In what is now hours away we will elect the person who will be the next President of the United States.
There’s one part of me that is so full of joy I can barely contain it, not only do I get to vote for a woman for the first time in my life, but there’s a really good chance that Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the winner.
And then there is the other part of me that is sad and troubled. The part of me whose stomach has literally been aching for weeks on end as I watch just how low her opponent and his followers are willing to go. The part of me that has been reminded of what the reality is of being a woman in America - even in 2016.
Social media puts a spotlight on it. The Trump trolls name call. They make fun of how she talks and how she looks. They question her health. They post signs that say Hillary for Prison. They threaten death. On Friday, they even went so far as to suggest she was sent by Satan, trying to push through the hashtag #spiritcooking on Twitter, unaware that the mention in a Podesta email was referring to a well-known performance artist, Marina Abramovic. They’d been looking for a reason to call her a full-blown witch and they were sure they’d found it.
It’s not easy to be a woman in America. It never has been. We’ve been led to believe that we are beyond gender discrimination. We are reminded of the women who live in countries where education is forbidden and who have it much worse than we do. And so in typical mansplaining we are told to be happy with what we have - but don’t push it too far. Reach high, but not so high as to think one of your kind might actually be the President.
This election has reminded me what I’ve always known about what it’s meant to be a woman in America but chose to ignore. The gender divide is still wide, much wider than even I thought.
I experienced it first hand throughout my corporate career. I got my first sales job in 1983 because there was a position open that had to be filled by a woman. At the time I was naive that radio stations operated under FCC regulations and worried about keeping their license to broadcast and so were much stricter about things like affirmative action. I didn’t care the reason. I wanted the job. I played the game knowing full well if they didn’t have to hire a woman, they wouldn’t have.
As my career progressed, I was often the only woman in a management meeting. I had to listen to stories about which of our clients my male counterparts thought were hot and their complaints about their wives not wanting to have sex with them and I had to pretend like I didn’t care. I was told I was too emotional if I expressed anger and not emotional enough if I didn’t get as upset as them about something. I was the one asked to take notes as if I was an assistant when I was part of the management team. I lost count of the times I suggested an idea and was shot down, only to have a boss represent it as his own idea. There was the one who told my staff not to listen to me and consistently override my decisions and the one who pinched me on the cheek as if I was five years old. I did not react well. He later called me in and told me never to disrespect him in front of the group to which I agreed as long as he did the same for me. And then there was the time I was asked why I had a copy of the newspaper open on my desk when I should be working, later to walk in on the same person watching porn on his computer.
It’s called the double standard for women and it has been brought into the spotlight this election by those who do not want to move our society forward, but instead set it back. Trump and his band of angry white men including Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon and Roger Ailes, represent the worst of the worst, the kind of men who pretend to be okay with powerful women - but are really afraid of them. That’s the reason they harass and incite and condone hatred and violence reminiscent of a witch hunt.
Hillary Clinton is not a woman without flaws. Neither am I. Neither are any of us. But because she is a woman, she is expected not to have any. We are raised to be “good girls” and if we want to succeed in what has been a man’s world for over two thousand years the bar to be good and perfect is much higher than it is for men.
That’s why Hillary’s flaws and mistakes are blown up and out of proportion. There is hardly a mention of the 22 million “lost” emails that disappeared during the Bush administration, yet on an hourly basis we hear about hers. The press and those against her are so sure if they just keep looking they will find something, some secret horror she has been hiding. After all, she is a ‘woman’ and ‘women are mysterious beings who like to hide things’. Yet Trump’s refusal to show his tax returns are a footnote, brushed under the carpet as if there are no secrets hidden in there.
There are those who call her a murderer because of Benghazi, yet the fact that during the George W. Bush administration there were 13 attacks on US Embassies and 60 deaths gets barely a raised eyebrow. The fact that she was part of the team that took down Bin Laden, hardly a mention. Donald Trump represents everything that is awful about humanity, right down to bragging about how he can get away with anything including shooting someone and sexual assault, but for him the bar has been set so low that if he hasn’t insulted someone in the last hour, he’s had a good day.
The double standard in action. Women are admonished and fired for mistakes. Men get promoted.
Even the men who I have respected and I believed to be different and supportive of women advancing have surprised me. That’s how deep this gender divide really is. They’re the ones who will vote for Hillary, but grudgingly. They believe she is the ‘lesser of two evils’ and criticize her in a way that would never happen if she were a man. They question if she is the ‘right’ woman, whatever ridiculousness that might mean. They’re the ones who attempt to mansplain exactly what ‘corruption’ looks like.
It’s hit a nerve. Not just for me, but for many women. And not just for women who like me would be voting for Hillary no matter who she was running against.
But no one is giving us airtime. I don’t see Hillary’s fans interviewed on CNN or the Republican women I know who are voting Democratic for the first time in their lives. That’s going to the small group of women who say they hate her enough to vote for Trump.
This is 2016. It is not supposed to be like this. But maybe this was necessary. Maybe it is fitting that the first time a woman is a candidate for the highest office in the land she should be running against a candidate who is a loathing, manipulative, mentally unstable bully who exemplifies sexism and misogyny. Maybe that’s what we needed to bring this double standard to light and be done with it once and for all. Maybe that’s what we needed to get out and vote.