At the Sheraton New York Time Square’s Metropolitan ballroom in April, Hillary Rodham Clinton stood in front of an audience of supporters celebrating her victory in New York’s Democratic primary. Clinton’s speech passed uneventfully, speaking to her usual plans of taking down the economic hierarchy and instilling equality throughout the country. But then about a month later on June fifth, Leah Bourne of the New York Post broke the news that the jacket Clinton wore at the event was worth $12,495. News stations across the country exploded, accusing Clinton of being a hypocrite and speaking of the evils of the income gap all while wearing a designer jacket worth more than a year’s rent in her home state of New York. Of course, what these media sources conveniently forgot to mention was that President Obama’s Italian made suits each cost thousands of dollars, and that Donald Trump’s custom made Brionis are priced at more than $7,000. Let’s face it, sexism is a central part of the election that subtly yet cruelly divides the candidates into “men” and “not men” pushing people to treat them accordingly. While voters are listening to the ideas and policies of male politicians, they see only the apparel of Clinton and completely ignore what really matters: her political agenda.
This was not a rare incident for Clinton, who has been repeatedly challenged on her appearance since the beginning of her career 40 years ago. In September, Donald Trump told David Muir from ABC that “I just don’t think she [Clinton] has a presidential look, and you need a presidential look”. She just doesn’t look presidential—Is that because she’s not attractive to him or because she’s a woman? And no, neither option is valid; last I recall the presidential race is not a beauty pageant.
Throughout the storm of hateful comments, Clinton was expected to maintain a level of political immaculacy, and her mistakes were dissected severely. In response to her debate performance, Ross K. Baker, a USA Today writer said that she showed intelligence but had “a goody-two-shoes, smugly self-satisfied” attitude, as if showing intelligence was an unfortunate quality for a presidential candidate. Imagine if Trump had performed in the same way; would he have been chastised, or would he have instead been praised for his intellect? Americans like Mr. Baker blame her failures on trivial matters like her tone of voice and the “coldness” of her intelligence to hide the underlying prejudice that fuels their dislike.
“America: land of the free, home of the brave”; a progressive slogan was once the heart and soul of the American ethos—but is it still appropriate? The reality is that America, though unafraid of wars and violence, is terrified of having someone with breasts as its leader. This deep-seated terror has grown so aggressively in light of the recent election, that it has blossomed into a firm hatred. It’s not uncommon for young girls like myself to hear hateful and sexist abuse like “pick someone with balls” and “Hillary sucks but not like Monica” from Clinton maligners.
Many people are still committed to the idea that women are too weak and emotional to exist without a man’s influence, and they will do everything within their power to make sure that a woman never steers our country. This misconception of women has quickly spread into the minds of others like a nasty, untamable wildfire, and it has completely dismantled the civility of the presidential race. Whether or not you support Hillary Clinton, there is no denying the role that sexism has played in inhibiting her campaign success, and not only damaged her reputation, but also insulted women across the country.
Those determined not to have Clinton leading our country see her only for her gender, and they attack her more heavily therefore. What these Americans may not realize is that singling out Clinton based on her sex conveys that women are held to higher standards. How can that be justifiable to the daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers of the world? As a woman myself, I cannot not take this lightly; no matter the party or views, no woman should stand to be subordinate to a man.
This campaign and the sexist portrayals of Clinton that accompany it have opened my eyes to the bigotry and hatred in our country, and I’m shocked and hurt. Does being a woman in America mean not being taken seriously?—Not if we can help it. We are strong, intelligent and qualified people whose voices deserve to be heard. We must fight back against these offensive misconceptions and remember that the strongest women are the most feared. The greatest power these sexist portrayals hold is in weakening and creating insecurity towards women, and instead of succumbing to the wildfire, we will fight it with a fire of our own.