After one of the longest presidential primary races ever, Senator Hillary Clinton has finally conceded her bid for president on Saturday, after Senator Barack Obama finally clinched enough delegates to win the Democratic nomination. It has been a long, intense, unpredictable and exciting primary season that made history in many ways. And although Clinton may not have won the nomination, she has made an impact in many other ways by becoming the first serious female contender for president.
But was sexism a factor in her defeat? A large number of Clinton supporters are now coming forward and arguing that it was, and even Clinton herself cried sexism a few weeks back.
There's no doubt that a double standard exists in many workfields, but politics is almost worse, where all your flaws are magnified by a hungry media and all your critics can harness the power of an internet where everyone is a click away from being a publisher, to increase the magnitude of their attacks. Clinton was subjected to an almost unheard of level of scrutiny during the months since she threw her hat in the ring for president.
Critics rarely focused their attacks to her politics–they discussed her husband's past affairs, her makeup and makeup artists, her fashion, her supposedly "cold" or "aggressive" personality, and more. Where she possessed a steely determination and ambition necessary for the leader of the free world, her critics called her cold and bitchy. What's shocking is that even some of my closest girlfriends told me "well, I just couldn't vote for Hillary because she seems too aggressive/harsh/bitchy/manipulative." Where she practiced politics like any other candidate trying to get votes, her critics called her nearly every name in the book.
It's interesting to me because it seems apparent that her conduct was similar to any other potential contender for president. She refused to play the sexism card through much of her campaign and was classy enough to ignore the attacks and soldier on till the very end. She has focused her campaign on the issues on the mind of the publics. She has done so much for the concept of universal healthcare.
So what held us back from electing Hillary? Do Americans still have this preconceived notion of what a woman should be? The nice girl next door? Hillary possessed ambition, drive, determination, and yes, aggressiveness — all candidates, and all presidents, have these qualities. In fact, it would be terrible to elect a politician who didn't have these traits. So, why, in Hillary's case, yet in no other, did so much of the public claim these qualities made her cold or bitchy and not worthy of their vote?
A year ago I wrote an article on this site — my very first one — pondering whether America is ready for a woman president, and I claimed that we are definitely ready for a woman president; we are just making such a big deal out of the woman factor. But does American society still expect women to be the perfect, sweet, NICE girl next door? Why, when it comes to Hillary, is the first thing most people want to talk about her personality or looks, instead of her politics? Women have to be nurturing, nice, kind, caring. God forbid we are ambitious, driven, successful, or competitive. Too many people seem to want to hate Hillary because of who she is and not her policies, and that is just plain wrong. Gender should not be such a big factor that it distracts voters from the politics at hand; in fact, it shouldn't be an issue at all. I'm not saying her campaign or her policies were perfect; they weren't. But I shudder to think that there are voters in America who would walk into their polling place to make such an important decision as choosing the potential next leader of the United States, and base it on such a silly thing as gender rather than whose policies are better for the future of our nation. To do so is to have absolutely no regard for what an important decision this is. And it's a step 50 years back into the past for America.