Disclaimer: This post has absolutely nothing to do with my creative endeavors Talisman Studio and Talisman Too. However, I enjoy writing, and believe we live in, as the purported ancient Chinese curse goes, “interesting times.” Many of my friends and family supported Sanders during the primaries, and likely still do, but I feel it was of the utmost importance to choose a president who is capable of leading us through the delicate path the world is currently embarked upon. Sanders was not that person, and Trump is such a blunderer I swear his intention is to destroy our political structure, and our country’s place in the greater society, in it’s entirety.
So forgive me for “going rogue” with a political post. For what it’s worth, it is as much about my personal viewpoint on gender equality as it is on the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Polls tell us that a large portion of the citizens of the United States have a problem with Hillary Clinton and that, as a presidential candidate, they hold reservations in casting a vote in her direction. Check in with any news source for even a short while, and you’ll be apprised of a smattering of reasons for this discomfort with our Democratic nominee.
Take a moment to think about what is actually behind those labels and, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll probably come to the same realization that I have. The problem with Hillary Clinton is not that she is seen as untrustworthy, dishonest, or as Donald Trump loves to remind his listeners every time he drops reference to her, crooked. The REAL problem is that Hillary Clinton is a strong woman.
It is that simple.
How do I know? Because, as another old saying goes: It takes one to know one.
As a strong woman who recognizes strength in another woman, I clearly understand that Hillary Clinton gets the same reactions and responses that I have dealt with from the day I understood that it was not acceptable for a little girl to playact as a Cherokee Warrior, galloping her sawhorse pony across the grassy plains of her backyard without a shirt on.
It was a tearful moment for me when I came to that awareness, as I am completely certain it was for Mrs. Clinton the first time she stepped forward and bumped up against that unseen barrier that has kept women corralled the world over for centuries. Apparently, there were times long ago when women were not deemed the lesser gender, but for anyone alive today, that is indeed ancient history.
My revelation that “boys will be boys, but girls must be girls” grated pretty strongly on my sensibilities, even as a child of about four years old. I adored the stories of native women that I knew of, particularly Sacajawea, who anyone with a fairly decent intelligence quotient knows saved the day, day after day, for Lewis and Clark. She was a strong woman, but instead of being honored as an equal, if not leading, member of the expedition, history gives her only a supporting role, and that was the story I was told. But I did not see myself as a woman who happened to gently point out the upcoming right turn or left exit as I tended to the more important task of cooking dinner; I saw myself as the warrior, scouting for opportunity, and safeguarding my people.
I can think of a few other strong women that I was aware of as a child, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, and Madame Curie, and they were viewed almost as anomalies. The unspoken part of the story was that “most” girls should consider themselves unlikely to make history, that we would almost all eventually play out our part, as women, and strive to marry, bear children, and keep our husbands and children content, in that order. Our Barbie dolls showed us what we should endeavor toward as we grew up, but left us to imagine how to prepare for the day when we married our “Ken” and took on the role of an adult woman.
Of course, a good number of us rejected the suggestion that we were fit only to be wives and mothers, or that if we must support ourselves, it should be respectable work for a spinster, such as that of a teacher or librarian. My own mother, in the late 1950’s, disappointed her parents by choosing to go to nursing school. They wondered, aloud, why she should bother, since she would be wasting the education. Against odds my mom persevered, and used her nursing degree, although she did delay work until her last, her eight, child was in school.
Some strong women find their voice only after trying for years to live within the constraints applied to them. This is often the case with a woman who finally speaks up against harassment in the working place years after that time has passed. When it is happening, we believe the veiled threats that our career depends on compliance. Often, the implication is the reality. At my first job in the fashion design field, the owner, and some of the male employees of the company, regularly “flirted” in sexual ways with the female employees, most of whom were hired fresh from college. I was groped in the stockroom, and even followed into the woman’s restroom on one occasion. One day I felt something on my leg, about calf height. Thinking it was a mouse, I quickly turned, only to see that it was a rat; the owner of the company was running his hand up the length of my leg, because “the pattern on my hose was so sexy.”
At that particular job, each and every young lady who applied for ads in sales was told the starting job was as “sales assistant” to the owner, and that they would also handle the front desk. In other words, they were to be the receptionist, and would sometimes make calls to buyers on behalf of their boss. They had no accounts of their own, and whenever a strong women demanded their promised promotion, they were given one-half of one percent commission on sales, when all men hired received one or two percent at starting sales positions. No man was ever told they need start at the front desk, either. Lest one think that was back in the early years of females in the workspace, it was not. I was employed there from 1988 to 1991.
Today I would stop a fellow employee at the first instance of sexual harassment, but as a young designer, I knew very well that any complaint would have me blacklisted in the industry. We all knew this. I’m sure that Hillary Clinton, too, saw and experienced harassment on some level in the early years of her career.
Yet, we persevered. We developed strategies to dodge abusive people, and continue on our professional progression. In doing so, we often found ourselves labeled, sometimes to our faces, and sometimes behind our backs:; labels like Ball Buster, Backstabber, and Bitch. When we attained powerful managerial positions, it was almost always assumed we had “slept our way to the top.” If it was clear that we were not the type to do so, people were sure we must be lesbians, as if this explained the fact that we had been able to discover some covert entry point into the men’s club – a corner office. It was never on our hard work and professional merits that we had been given that which was our due. Every decision we made was second-guessed by subordinates unqualified to analyze the situation, and every workplace guideline we put in place was resisted, simply because it chafed many to be “told by a woman.”
I am sure there are many young people for whom these tales seem implausible. What I say to you is this: Thank your lucky stars that you can’t imagine such things. Your lucky stars, and many strong women and strong, decent, men who fought, and continue to fight, for gender equality. Women like Hillary Clinton.
A woman does not gain a position of authority by demurring to those who see her as an inferior, nor does she get there by ignoring signs of resistance when she is perceived as a threat. Strong women brace themselves for the battle, recognize and protect themselves from their foes, and ally themselves strategically. Just. Like. Men.
Strong women instill fear in the insecure members of both genders, and out of base instincts, those people lash out with whatever weapon they can get their hands on; untruthful rumors, attempts at debasement with name-calling, and sabotage. No one, no woman, has been forced to endure these attacks like Hillary Clinton has over the years. She has fully earned her place as a presidential nominee; a good percentage of others, past and present, could never have withstood the pressures she has taken on.
Hillary Clinton is a strong woman, and that is what troubles so many people. She can’t be easily hoodwinked, her composure doesn’t lapse when weak-minded people douse her with ugly monikers, and she won’t succumb to pressure tactics. Add to that strength of character the fact that she has an exceptional grasp on the political, social and economical state of the world today and a brilliant mind capable of maneuvering delicately through diplomatic channels. Our president cannot be focused on the United States and it’s problems as if this nation is somehow insulated from every other country on the planet. While it is true that we have a great number of issues within the U.S. that desperately need attention, to ignore our strengths and vulnerabilities as they relate on the greater stage would be a magnificent, and terrible, blunder. That is why I am glad that Hillary Clinton is a strong woman, and that I believe her “big problem” is also her greatest asset. That is why I’m with her.