The highest, hardest glass ceiling might not have been shattered, but Hillary Clinton put around 65 million cracks in it during her historic presidential campaign. As the first woman ever to be nominated to represent a major party, she inspired both hatred and hope among the American people, and challenged voters to reexamine what it means to look “presidential” in 2016.
Throughout the campaign, criticism of Clinton reflected the unique barriers women face on a day-to-day basis. Picked apart for her appearance, tone of voice and general demeanor, her candidacy illustrated the fact that sexism remains a powerful force within American culture. While her competitors were applauded for their passionate speeches and charged delivery, Clinton was told to “smile more” and to stop yelling – clearly a double standard at work.
As it became increasingly obvious that Donald Trump would become the Republican nominee, he didn’t waste any time before launching sexist attacks against his female competitor. In an April news conference at Trump Tower, he suggested that “if Hillary Clinton was a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card.” Fighting back, Clinton declared “if fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in.”
With tensions mounting between the two candidates, the release of a tape on which Trump can be heard bragging about sexual assault pushed the election into a full blown proxy war between women and their white male oppressors. During the third presidential debate, Americans looked on at home as Trump interrupted Clinton’s answer to a question on social security to mutter that she was “such a nasty woman” – behavior unimaginable in previous election cycles.
When Donald Trump became the president-elect in the early hours of Nov. 9, not only did his victory provoke fear, despair and anger, but it also illustrated a return to a common theme: A white man had once again been chosen over a more qualified woman. Despite her decades of public service and over 2 million more votes, Donald Trump would become president, not Hillary Clinton. Her loss was a loss felt by women every day as they receive lower wages than their male counterparts, are passed over for promotions to the highest levels of American businesses and are underrepresented in local, state and federal government.
And still, Clinton’s candidacy encouraged young girls to keep dreaming. “ I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will,” she said in her emotional concession speech. Here’s hoping that day comes sooner rather than later.