What a moment it is for women in America. For the first time in our history, we have the chance to elect a female president. Having a woman president would be a catalyst for meaningful cultural changes. Still, it seems there are women who are not enthused with this possibility. What is most baffling is the attitude of those who endorse Hillary Clinton. Some are voting for her as an anti-Trump vote. Others because she is the more qualified, competent candidate—yet this is stated with lukewarm approval.
Women have long punished powerful females for their aspirations. Female rivalry—the dark side of female bonding—is thriving, seemingly ratcheted up by Hillary’s run for the presidency. Competition for the ‘glittering prizes’— success, children, beauty, marriage, money—causes barbarous behavior over what we covet and value. Since the fifties, when women were primarily wives and mothers, we have garnered great agency. With this rise in power, female rivalry has escalated. The more options for women, the more avenues to compete.
We were raised to be ‘good girls’ who wouldn’t reveal their upset at another woman’s fortune. If we combine this with the feminist supposition that women band together, it’s little wonder that our feelings are covert. Women of all ages are aware that any of our triumphs are the result of tenacity and determination, necessary tools to get ahead in our cutthroat society. Thus, when an accomplished woman rises to the top, although we know that we need such women in business, politics and the entertainment industry, it churns up our dirty little secret. Women are often jealous of other women—we do not always champion one another.
At the top of the assemblage of achieving women stands Hillary Clinton. We know her abilities, her perseverance, her stance on women’s and children’s rights. The prejudice she has faced because she is female is a cruel reminder of how women are regarded. She has endured hypercritical, scrutinizing and judgmental forces of patriarchy. We understand the measures of extreme chauvinism and recognize how men, in a realm of male supremacy, will react to an eminently knowledgeable woman. These men are guarding their turf, searching for methods to make Hillary Clinton into less so they can seem more.
While there is little surprise in how men have looked upon Hillary, what is deeply disturbing is the manner in which some women have reacted to her. The problem is twofold. Bias against Hillary Clinton doesn’t come only from men, but is generated by women too. Although no political candidate is perfect, unfair, unfounded statements have circulated, an inexplicable tainting of her ambition has been heard repeatedly. In a world that remains filled with relentless sexism, women not supporting women is a dire issue.
According to the National Review piece on Hillary that ran in early August, ‘negatives among women voters are broad and deep’. While Politico cites Hillary Clinton as ‘an unquestioned pioneer’, the point is made that gender alone is not enough. The good news reported by abcnews.go.com, is that since mid-July Hillary’s poll numbers have improved among college-educated white women. The Wall Street Journal poll in late July reports that 52 percent of female voters, registered from both parties, are Clinton supporters. Yet, amidst this promise there remains a lack of robust endorsement.
If women compete only with other women, then who can compare to Hillary Clinton? She stands in a class by herself, thus she is envied. There are women who would feel validated if Hillary crashes—and have a keen curiosity for what isn’t galvanizing about women at the top. The idea that a mighty woman could collapse is fascinating to them. Although reminiscent of women shooting themselves in the foot, it happens daily. And any second-hand victory eliminates our own chances and influence—for our daughters and granddaughters, too. The reaction agitates a belief women have held onto for decades—that there is not enough pie. A limited goods theory —handed down by mothers and grandmothers, stemming from societal mores and innate survival reflexes—plays out in the twenty-first century. The thought being if another woman wins, be it a scholarship, a plum position at work, a man, a pregnancy, a divorce, a political office—there’s nothing left for the next woman. This point of view will get us nowhere, instead perpetuating a negative perception of the powerful women who represent opportunity for the rest of us. We know the obstacles that Hillary Clinton has faced during her arduous journey and impressive ascendency. Thus the thought that women may not back her simply because she is a woman is more consequential. It reminds us of how forceful gender identity is, although, ironically, Hillary is equipped not because she is a woman but because of how adept she is. The essence being that it isn’t about Hillary but about how we each feel about ourselves. The nagging, irrational question applies, if she has all this, what is left for me? If I’m stuck here, why should she skyrocket, she might as well fail.
Who can help but cringe when reminded that the woman’s right to vote occurred less than one hundred years ago? Or that equal pay for equal work is not yet a reality in our country? Who could dispute that we are overdue for a female leader? The time has come to appreciate Hillary Clinton as the pinnacle of competition—a commanding woman of the highest order. Hillary isn’t the prom queen, filing the coveted chair—our unrequited fantasy. The hour to stop perceiving her as a rival has arrived. By aligning with Hillary we amplify the female condition, gain our most important ally and dispel unhealthy competition among women. We have the prospect to change the pattern and break the barriers.
About the Author: Susan Shapiro Barash is an established writer of nonfiction women’s issue books having authored 13 books, including Tripping the Prom Queen. She teaches gender studies at Marymount Manhattan College and is a well-recognized gender expert. Barash is frequently sought out by newspapers, television shows and radio programs to comment on women’s issues and blogs for the Huffington Post and Psychology Today. Her first novel, Between the Tides, was published under the pen name Susannah Marren in July 2015.