The presidential election is painful for a lot of us girls.
First of all, we’re conflict averse. Oh, we understand conflict and can wield a sharp sword but it’s on the silent battlefield where we win. Articulated conflict is upsetting, especially those of us of a certain age. So our response is borrowed from men who seem to us to have successfully managed disputes. “You drive like a man,” a male friend once said to me as I maneuvered my car around the turns of a five-story parking ramp. I took it as a compliment.
I am known as a person with strong opinions but I have thrown unopened letters in the trash if I believed them to contain harsh words. I’ve deleted emails sent in retort to something critical I said to someone. One would say I can dish it out but not take it. That’s something my father would say about someone who hid from the truth, “Yeah, he can dish it out but he can’t take it.” I avoid things that will hurt my feelings. I abhor criticism. Not because I believe I am flawless but because it gives me a sick feeling in my stomach.
I look at Hillary Clinton and I’m betting she started from the same place I did. We’re the same age. The only difference is that she’s been a world leader and I’ve had a consulting practice in a fairly large Midwestern city. Does she drive like a man? Does she throw out scary mail? Does she get a sick feeling in her stomach when she’s attacked?
Secondly, we believe in the meritocracy. We believe in being prepared, getting certified, having the qualifications, putting the years in, getting good recommendations, fitting the job description. It’s what makes life fair. The resume.
So we build our resumes. We take more courses and join more boards while our male counterparts are having drinks at the club that we didn’t know about and wouldn’t join anyway because it would take time away from everything important, like building our resumes.
Having spent a lifetime on my resume, literally years and years in school, which I remember fondly but were so very difficult at the time, having no money and working so hard, being one of very few women in class, praying for A’s like some people pray for a sign from Jesus, I am astonished at the lack of respect for Hillary Clinton’s resume. ‘They are treating her like she is just some person on the street.’ I think to myself. She is so qualified!
‘Oh, you fool,’ I think. Have you forgotten about the guys having drinks at the club?
And unbelievably, this almost brings me to tears.
I couch this all in the feminist struggle. I argue with people that Hillary Clinton is getting criticized and attacked because of sexism which I truly believe but what is really killing me is this. I am Hillary Clinton. Every woman my age is Hillary Clinton. Every woman who sat in college classes filled with men is Hillary Clinton. Every woman who showed up and worked hard and prepared and got ready is Hillary Clinton. And every woman who didn’t know there was a club is Hillary Clinton.
So, this election? It’s a tough little exercise. In what? Maybe learning to open scary letters and reading every word, folding the letters and putting them back in the envelopes they were mailed in, pulling them all together with a rubber band, and saving them for another time when I want to look back on the life I’ve lived. Maybe that’s the point of this campaign. To make all of this long, seemingly endless, struggle the stuff of attics.