Dear Sir or Madam:
Last week’s US presidential election is still a controversial topic. People around the world are still forming opinions, questions, and trying to fathom how such a controversial candidate won the White House. One facet of the debate that remains is wondering just how did Hillary Clinton lose? It seems that many people thought she had the race in the bag. The polls suggested she would win, rational thought would seem to suggest she would win, experts suggested she would win;1 but come Election Day everything that suggested she would win was incorrect. Surprisingly, Clinton did not just lose; Trump won in an unpredictable landslide victory. As the election results continued to finalize, the hope of watching the first female president win the highest seat in the land vanished.
Where do these results leave us? As a woman writing this post, it leaves me feeling somewhat demoralized and frustrated. People seek out university and college educations with the ideal that they can be anything they desire; provided that they put in the required work to achieve these goals. Hard work pays off, a statement seemingly without gender implications, something many of us are taught from a young age. We enter into these institutions with hopes of becoming a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, an artist, or maybe even a president one day. If this recent election has taught me anything however, the sentiment that you can be anything may be true; but women will struggle much harder to achieve these goals than men.
Political analysts trying to make sense of Trump’s win have developed many theories as to why Clinton lost. Some argue that Americans were so frustrated by traditional political leadership that they voted for the candidate resembling nothing of a career politician.2 Others point to the FBI’s investigation into Clinton driving away some educated voters.3 While the loss is likely explained by a multitude of factors, one recurring speculation is she lost, at least in part, because she is a woman.4
Clinton’s campaign focussed on shattering the most salient glass ceiling in the world, ultimately proving unsuccessful. The Democratic nominee was clearly the more qualified candidate with a long political career, successful law practice, and experience as First Lady of the United States. Trump, the Republican candidate, has no political background, and his resume lacks credentials typically fit for the White House. D. Watkins, an Editor-at-Large for Salon and a professor at the University of Baltimore, suggests, “Donald Trump may be the most unqualified person to ever run for office in America.”5 Now he may be the most unqualified person to ever win. If hard work truly does pay off, Clinton should have won. She worked her whole life gaining political and practical experience to make her fit to be president. Logically, the person fit for the job and with the most relevant experience should win. This election tells us something different.
Marie Henein, a successful legal partner with Henein Hutchison, suggests that while we may live in what we think is a progressive society, society still struggles with women in positions of power.6 When women attempt to reach these positions of power, society and the media react with a negative lens. Instead of highlighting Hillary Clinton’s remarkable career accomplishments, media constantly shifted focus to her “nasty” demeanour and her wardrobe. While considering a potential president of the United States, are we seriously worrying about where her pantsuits are made? The election results are disappointing and continue to deliver a disheartening message to women: the glass ceiling is not going to be broken any time soon.
America demanded change and had the chance to inflict it by electing the first female president. Instead, they chose wild media antics, racism, xenophobia and bigotry. What this leaves women with is the sad reality that America is more sexist than racist; but unfortunately it is both.7 As women, we will continue to struggle moving forward to shatter that resilient glass ceiling. Hopefully one day in the near future we will, so that future generations can grow up truly believing women can be anything they desire; even president of the United States. Until then, as Henein so eloquently states, “You can hold office, just not the highest one. You can succeed, just not too much. I’m going to say it; she lost because she is a woman. If she was a man, she would be president-elect today. Plain and simple.”8
Still hoping one day the ceiling will shatter,
1 “Presidential Poll Tracker” (8 November 2016), CBC News, online: <www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/uspolltracker/>.
2 Chris Cillizza, "One of Hillary Clinton’s top aides nailed exactly why she lost”, The Washington Post. (14 November 2016), online: <www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/11/14/one-of-hillary-clintons-top-aides-nailed-exactly-why-she-lost/>.
3 “Why did Hillary Clinton lose? Her top opinion researchers answers” (14 November 2016), CBS News, online: <www.cbsnews.com/news/why-did-hillary-clinton-lose-her-top-opinion-researcher-answers/>.
4 Marie Henein, “Thank you, Hillary. Now women know retreat is not an option”, The Globe and Mail. (10 November 2016), online: <www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/thank-you-hillary-women-now-know-retreat-is-not-an-option/article32803341/>.
5 D Watkins, “Is America more racist, or more sexist? Admittedly, it’s a tough call” Salon. (30 October 2016), online: <www.salon.com/2016/10/30/is-america-more-racist-or-more-sexist-admittedly-its-a-tough-call/>.
6 Henein, supra note 4.
7 Watkins, supra note 5.
8 Henein, supra note 4.