Editor’s Note: As an American woman who believes that words matter, I feel like I matter a little less today. Below is the editorial I was planning to run to applaud the first female president of the U.S., Hillary Clinton. It seems poignant to publish it, still. To what might have been …
I am proud to have Hillary Clinton as the president of the United States. She’s the first woman to reach the nation’s highest office, but her gender is not the entire source of my joy.
Being the first woman to do something doesn’t necessarily mean that person is worthy of adoration. When half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin became the first woman to run for VP of a major party in 2008, her inability to grasp history, politics, as well as foreign relationships and domestic realities were ignorant and unforgivable. When she winked and blew kisses from the debate stage, it made me want to turn in my “woman card.”
My pride in Clinton’s accomplishment arises from the fact that she’s the most qualified candidate to ever hold the presidency. She overcame huge obstacles set up by an enduring gender double standard to get to the top, and she’s still labeled a nasty woman.
The yardstick with which Clinton and her campaign was judged is as warped as a dive bar poolstick. She was subject to unprecedented levels of suspicion. Opponents tried to use her husband’s past affairs to discredit her as a candidate. Clinton was often criticized as being too polished, too unrelatable, too calculating. People even had a problem with how her voice sounds.
The wackiest example of the funhouse mirror double standard was all the hell Clinton caught over her use of a private email server while secretary of state to send hundreds of thousands of communications outside of the government system — and away from any public information requests. This move on Clinton’s part angered me and the slow way in which the emails were released was not comforting or transparent.
However: In 2007, when the Bush administration erased millions of emails, illegally sent by 22 administration officials through private accounts, just when the messages were being requested for an investigation into the politically motivated firing of eight U.S. attorneys, no one cared. Oh, and did I mention that the president was a man?
When the public discovered in 2011 that Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney wiped servers and spent $100,000 out of the public coffers to destroy administration emails, no one cared. Shrug — for another male leader.
And in September of this year, while searching through Clinton’s emails as part of a federal investigation into whether Clinton put the U.S. at risk by using a private server, researchers found an email from former secretary of state and Colin Powell. In the communication, Powell says that during his tenure he would use a private line to conduct business with foreign leaders — pretty much what Clinton did — and no one cared then or when the news broke two months ago.
For Clinton, however, her use of a private email server to communicate has been a major factor in this election. This is true despite the fact that two federal investigations found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. The FBI found, however, out of the hundreds of thousands of emails Clinton had sent and received on the server, 110 contained some form of classified information.
Despite the public’s ridiculous expectations of Clinton, she ran an honest, issues-focused campaign that didn’t get bogged down in Trump’s insults. In fact, I liked it when Trump would attempt to hurt Clinton’s feelings. She’d reflect his desperate attacks with a restrained eye roll and a classy response. During the first presidential debate when Trump said, “I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself, I can’t do it,” I couldn’t believe that Clinton had the restraint not to laugh in his orange face.
Clinton has been a lightning rod for hate since her days as first lady in the ’90s when it was practically a law that any comedian on a stage had to tell a joke about how if Hillary had spent more time fellating Bill then the country wouldn’t have had to go through a presidential impeachment.
Trump did get one insult right, or at least he thought it was an insult, when in the last debate he called Clinton “such a nasty woman.” Flinging that slur at a powerful, strong woman is like pelting the Great Wall with pebbles. They bounce right off a structure that is so much stronger.
I am looking forward not only to seeing Clinton work on some of her campaign promises — better education, pay equality, and improved foreign relations — but I am also looking forward to watching her inspire millions of girls and women worldwide to enter politics.
I may not have become a journalist if I didn’t see other women leading the way ahead. Years ago, as a young reporter at the Daily Hampshire Gazette chasing stories into the late night and waking up early to hit my deadlines (the paper came out in the afternoon back then); sitting at my desk eating microwave mac ‘n’ cheese or a piping Cup of Noodles, I’d look out into the newsroom and contemplate whether I was on the right track.
Sure, I loved the job, but I also wanted a family some day. I couldn’t see how that kind of responsibility would fit into a reporter’s schedule. But then I’d see my editor, Laurie Loisel, racing off to drive the carpool after school, get some dinner on the table, and make it back in time to edit stories that came in the evening. If she can do it, I’d say to myself, I can do it. If I didn’t have a working mother in my newsroom to look up to, I might have deduced that being a reporter and a mother wasn’t something most people, including myself, could do.
How many women with political aspirations have felt this same way? Not as many today as there were yesterday.
Kristin Palpini can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.