It’s the elephant in the room everyone’s been talking about. Last night, during former President Bill Clinton’s speech, he touched on every accomplishment he and Hillary shared over the years. He told stories about making tough decisions (buying a house), and encouraging each other to be better people. It was the perfect way to paint the democratic nominee as hard-working and committed; there’s just one small blip Bill deliberately “forgot” to mention-the wrongdoings that made Hillary have to be strong and dedicated in the first place.
Bill Clinton’s deliberate omission tells us one thing: forgiveness is a imminent for men, and not for women. He tells us Hillary is stronger without owning responsibility for the pain he caused. He reduces it all to one word: “Heartbreak,” as if it were external forces that caused their marriage problems rather than his reckless behavior. This deliberate lack of ownership cleverly situates both himself and Hillary as victims of the entire affair. Sure, cheating affects everyone involved. But I think most can agree that the person not committing the infidelity is perhaps, hurt maybe just a scotch more than their insecure, lying partner.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. Historically, women who have been married to powerful men have had to sacrifice their emotional health and “suck it up” to help their lying husband’s career. Alexander Hamilton was the first in a long line of powerful men, who arguably, got away with murder.
He cheated on his wife for several years with mistress Maria Reynolds, and cleared his name by admitting to it. His wife Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton chose to stay with him even after he admitted to his wrongdoings. When you consider the dependency women had on men in the 18th century, it’s no wonder his wife stayed with him. But even after his untimely death, it is because of Elizabeth Hamilton that we know anything about him in the first place. She preserved her husband’s legacy despite all of the pain he had put her through.
This trend continued over the next two centuries. Lady Bird Johnson pretended to have no knowledge of husband Lyndon B. Johnson’s affairs because she felt her duty as First Lady and mother needed to come before that. She blamed herself for his affair and consequently tried to become more like his mistress. Like the women before her, she suffered in silence for the sake of the “greater good.”
Fast forward to last night, with Bill Clinton praising Hillary for both her political accomplishments and tender character. His speech was the kind you would hear at wedding anniversary party, with enough anecdotes to keep you smiling and believing in the “unbreakable bond” of true love. And while it’s important to focus on the positives when giving a speech to promote someone, it felt more like Bill Clinton’s redemption than Hillary’s endorsement. It was more like a guy finally agreeing to be “Facebook official” with his girlfriend, after months of her asking him why she isn’t in any of his Instagram photos.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign has reminded all of us that women will always have to work harder than men to redeem themselves when they make mistakes. Her likability has been an issue for voters on both sides, whereas her political opposite, Donald Trump has no problem securing votes for his brutal “honesty”. It took Bill Clinton’s speech to humanize Hillary and illustrate her as a sweet-maternal-like figure that people could admire.
People cheered for the future first gent and his speech, which was a huge contrast from the previous night when people booed Bernie Sanders for his endorsement of Mrs. Clinton. Perhaps this is just another example proving as long as women are loving and caring, they’re worth something. If you look at them simply from a political perspective, it’s not enough. They have to be multi-dimensional, family friendly figures. If they’re not, they’re deemed power hungry and acting only in their best interests. Bill had to present a compelling argument that showed Hillary wasn’t just professionally qualified to be president but a good enough person to do it. All Trump had to do was prove he is a successful business man, and somehow that was enough to convince people.
While Bill’s speech does confirm the old saying “Behind every great man is an even greater woman,” it reminds us of an unspoken one: a woman’s worth more when her accomplishments, in some way, help push the success of a man.
Heartbreak. It implies a sadness on both sides, not just the one who has been wronged. While Bill Clinton’s mistakes definitely took a toll on his political career, it seems careless to not give Mrs. Clinton more credit for standing by him during his wrongdoing. After all, if “Stronger Together” is the theme of this year’s convention, it seems like the least he could do.