Hillary Clinton's candidacy for president raised the hopes of millions of Americans who wanted to believe that the United States was finally ready for a female president. Her campaign lifted up the stories of elderly women who were born before women had the right to vote and of little girls who didn't even know whether a woman could be president. Unfortunately, as in years past, Clinton was also the victim of plenty of sexism from political commentators around the country. Sexist headlines about Hillary Clinton ultimately marred the pages of even some of this country's best-regarded periodicals. Coupled with Clinton's Electoral College loss, the disturbing amount of sexism still at play in modern political conversation is deeply upsetting for anyone who still hopes to one day see a woman in the White House.
In the weeks since the election, feminists are assuaging each others' concerns by reminding themselves of other powerful women rising up in Congress, in the hopes that one of these women might finally shatter the cracked glass ceiling. Women like Kamala Harris and Claire McCaskill lead shortlists of potential female candidates for president in years to come. However, in the future, if and when either party nominates a woman, I worry she will have to contend with at least some of the same ugly sexism that plagued Clinton's campaign (though, hopefully, a lot less). I think it makes sense to have a clear picture of what this sexism looked like this election in order to fight against it going forward, so I've compiled a list of particularly sexist headlines from the last year.
1. "Here's What Hillary Looks Like After Paying $600 For A Haircut That Shut Down An Entire Salon"
This article about the former Secretary of State's haircut, ran in the Independent Journal-Review last year and was written by their congressional correspondent. A similar piece ran in the New York Post's Page Six about the same issue. Both articles are entirely about Clinton's hair; the IJR piece seemed eager to lambaste her for the estimated price of the cut:
Hillary Clinton has earned millions of dollars from speeches and she's well-known for her specific demands on the speaking circuit. But the Democratic presidential candidate raised the bar last week when she stopped for a haircut at John Barrett Salon in New York City.
Never mind that the $600 figure was not quoted to either reporter by the salon or Clinton's team; this strange coverage is particularly worrisome because studies have shown that when the media focuses on female politicians' appearances, those women are more likely to lose elections.
2. "Yes, Hillary Clinton Is Shrill. No, It's Not Sexist To Say So."
Yes, it is!
As Dartmouth music professor William Cheng describes, the word "shrill" is used almost exclusively to insult and minimize women. When's the last time you heard someone call a man shrill? As the Daily Wire article in question says, "shrill" means "high-pitched and piercing in sound quality." But Clinton's voice is not particularly high. In fact, a linguist analyzed her speaking patterns and determined that she actually lowers her pitch while speaking — meaning that "shrill" is not only a sexist way to describe her, but an inaccurate one.
3. "Could Hillary Clinton's Smile Cost Her The Election?"
The Daily Mail's bizarre coverage of the third presidential debate included a round-up of Twitter users' insults for Hillary Clinton's smile. Maybe she should smile less. Or smile more. Frankly, it's hard to keep track — men in 2016 had a lot of opinions about what Hillary Clinton should do with her face.
4. "Hillary Breaks Out The Ugliest Outfit In Human History"
"Even if you’re not into fashion, as I am not, this outfit is objectively bad; it's ill-fitting, frumpy and reminiscent of a couch covering," this article in Daily Wire intoned. This article didn't appear in a website known for its fashion coverage; it was written by an ostensibly politics-focused reporter. This article reminded me of media scrutiny of Sarah Palin's outfits, which was also unfair and sexist.
This, then, is the political future that women have inherited. Unfortunately, from Nikki Haley to Kirsten Gillibrand, women in politics can still likely look forward to campaigns filled with explicit and implicit sexism, from criticisms of their hair to their clothing and even to their speaking voices.