Few people know more about being a women in politics than Hillary Clinton. In the former presidential candidate’s new memoir, What Happened, published by Simon & Schuster Sept. 12, Clinton delves deep into the sexism, the scrutiny, and the near-impossible standards she’s faced throughout her decades as a woman in Washington — and long before the 2016 presidential election heard ‘round the world.
In a chapter entitled "On Being A Woman In Politics" Clinton takes readers all the way back to Bill Clinton’s 1980 Arkansas Governor’s race, where her decision to keep her maiden name after marriage was cited as one of the defining factors in her husband’s campaign loss. Clinton describes this moment as the first time in her life when she realized that as a woman and a wife, things like her clothing, hairstyle choices, and personal beliefs could be critically influential in how her husband was perceived — and for the woman who had political ambitions of her own, it wasn’t easy. In the chapter, Clinton writes:
If we’re too tough, we’re unlikable. If we’re too soft, we’re not cut out for the big leagues. If we work too hard, we’re neglecting our families. If we put family first, we’re not serious about the work. If we have a career but no children, there’s something wrong with us, and vice versa.
Clinton also describes her experience as prospective First Lady, during Bill Clinton’s first run for President of the United States in 1992. When a Democratic primary opponent attacked her for keeping her job at a Little Rock, Arkansas law firm while her husband was running for president, Clinton responded with the kind of sharpness some of us wish we’d seen more of during her own presidential campaign — however misinterpreted her words may have been at the time.
“I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was pursue my profession,” Clinton recalls telling the press, detailing the political firestorm that exploded around her afterwards. Clinton writes:
As someone who believes in supporting mothers, fathers, and families of all kinds, this hurt. And once again, I feared that my pursuit of my individual dreams — in this case, my career, which meant so much to me — would end up hurting my husband. … I’ve never really been naïve again.
It’s a moment of unguarded frustration that might have lingered forever in the history of Hillary Clinton’s political stumbles. If not, that is, for the role Beyoncé played in reclaiming HRC’s 1992 quote. Clinton describes the Cleveland rally that took place just days before election night, where both Beyoncé and Jay-Z performed.
“I want my daughter to grow up seeing a woman lead our country and know that her possibilities are limitless.” Clinton remembers Beyoncé saying. She goes on to write:
And then, that infamous 1992 quote appeared in giant block letters on a huge screen behind her. “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was pursue my profession.”
Something that had been controversial was being reclaimed as a message of independence and strength — just like I had meant it all those years ago! — right before my eyes.
If nothing else, HRC can walk away from this biggest of political heartbreaks knowing that Queen Bey has got her back.
To read even more about the 2016 election — what went right, and what went wrong — check out What Happened, available from Simon & Schuster now.