Over the past few days, I’ve seen a flood of #shepersisted posts on social media. The hashtag reclaims the words Sen. Mitch McConnell used in rebuking Sen. Elizabeth Warren: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
The quote has turned into a rallying cry of sorts over the past few days, honoring all the women who, even when ‘warned’ and rebuked, keep on going. They’re the women who are simultaneously overqualified and over-questioned, over-prepared and over-silenced. And while there are tons and tons of them (too many to count) I immediately think, as I have many times over the past few months, of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
I’ve never felt more respect for a single person than I did for Hillary as I watched her concession speech in November. I was lying on my bunk bed in my freshman dorm room, ugly-crying, eating chocolate, and thinking about how this was just another instance of a perfectly prepared woman being surpassed by a less qualified, over confident man. I thought about the country’s widely accepted culture of Hillary-hatred and the tendency of her supporters to say, “she’s not perfect, but…” before defending her. I thought about how President Obama called her the most qualified presidential candidate ever, and how, even when there was hatred being spewed at her from across party lines, she never wavered or angry-tweeted or gave up.
I know this is the part where a lot of people will think, “but she’s been involved in too many scandals” or “she’s part of the establishment” or “I wanted a woman president, just not her!” But while I believe that if she were a charismatic male politician she wouldn’t be nearly as ‘controversial’, I’m not talking about the controversies right now. I’m talking about what Hillary Clinton, as a person, represents for young women like me, and what I’ve learned by watching her come so close to breaking the glass ceiling.
While I was dabbing my teared-up eyes and watching Hillary speak, I was thinking about instances from my own life.
There was this guy in one of my classes that semester who always hijacked the class discussion. He always spent twenty minutes asking unrelated questions just because he was genuinely curious, and people didn’t even mind. I also remembered how I didn’t take the same approach. I could never seem to interject when I had a question, so I waited until after the class was over to go and ask the teacher alone.
I’m a girl who follows rules and always tries to be ‘too good’ for mistakes. I’m not comfortable unless I’m prepared, or more accurately, over prepared. I care tremendously about many things, I quadruple check myself, and I can be pretty serious and un-smiley in my most natural state. Many times I wish I wasn’t this way; in a world of confident-discussion-hijacker guys (many of whom have good, genuine intentions) I won’t be noticed. I worry I won’t be able to push myself to the top of my future career.
I tell myself that I need to think less before I speak, let myself be a little more reckless, more outspoken, and less calculated. And I try, I really do. But I always end up feeling out of place, because as much as I want to be a loud and proud risk taker, that’s just not who I am.
I don’t really think it’s who Hillary Clinton is, either. In a world of confident-discussion-hijacker guys who assume their self-assuredness onto their supporters, Hillary proves hers. Hillary Clinton may not be “cool”, and there have been plenty of memes and SNL skits making fun of her attempts to be- but she works really hard, and she gets stuff done. She proves that with preparedness and seriousness, she can scrape the glass ceiling. Even if the world wasn’t quite ready for her yet. Even if we don’t entirely realize our subconscious bias against her; our bias against serious women who get controversies slammed at them from all sides, who don’t bother smiling and who, nevertheless, persist.
I may not be as much of a charismatic, I-deserve-to-be-heard, self-confident type of person as that guy in my class, but Hillary Clinton has helped me decide what kind of person I do want to be: myself. A woman who works hard and doesn’t act rashly or send 3 AM tweets, but who’s tough and ready to get stuff done. I want to be someone who fights constantly and quietly, failing and achieving and failing and achieving, but never stopping. Because as the nasty woman herself once said, fighting for what’s right is worth it.