I start here because I think sometimes people don't fully understand how hard it is to be the first person to do something in a field that has been traditionally dominated by white males. Those seeking to be the first to break the white male barrier have to put up with a fair amount of abuse, racism, and sexism whilst trying to break down the barriers that have kept their kind from advancing. They certainly are subject to much harsher critique than the establishment and there are times when I think people, especially those who have never ever even considered what it means to be the first, forget how much scrutiny people trying to break through these societal barriers come under.
Now lest you think that I believe the critiques about Hillary Clinton are strictly based on her being woman, let me diffuse that from the onset. Hillary has made some mistakes. She actually admitted on 60 Minutes Sunday night that the email stuff was a big mistake and that she's learned her lesson. Both Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell had the same. It doesn't make it right but it makes it common. Benghazi is the other place that people love to come after Hillary and I think it just needs to be stated that the Secretary of State does not act alone. There is no way that she is single handedly responsible for what unfolded there. But again, because she's running for President, she has become the lightening rod for that situation. What I do know is that in the countless ways in which these issues have been investigated, Clinton has not been found guilty of criminal activity. Time to move forward.
I mention these two issues because I don't want them to distract from my main point today...that for a woman to break through the gender barrier that has been US Presidency is no easy task.
|Is that neckline too low? Is the hemline too high? Where do I put the microphone?|
|I'm wearing trousers with this suit. Is that OK? Is my hair and make-up tasteful, attractive yet not too overdone as to cause discomfort?|
Yes my friends, it is tough being the first. I have not been the first to have to navigate an uncharted road. I am lucky enough to have had female predecessors in both of my full-time calls. In the interim, the associate was a female and now the church has called a woman. I am very thankful for this and yet, I have still come under enormous fire at times. Real things that have been said to me include:
I'm not very feminine in the way I run meetings or tackle issues. I've been told to tone down the rhetoric on fighting for the women's issue, to change the language I use from speaking about feminism and instead just using words like love and respect. I have been told to smile more often. (It's hard to smile when you are so angry about being discriminated against). Doug has been told to rein me in at times. These are things that make me crazy because Doug would never be told these things. People often want to think that gender or race make no difference, that they just want the best person for the job but in reality when someone breaks the race or gender barrier, one of the things that they are directly or subtly told to do is to behave in the way that the established majority does. So for women in leadership it means figuring out how to remain feminine enough to appeal to that desire, but lead like a man in order to appease those for whom maleness is the ultimate standard for leadership. Additionally, big men get a better pass than big women. Generally speaking, the public seems to need women to be fit in order to be a good leader. But I think this mainly points to what people feel comfortable looking at.
There is no question in my mind that Hillary comes under greater scrutiny because she is a woman. People feel uncomfortable with her because she's shift from the norm. Obama faced much of the same because he is African American. And some have even said that part of Trump's appeal is because many in the US are tired of having to tolerate looking at a non-white male in the White House. What I do know for sure is that Hillary has to be far more skilled than any white man has to. Her resume clearly indicates that she is qualified to be President, which is far more than can be said for Donald Trump.
Yes indeed. It is extremely hard to be the first to break a barrier. My point in writing these words is to help us think about our reactions, to look into our hearts and consider the harshness with which we may be judging Hillary Clinton because she is a woman and is navigating uncharted territory. Of course, it's ok to critique her candidacy but let's ensure that the focal points are being held to the same standard that white men have been judged by forever rather than an impossible standard that no one could meet.