by Beth Anderson, MN NOW Treasurer
I’m With Hillary. Always have been. She’s a woman who has been in public life for as long as I can remember. Her issues have been my issues over the years; women’s rights, healthcare, international affairs. And now she is seeking to be the first woman President of the United States.
As a feminist and a woman in a predominantly male field, I can identify with the sexism both subtle and overt that comes with that territory. The first women who dared to enter the fields of science and engineering were punished for their ambition and interests. For many of them their work was stolen, they were under-employed and underpaid, and they faced sexual harassment in the workplace. I can tell you that some things haven’t changed that much over the last 200 years. My electrical engineering class at North Dakota State University graduated under a dozen women in 1983. Most of us have gone on to have successful careers, but we have all faced obstacles rooted in sexism. Some drop out, some change jobs, some challenge the sexism head on. It has been a struggle, though not as bad as it was a generation ago. And the reason for that is the many brave women who went before me, opening doors, demanding rights, and mentoring the next generation.
So when I see a woman actually leading us into new political territory in this country, I can’t help but smile! Hillary Clinton’s historic nomination by a major political party to be the next President of the United States fills me with pride. It has taken a long time, 240 years from that first Independence Day in 1776, to get this far.
However, you can still see the sexism at work. Hillary Clinton is one of the most qualified candidates running for President––ever. Yet she is vilified, made fun of, and scorned by so many. I sometimes think the worst sexism is the more subtle sexism that permeates our society, the damning by faint praise. We hear people say, “Well, she wasn’t my first choice, but I’ll probably vote for her because the alternative is worse.” Really? Why not “Yay! We have a qualified, woman candidate who has worked hard for our issues over the last 25 years and I can’t wait to vote for her in the next election!” If either party had produced a male candidate with Clinton’s credentials he would have been crowned nominee early in the process. That is sexism at work.
I’m not one to say that Hillary Clinton has never made a mistake. Nor will I vote for her just because she is a woman. But I do think she should be judged by the same standards you would a male candidate.
People criticize Clinton for being “dishonest.” Yet PolitiFact, a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims of politicians, has rated her the most truthful presidential candidate running in either party in 2016. If you check out her ratings compared to those of her opponent, there is no question which candidate is the more truthful in their statements. Clinton is held to a different standard; that is sexism at work.
People criticize her for being paid for her speeches, particularly those given to potential constituent groups. As a person who has attended several professional conferences, I can tell you that this is normal. Celebrities, politicians, and experts in their field give speeches to all kinds of groups and are generally paid for their time. For example, in the last several years, both President Bill Clinton and Justice Antonin Scalia spoke at separate National Conferences for the DRI, an organization of Defense Attorneys. I attended both speeches and they couldn’t have been more different. I’m sure they were both paid for their time and for giving those speeches. And yet, I doubt if either Justice Scalia or President Clinton felt beholden to the members of the DRI because they received those speaking fees. Hillary Clinton is held to a different standard; that is sexism at work.
And of course there are the “scandals.” Clinton has been criticized for everything from her lack of interest in cookie baking to her use of a private email server when she was Secretary of State. Yet in investigation after investigation she has been cleared of wrong doing. She has been grilled by journalists, congressional members, and the FBI about everything from her relationship with her husband to her financial practices. Why does Hillary Clinton continue to be the target of scandal after scandal when there has been no evidence of wrong doing on her part? That is sexism at work.
Hillary Clinton has answered to the Senate, to Congress, and to the President of the United States. She has been a role model for women who face extra hurdles competing in a male dominated field. She conducts herself with integrity and never gives up. With all the criticism and challenges that Hillary Clinton has faced over her career, one could forgive her for quitting the field. Yet she has not.
Hillary Clinton is pushing the envelope. She has faced the challenges of sexism head on and won. She has opened doors for the next generation. Hillary Clinton is challenging the status quo and our image of what a President looks like, just like Barack Obama did. It is a privilege in our current time to have this kind of choice. For these reasons and many others, I’m with Hillary. She will forever change what is true and real for our daughters and our next generation of politicians.