This morning as I woke up and found out about the results of last night’s election I was at first filled with despair and finally got myself somewhat out of that funk. Then I thought about what Hillary Clinton must be feeling – she must be exhausted of course. What did it take to put all of that energy into this campaign? And those years of service to this country? And to put up with her husband? And the criticism? This is not to say she didn’t make mistakes in the public eye of course. I’m not saying I didn’t disagree with some of her stances, but I just want to look at it from the female perspective. What I want to say to Hillary right now is thank you. Thank you for being the first woman to have to go through the ordeal of running for president and dealing with all of the mess that goes with that. I can’t imagine what that was like.
I have to say that in my career I know what it’s like to be one of two women in a meeting room and have to work extra hard to get a group to listen to your point. Or perhaps to couch what you want to say in terms that the men will want to hear until they come over to your side in order to get them to vote your way on a certain agenda item or thinking twice about what I wore so as not to get judged. The diplomatic skills that are acquired in just being a woman in an administrative position are invaluable because of the ways in which you know you need to listen and be heard. Being a woman in mathematics, the message is usually clear at national meetings when the majority of conference-goers are female classroom educators and the presenters are more often male speakers who are not currently classroom teachers. In my graduate school education in mathematics I had one female professor and I was the only female in the Masters program. You learn to “blend in” by speaking like them, working like them and going about your business like them.
I wonder if there isn’t a little part of Hillary that this morning just said “Phew, no more of that faking it.” She was tired of being the male-culture-created part of herself that she had to be in order to run for president. A few female heads of school that I have spoken with have said that in order to lead, many women are expected to downplay their feminine qualities – to not cry or be emotional, to be sure they are surrounded by male advisors so no one can say you made mistakes because you “are a woman.” Spending so much time worrying about balancing speaking your mind with being nice to everyone so you are not labeled “bitchy” gets really tiresome.
What this election taught me overall is that misogyny is alive and well in the U.S. (not that Hillary needed to learn that) even more than racism. My guess at this point is that we will elect a gay man in the future before we elect a woman but either way, I am grateful for Hillary and all she has done to pave the way for each other woman who comes next. I read that Kamala Harris (CA) was the second black woman to be elected to the Senate, Ilhan Omar (MN) was the first Somali-American woman elected to Congress and Catherine Cortez Masto (NV) was the first Latina Senator to be elected.
I’d like to think that Hillary is waking up today really looking forward to spending some time as a grandmother, writing a book and working on the next great way to help kids, health care reform and education. Sure that’s just me being idealistic, but as a woman, I would like to think that’s what I would do – well, after crying after losing for a little while.