T minus 11 days and counting! We keep hearing about how relieved everyone will be when this election is over, and while that’s true, we’re also feeling pretty out of sorts about what this election will mean for American democracy going forward–and for women. Trump is already saying he plans to sue all 13-and-counting women who have accused him of sexual harassment or assault, and it’s clear that the gendered attacks on Hillary Clinton as “untrustworthy,” “unlikeable,” and “un-Presidential” will continue long after the election results are counted and certified.
But screw that. Can we just celebrate, for one minute, the fact that we are on the cusp of electing THE FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT IN US HISTORY??
It’s been surprising to see how little attention the media have given to the historic import of a Hillary Clinton victory–surprising, that is, until you consider that the media have been dedicated from Day 1 to the narrative that Hillary is too “establishment,” too “overprepared,” too “ambitious” to deserve to break that highest, hardest glass ceiling.
Here’s what Digby has to say about that.
At the Atlantic, Peter Beinert reiterates the case–because it does, in fact, need to be reiterated–that the sexism that has been leveled at Clinton this election season comes from a place of masculine fragility, which is to say: Some men feel threatened by the prospect of a woman President because their sense of manhood relies on the idea that women are subordinate. And while it’s comforting to believe that a female president would automatically reduce sexism in American society, history (hello, “post-racial America”) suggests that won’t be the case.
Even without Clinton, resentment against female empowerment would be a potent force. In 2015, more Republicans told the Public Religion Research Institute that “there is a lot of discrimination” against white men than said “there is a lot of discrimination” against women.
This spring, 42 percent of Americans said they believed the United States has become “too soft and feminine.” Imagine how these already unnerved Americans will react once there’s a female president. Forty-two percent isn’t enough to win the presidency. But it’s enough to create a lot of political and cultural turmoil.
Polls, by the way, back up the idea that many Americans still aren’t “ready” for a female president, and don’t particularly “hope” to see one in their lifetimes. (In one poll taken in mid-June, just 66 percent of men said they hoped to someday have a female president). We haven’t come as long a way as we thought, baby.
Distressingly, as Melissa McEwan at ShareBlue observes, data about US voters’ “readiness” for a female president dried up after that poll in June, as pollsters pretty much stopped asking the question. Why? Well, one plausible theory is that the media is invested in a narrative that erases sexism against Clinton, and portrays her not as a woman targeted by gendered criticism and held to personal, ethical, and political standards that would torpedo any male candidate for President, but as a corrupt, entrenched member of the ruling class whose rise was basically inevitable.
Another Atlantic writer, Clare Foran, observes that Clinton was widely criticized for being “overprepared” at the debate–a characterization that fits with the narrative that she’s little more than a hyperambitious robot. This is an impossible trap: If Clinton hadn’t spent three decades preparing for this role, and many hours prepping for the debates, she’d be considered “underqualified” by the absurdly high double standard to which she is held. When she behaves as if she is qualified, which she is, she gets labeled inauthentic and craven.
“There is no feasible way that the first woman to win a major-party nomination could be a ‘natural’ at trying to win an office that only men have won; there’s nothing effortless about trying to break a long-established mold in American politics. So it’s not hard to see why Clinton might feel pressure to demonstrate that she’s more prepared than her male counterpart—to prove that she’s ready for a position that American voters never before deemed a woman adequately qualified to hold,” Foran writes.
Here’s one lady who isn’t taking the first woman president for granted: Patricia Bass of Chicago, who wrote this in a letter to the Chicago Tribune:
I inserted the voter card, pressed “English,” then up popped the ballot. And there it was. I knew it would be there, of course. But, somehow I wasn’t prepared for the impact of seeing it. Her name. A woman’s name. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Listed at the top of the ticket. President of the United States.
Wait. What? Am I starting to cry? Yes, I am, and here’s why:
Because my grandmother was not allowed to vote until she was 24 in 1920.
Because my smart, business-savvy mother was always hired as a secretary where she could have been the boss.
Because of all the limitations placed on girls throughout my childhood when our only school-sanctioned sports were cheerleading, tumbling and modern dance. Being student council president was out of the question.
Because Sears wouldn’t give me a credit card in my own name in 1975.
Because I was always paid less than my male colleagues for doing the same work.
Because a neighborhood teenager’s dad wouldn’t let her baby-sit for my kids because I was a single mother.
Because I was told it was risky to hire me since I’d probably “just get married and leave.”
It goes on, and you should read the entire thing.
Finally, in case you haven’t heard: Hillary has chosen the venue for her election-night victory party: A convention center in Manhattan featuring one very large glass ceiling.