. Just like a non-smoker will smell like Marlboros after spending time with a smoker, so too are we all affected by the sexist culture we have been a part of for generations upon generations. To deny it is to pretend that you don’t stink while plugging your nose.
It wasn’t until I realized that I was a product of a sexist world — a world that tells girls to be cute and pretty, but not too cute or too pretty; that says we shouldn’t be too emotional, but not too stoic either; that reminds us every day that the work we do is less valuable, less difficult, less important — when I became aware of the way my opinions of fellow women have been tainted over the years.
Born in the late 1970s, sitting righteously on the fence between take-charge Gen Xers and the-world-is-my-oyster Millennials, I simply couldn’t comprehend all the bruises suffered from their treacherous climb up the ladder or the battle scars from their fight to break the ceiling.
This slow, uncomfortable realization changed the way I viewed women like Hillary Clinton and that female partner in the law firm. The problem wasn’t them, but me. The problem is us.
I just don’t like her, I hear time and again from so many people. Yet when they are asked why, they don’t know why or they mutter some regurgitated response about emails or Benghazi (even though those issues have long since been put to rest). Hillary has proven time and time again to be capable, to be devoted to public service, to be the vastly superior candidate. She played a leading role in advocating the creation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides state support for children whose parents cannot provide them with health coverage, and the creation of the Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Foster Care Independence Act. As a U.S. Senator, she was instrumental in getting $21 billion in funding for the World Trade Center site’s redevelopment, and spearheaded the efforts to get first responders the health care they needed. As Secretary of State, she visited 112 countries, advocated for an expanded role in global economic issues, introduced a Global Hunger and Food Security program, and oversaw free trade agreements with a number of allies.
Over the past few months, I haven’t just grown to accept or tolerate Hillary, but to actually like her. And after listening to Hillary speak at a recent event, I am even more convinced than ever that she is the person to lead this country forward. She is a flawed person, of course, with her fair share of “scandals” and peccadilloes, but I challenge you to show me a person who doesn’t. And when you’ve been a public servant and in the public eye for as long as she has, it would be impossible to emerge unscathed.
But despite the flaws, she is a bridge-builder, a voice for the voiceless, and a champion for the underdog. She is genuine and real, inspiring and approachable, all at the same time. If she were a different gender or had a different last name, we wouldn’t just like her; we’d love her. And that isn’t her problem, but ours.
We have a sexism problem, a celebrity idolatry problem, and a hate-masked-as-fear problem. And until we take on those problems as our own — individually and as a nation — we will continue to walk through toxic air, plugging our noses and insisting that the air doesn’t stink.
So quite frankly, if your feelings about Hillary are “I just don’t like her,” then I don’t give a rat’s ass. Think harder. Research. Look deep inside yourself and figure out why you don’t like her, and then come talk to me.
Women — not just Hillary, but all women — are held to an impossible double standard. We can’t be too serious or we seem bitchy. But we can’t show our emotions either, lest we are called “dramatic” or “overly emotional.” If we are professionally ambitious, we face criticism for not being maternal enough and are told in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that our children and families are suffering as a result. But if we leave work early to attend a school event or don’t respond to emails at all hours of the night, we are deemed to be on the “mommy track.”
We simply cannot win. And we’re fooling ourselves if we think that men are the only ones to blame for the perpetuation of these sexist double-standards. (Or that women are the only ones to suffer from sexism, but that’s a separate issue for a separate article.) We are all a part of the problem and we can all be a part of its solution.
There are still a few policies issues I disagree with Hillary on, but she is, quite simply, the most qualified candidate in this election. Not to mention she’s the most genuine, caring, and thoughtful candidate. We don’t need to like everything about a president — hell, we don’t even need to like them at all. They are not a friend, buddy, or even a co-worker we have a few drinks with at a Friday afternoon happy hour. They are our president, not our pal, and while we might not agree with everything about them, it is enough to agree with most things.
I might have preferred Bernie over Hillary, but I would still prefer her over any other candidate. We don’t get to create the perfect candidate because there is no perfect candidate. We choose the candidate who most closely aligns with our principles. And sometimes — as is the case this time around — we choose the candidate that we need to choose in order to prevent an end of the world apocalypse of hellfire and hate.
Quite simply, we can’t afford to be anything but enthusiastically in her corner. The stakes are just too high. I may not have voted for Hillary in 2008, or in the spring of 2016, and I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t always like her, but now I’m proud to say I’m with her.
Given the options in this election, if you’re still not on the Hillary train, that isn’t her problem, but yours. And if that orange cretin running against her becomes president because you couldn’t put your “problems” with her aside, then you will be to blame for the massive problem you inflicted on all of us for the next four years.