Whether you were with her or against her, you have to admit that Hillary’s final speech last week was the best one she’s ever given. If you were a supporter (as I was), then you might find this fact somewhat frustrating (as I did). We call it the Al Gore Syndrome in our house – only when it doesn’t count does the candidate show that he or (yay!) she is actually quite likeable and sincere. But, like Hillary herself said, there’s no point in playing the What If game now. And yet…I still can’t help reflecting on her campaign.
Like many women of my generation, I entered the work force in the mid-nineties, when political correctness was at its peak. Work environments became so overly cautious that I think a lot of women were lulled into believing that when they gazed up, they were looking at an unobstructed view of the sky. And while I don’t wish that I, or anyone else, could have experienced the kind of overt discrimination that spurred the sexual harassment laws of the nineties (anyone watch Mad Men?), I do think that if we had, a lot of us might not have been so quick to rally around Obama. The fact is, we are not living in a post-gender world, and the way that Hillary was treated during this campaign should be a wakeup call to all women. For that “highest, hardest, glass ceiling” she referenced has once again revealed itself, and it is tinted a dark, dark grey.
For me, however, Hillary’s candidacy was summed up in one line from that speech on Saturday: “To those who are disappointed that we couldn't go all of the way, especially the young people who put so much into this campaign, it would break my heart if, in falling short of my goal, I in any way discouraged any of you from pursuing yours.” I think a lot of people had doubts about Hillary’s motives for becoming President – she just wants to be back in the White House, she wants to outdo her husband, she wants to be remembered in the history books. These things may all be true – I don’t know – but in that line, all I heard was a woman who understands that sometimes, your own ambitions are not the point. For all of her talk about being the best person for the job, regardless of gender, Hillary knew full well that women the world over were holding their breaths these last eighteen months, waiting to see if we could really make it happen. She knew full well that her candidacy did not really belong to her, but instead belonged to us, collectively, as a whole. And by giving that speech on Saturday, she gave it back. Battered, bruised and defeated, she handed it over, and instructed us to nurse it back to health, to make it stronger, and to help it learn from the mistakes that it made. And when the day comes that we’re ready to send it back out there into that cold, cruel world – restored and renewed and full of love and hope and support from all women – she made us believe that it will be unbeatable.