Hillary Clinton Tackles The Double Standard That's Haunted Her Throughout Her Career
In a second interview with Humans of New York, Hillary Clinton tackled the well-known and unfortunate fact that female politicians face a steeper uphill climb to success than their male counterparts. Though Clinton acknowledged that she lacks some of the natural charisma that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama possess, she nonetheless explained why it’s inherently more difficult for women to overcome that challenge.
"If you want to run for the Senate, or run for the Presidency, most of your role models are going to be men," Clinton said. "And what works for them won’t work for you. Women are seen through a different lens. It’s not bad. It’s just a fact."
It is indeed a fact that female politicians are held to an unfair standard by virtue of their gender. Just a day before this interview, for example, Clinton was criticized for not smiling enough at a candidates' forum with Matt Lauer. In actuality, Clinton smiled more than Donald Trump during the event, and nobody told Trump that he was insufficiently smiley. And that's not the first time this has happened: After Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination, Joe Scarborough told her to "smile," because "you just had a big night."
In her HONY interview, Clinton took a closer look at this form of sexism, and the challenge it poses to female politicians.
There are a number of dynamics going on here, and in conjunction, they result in something of a vicious cycle.
As Clinton pointed out, the seemingly-effortless charisma of politicians like Obama is not as effortless as it seems; it requires practice and patience, and part of that practice involves observing successful politicians. But women are vastly underrepresented in elected office, which means aspiring female politicians often have few role models in politics who aren’t men.
And yet women in politics are criticized for doing things that male politicians do on the regular (coming off as strong and forceful, for example). This puts aspiring female politicians in an impossible, no-win situation, which in turn results in fewer women finding success in elected office. And thus the cycle continues.
In a press conference Thursday, Clinton was asked to address to the "you didn't smile enough" comment, and made another valid point: In some situations, smiling really isn't the most appropriate thing for a politician to do.
"We were talking about serious issues last night," Clinton said. "I had a very short window of time in that event last night to convey the seriousness with which I would approach the issues that concern our country. Donald Trump chose to talk about his deep admiration and support for Vladimir Putin. Maybe he did it with a smile."
And she's right. When it comes down to it, politics aren't a laughing matter and expectations of both men and women must take that into consideration.