In September's 'Glamour,' Hillary Clinton Has The Perfect Response To People Calling Her The B-Word
This month, Glamour's Editor-In-Chief Cindi Leive got to interview Hillary Clinton on sexism, politics and diplomacy for Glamour's upcoming September issue. As for the big question, you'll have to keep waiting — no word yet on the big choice, a decision which she has to know could turn her into the biggest, brightest target the Republican Party will have in 2016. But the interview is a fascinating read on Hillary's outlook, highlighting her beliefs about personal diplomacy, how to handle sexism, and the double standards that D.C.'s female politicos have to face.
On Dealing With Sexism Now...
Hillary's had a long, sprawling career, both in politics and in her earlier days as a lawyer in Arkansas. And, as comes as no surprise, sexism has had impact on both periods of her life. Leive asked Hillary how she dealt with sexist language and attacks in her 2008 campaign — mentioning the amount of times she's been called a "bitch."
I'll give you some guidelines. I have generally not responded if it's about me. And I have responded if it's about somebody else, because if women in general are being degraded, are being dismissed, then I can respond in a way that demonstrates I'm not taking it personally but I'm really serious about rejecting that kind of behavior. Now, sometimes when it is about me...you have to not just remain silent but try to figure out a proper response—again, though, not going to the place of anger and feeling sorry for yourself, because that kind of plays into the hands of the sexists.
That's is just one approach to dealing with misogyny, obviously, and it's tempered by the unique demands of her role in society — politicians of all stripes are forced to exercise restraint in response to public attacks, though in Hillary's case, they can get especially personal and nasty.
... And Dealing With Sexism Then
Hillary's experience taking the admissions test for Harvard Law School in the 1970's also adds vital historical context — context about just how awful some male law students were back then, with the Vietnam War still in full swing.
Back when I was going to school, I remember being in a big conference hall at Harvard and taking the Law School Admission Test...and some of the men were just rattling us. ... "What are you doing here? You shouldn't be here." "You're taking a place of a man who could maybe get drafted and die in Vietnam." It was just really personal! Personal and pointed. So I was in that group who were kind of on the front lines of a lot of this change.
Sounds like a classy bunch of guys. This was a familiar attack against women in college throughout the Vietnam era, as though they should've been deprived of education and careers thanks to a war-mired government. The same thing was said to former Commodity Futures Trading Commission chair Brooksley Born, the woman who predicted the financial crisis.
On Diplomacy, and the Personal Touch
If there's one thing you can be sure about, it's that a President Hillary Clinton would have plenty of practice dealing with world leaders on the biggest stages — a four-year tenure as U.S. Secretary of State is about as great preparation as you could hope for. Citing Hillary's book and recent nationwide tour, Leive asked her about her interest in the personal side of diplomacy — "the long walks, the teas, the personal conversations that then allow you to get things done."
I think we underestimate it even beyond diplomacy. I think that relationships are at the core of any political system and economic system—any family—and I think we drifted away from understanding that in our country. The people-to-people level is critical. It is ironic, though—we can text with anybody in the world, we can have a videoconference with anybody in the world, but [there should be] an even higher premium on showing up and getting to know someone. Looking them in the eye, listening to them, trying to understand where they're coming from.
On Getting Into Politics if You're a Woman
Solidarity between women, against sexism, is something that clearly matters a lot to Hillary. When answering about the sexist attacks she's endured, she said this plainly: "Women standing up for each other is critically important."
And in her political career, she's walked the walk on this at least once — she recently claimed the 2008 Obama campaign asked her to attack then-GOP vice presidential pick Sarah Palin a day after she was selected. As Palin was still a relative unknown, Hillary regarded the request as sexist, and refused.
As she told ABC News in April:
That very first day, the Obama campaign said, well, we want you to go out and criticize her, I said, ‘For what? For being a woman? No let’s wait until we know where she stands. I don’t know anything about her, do you know anything about her?’ And nobody of course did. I think it’s fair to say that I made it clear I’m not going to go attack somebody for being a woman or a man. I’m going to try and look at the issues, where they stand, what their experience is, what they intend to do and then that’s fair game.
Despite her extending that good-faith, wait-and-see approach with Palin, however, she's very aware that the personal and brutal nature of major party politics could dissuade a younger generation of women from getting involved. But there's always going to be a need for new women to step forward into the fray, and as she told Leive, there's always time to do so.
... you have to be incredibly well-prepared—better prepared [than a man], actually—and you have to figure out how you're going to present yourself, and you have to have a support group around you, because it can be really a brutal experience. But I think if you were to talk to women who have run, both successfully and unsuccessfully, nearly all of them would say, "You learn so much." You learn about yourself, what you're capable of doing.... And it doesn't have to all happen when you're young—I mean, one of the most powerful women in American politics is Nancy Pelosi. She had five children. She didn't go into politics until her youngest child was in high school.... That's one of the great things about being a woman in today's world: You have a much longer potential work life than our mothers or our grandmothers did.
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