There are an awful lot of us who know what it feels like to live with the double standard of being female in male-dominated environments. We’ve earned less pay for doing the same work as men. We’ve been criticized for leaving work early to care for a sick child, while the man down the hall is praised as a "great dad" when he leaves early to watch his son’s softball game. We’ve been interrupted by men more often, and we’ve had our opinions disregarded because we speak with softer voices. We’ve been told we’re too friendly with the secretaries, and we’ve been criticized for being cold or snooty when we don’t join in the girl talk in the lunch room. We’ve fended off comments about appearing too feminine or seductive at the office, and we’ve been mocked for trying to dress "like a man" when we downplay the shapes of our bodies or wear more practical pants suits. We’ve been passed over for raises or promotions in favor of the man in the next office, who "needs" the increase "more" because "he’s supporting a family." We’re weak and hormonal if we cry, and we’re cold and unemotional if we don’t. Having seen how men behave in the workplace, we emulate their behaviors and are called hard and emasculating and bitchy.
We know how impossibly hard it is to be a strong, smart, outspoken, and competitive woman in a setting men are used to controlling. It’s an uncomfortable and difficult balance to achieve, especially with constant grace and humor and level-headedness. Most of all, we know how it feels to be expected, without question, to sit down and be quiet and stop complaining and instead defer to a man sitting next to us at the conference table... even if he is younger, less qualified, less knowledgeable, or less experienced.
So it’s no wonder that a lot of us are angry as this primary race is coming to a close. It has been discouraging and saddening to watch this same double standard play out so plainly as two qualified, ground-breaking presidential candidates have made this primary race one of which we should have been proud.
Tonight, even as Barack Obama was being feted for being the first african american to win a major party’s candidacy – which to be sure is a momentous, wonderful, historical event – I cannot help but chafe at the open hostility directed at Hillary Clinton for her failure to give in, sit down and shut up.
As journalist Steven Stark pointed out recently in the Boston Phoenix, a candidate has never been vilified for continuing a candidacy the way Hillary Clinton has. To the contrary, past candidates have been praised for their perseverance as they’ve taken their fights all the way to the conventions. As Stark summarized:
"• In 1988, Jesse Jackson took his hopeless campaign against winner Michael Dukakis all the way to the convention, often to great media praise.
• In 1980, Ted Kennedy carried his run against Jimmy Carter all the way to the convention, even though it was clear he had been routed.
• In 1976, Ronald Reagan contested the "inevitability" of Gerald Ford all the way to the convention. Few, then or since, have ever thought to criticize Reagan’s failure to step aside and let Ford assume the mantle.
• Also in 1976, three candidates — Mo Udall, Jerry Brown, and Frank Church — ran against Jimmy Carter all the way through the final primaries, even though Carter seemed more than likely to be the eventual nominee.
• Even in 1960, Lyndon Johnson and Adlai Stevenson fought the "certain" nomination of John F. Kennedy all the way to the convention floor.
In fact, until this year, it’s been an axiom of American politics that candidates are allowed to pursue their runs until they decide to drop out — which is usually, by the way, when they run out of money. Even Mike Huckabee kept running against John McCain in this campaign long after it was obvious he had no hope of winning the GOP nod."
At the culminating point of one of the closest races in modern history, the election results aren’t official. The delegate count has been affected by bizarre, unprecedented "guess-timating" wholly unrelated to actual vote results, a certainly troubling and possibly unconstitutional result with far-reaching implications for future elections.
And nevertheless, people are expressing outrage that Hillary Clinton didn’t see fit to "give the night" to Barack Obama.
I’m proud that our country (the democratic half, anyway) can put forward a smart, passionate, and idealistic candidate like Barack Obama, and I recognize that it’s a significant and hopeful moment in our country’s race relations.
But I’m angry and sad and ashamed that so many in our country can’t celebrate the rise of the first significant black candidate without simultaneously (and almost gleefully) trying to stomp the first significant female candidate down.
We’ve come a long way, baby ... but apparently we’re not good sports if we expect to make it over the finish line.