A New Hillary Clinton Survey Suggests Her Gender Could Actually Strengthen Sexism

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in Reno, Nevada on August 25, 2016. Clinton remarked that her opponent, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, runs a campaign based on prejudice and paranoia. / AFP / JOSH EDELSON (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

A new survey suggests what many people, especially women dealing with antiquated gender norms in the workforce, already know: a Hillary Clinton presidency couldn't end sexism single-handedly — in fact, some experts argue, it could increase it, even if just briefly. Just as President Obama before her could obviously not eliminate racism (many cheered "racism is over!" upon his election), Clinton would be unable to do the same for sexism. But that doesn't mean a Clinton administration couldn't make great strides in the elimination of gendered stereotypes, especially for the generations to come.

Although the recent national survey, conducted by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, cannot draw conclusions with 100 percent accuracy, it does pull from some overwhelming themes: Americans have little hope that Clinton could curb sexism. After polling 1,096 adults, the survey found that a full 60 percent thought a Clinton presidency would have no effect on discrimination against women.

What's more, the polling emphasized a gender divide — men were more likely to see Clinton's gender as a benefit in her bid for the White House, while women tended to see it as an obstacle. (Going to take a wild guess here and say it's because the surveyed men have likely not faced discrimination based on their gender, while many of the women understand the sexist hoops one must jump through, even if you're Clinton.)

Michelle Cottle of The Atlantic made the case that President Obama's two terms actually ushered in a more publicized display of racism, and a Clinton presidency would created a mirrored effect for sexism: "Just as Barack Obama's election did not herald a shiny, new post-racial America, Clinton’s would not deliver one of gender equality and enlightenment," she wrote. "So goes progress: Two steps forward, one step back(lash)."

The Washington Post looked to the rise of the Tea Party movement, birthers, and the 2013 gutting of a staple of the Civil Rights Act as that backlash against a black man as president. But that doesn't mean President Obama shouldn't have held office. Quite the contrary — things can often turn ugly on the way to remarkable, lasting change.

The same could be true for a Clinton presidency. While the backlash would likely come in the form of antagonized sexism, the payoff could be greater. We would finally see that glass ceiling shattered — and symbolism aside, having Clinton, specifically, in the White House would usher in positive changes for women and girls both in representation and policy.

Even if her gender is an obstacle to the presidency, as the female respondents of the survey suggested, it will be well worth jumping the hurdle.

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