Sophie Wilson ‘18
At the beginning of this election cycle, I was a staunch Bernie supporter. Born into the end of Bill Clinton’s time in office, I spent the entirety of my life with the same two presidents: George W. Bush and Barack Obama. I grew up internalizing my parents’ opinions about these two men, meaning I hated George Bush, loved Barack Obama and didn’t really understand why. The first election cycle, which I was truly aware of, happened only four years ago when Obama ran for reelection.
So when it came to this year’s election, I was completely unprepared for choosing a candidate. I was somewhat politically educated but completely inexperienced. By that time, I had solidified my own political ideologies as a separate entity from my parents. However, rather than logically choosing a candidate who best met what I believed were the needs of this country, I chose one based on my emotions. I reached for what I had felt for Obama: love. I loved Bernie. I played and replayed a video of him helping a trampled reporter to their feet. I read his autobiography, marveling at his bravery and determination. I even drove to New Hampshire to canvas for him. I completely overlooked Hillary Clinton.
When it became apparent that Bernie was not going to win, I switched my support to Hillary. At least she’s better than Trump, I told myself. I started to learn more about Hillary Clinton. I watched her speeches, read articles about her and engaged in political conversations with adults who had followed her career from the beginning. And I realized something. Clinton was the candidate I wanted. Clinton is well-educated, incredibly smart and one of the most experienced politicians in the U.S. So how did I, a person who considers myself liberal and a feminist, overlook her?
Since the day she came into the public eye, Clinton has been attacked and demeaned by the media. In America, a patriarchal society built and sustained on systematic oppression, a woman in power quickly becomes a threat. The media is constantly putting Clinton down. She has done a great amount of good for the world, but as someone with an over 40-year career, to no surprise, she has also made some mistakes. The closer she gets to breaking the presidential glass ceiling, the more she is picked apart for those mistakes.
Growing up as a girl in the U.S. presents many obstacles. The ideals our society sets for girls and women are full of contradictions and impossible standards. We need to be skinny but not too thin, smart but not know-it-alls, independent but not bossy, warm but not emotional, sexual but not promiscuous; the list could go on forever. Add to that being in the political spotlight and you get what Hillary Clinton has dealt with her whole life. In an interview with Humans of New York (HONY) photojournalist Brandon Stanton, Clinton said, “I know that I can be perceived as aloof or cold or unemotional. But I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions. And that’s a hard path to walk. Because you need to protect yourself, you need to keep steady, but at the same time you don’t want to seem ‘walled off’.”
There has never been a female president in the U.S., so the characteristics commonly seen as “presidential” are also almost always traditionally masculine traits. Hillary Clinton’s traditionally feminine traits are used as ammunition against her. Her speech patterns, for example, are criticized. She is called shrill and hysterical when she yells, and yet considered monotone and unemotional when she doesn’t. Clinton is erased and demonized. The media is rewriting her past and personality to fit the right-wing white male agenda. This is apparent every time she is called cold or told to smile more, when she is compared to a reptile and when people make fun of her appearance. It is even more blatantly apparent when she is called a gendered slur or when people wear shirts with slogans like “Hillary sucks, but not like Monica” or “Trump that b****.”
I am ashamed to admit that I began this election cycle believing in the picture that has been painted of her. During the first debate last Monday, I saw Clinton constantly talked over and undermined by Trump. Throughout the whole ordeal, she remained calm and reasonable, as she clearly had trained herself to do. I finally understood the extent of the sexism she faces on a daily basis, and how impressive it is that she has come this far. Although I started this year “feeling the Bern,” I couldn’t be more excited to vote for Hillary Clinton (not against Donald Trump) this November.