It was a conversation I must have had dozens of times during the 2016 election — in the line-up getting my morning coffee, hiking with friends, at dinner parties over expensive cheese and cheap wine. The Clinton vs. Trump debate. The conversation was always the same. Them: Sure, I don't want Trump to win, but she's no better. I would always ask, Why? Give me specifics? What has she done? Mumbling would ensue, until the final admission, I just don't like her, okay? Simple as that. Well, after months of keeping quiet, Hillary Clinton says misogyny undoubtedly played a role in her election loss. And when I think back to those conversations, the darker undertones, the unspoken something that always seemed to be hanging in the air, it makes me think she could have been right.
That's not to say there couldn't have been other factors, obviously. Many people in the country clearly saw Clinton, a 30-year career politician and longtime Washington insider (one that spent a good deal of time in the White Houe, both as the first lady and secretary of state) — in other words, The Establishment. Some people wanted change. Radical, life-altering change. Which it seems they might have gotten under President Trump's new leadership; A failed attempt at repealing Obamacare, an ever-changing Cabinet, the Russia investigations... the list goes on.
But was a desire for change the only factor in Clinton's loss? Or was there serious misogyny at play?
During an interview with The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof at the 2017 Women In The World summit in New York on Thursday, Clinton shared her thoughts on the subject. "Certainly misogyny played a role," she said. "That just has to be admitted."
In this election, there was a very real struggle between what is viewed as change that is welcome and exciting to so many Americans and change that is worrisome and threatening to so many others. You layer on the first woman president over that, and I think that some people — women included — had some problems.
Clinton went on to touch on Trump's open history of misogyny, including the allegations of sexual misconduct peppered throughout his past. But Trump's brand of blatant sexism wasn't the main issue at hand — it was the American people. The amount of hateful vitriol mercilessly spewed at Clinton during the election seemed nearly unprecedented. Will we ever forget the haunting chants of "Lock Her Up!" at Trump rallies? Or the popular t-shirts sold to Trump supporters outside these rallies?
As Robin Morgan put it in The Guardian:
Hillary Rodham Clinton is hardly perfect, but her flaws are those of a sane human being and a politician – not of an orange troglodytic self-proclaimed “sexual predator” who thrives on hatred.
And yet she lost the election to a man with zero political experience, a threadbare agenda, and a taste for firing off racist, incendiary tweets whenever someone crossed him. There were many reasons Clinton lost the election; James Comey's announcement just 11 days before the election that she was being investigated by the FBI (the investigation has long since been closed), the WikiLeaks email scandal, Russian cyberhackers putting forth a concerted effort to sway the election away from her.
But ultimately, American voters made their own decisions. And if we go on pretending that misogyny didn't play a part, sitting at dinner parties pretending there's simply something we just don't like about that woman politician we can't explain, we do a disservice to the future women who may yet run for political office. Forewarned is forearmed, and even in 2017, women need to arm themselves against misogyny. Clinton, who said in that same interview that she has no plans to run for office ever again, had a helpful message to future female politicians. She warned them not to take the attacks too personally:
Part of the attacks, the personal attacks, part of the bullying, part of the name calling is to crush your spirit, to make you feel inadequate, to make you doubt yourself. And I just refused to do that. And that infuriated them even more.
If that doesn't sound like someone who had the tenacity and the resolve to run a country, I just don't know what does.