If you are successful, people like you. Right?
“The more successful and ambitious a woman is, the less likable she becomes,” said Hillary Clinton on Thursday the Women in the World Summit in New York.
Clinton is, of course, no stranger to this paradox of female success. She was one of the most qualified individuals who has ever run for the president of the United States. And yet, every step of the campaign, from the primaries to the debates, she was dogged by uneven standards. These standards allowed Donald Trump to do things like brag about sexually assaulting women, and still become the president of the United States.
Certainly, there are some key reasons why Clinton lost: failing to campaign in certain states, FBI Director James Comey releasing information about the investigation into Clinton’s emails just days before the election, and the controversies over her involvement in Benghazi, her private email server, and her husband’s affair.
Still, “a candidate guilty of Trump’s many transgressions should have been decimated by a competent opponent” such as Clinton, Lauren Heuser wrote in The National Post after the election. Again, there are several factors which caused Trump to succeed. Disenfranchised voters, fear mongering, and fake news all played roles of varying importance in Trump’s win. But there was something else at play in Trump’s win, and in Clinton’s loss: sexism.
Clinton was (and remains) undoubtedly ambitious. Before becoming the Democratic nominee, she had already achieved a high level of success in the political arena. And this, as she said on Thursday in New York, made her less likable. But as Heuser points out in her op-ed, Clinton was not just disliked by men. Heuser quotes Hadiya Roderique, a student who studies gender, who says that “Women buy into the patriarchy as much as men.” In fact, a 2010 study by two Yale professors found that women and men were equally likely to “have negative reactions to power-seeking female politicians.”
Many women still have problems with other women’s success, even if they do not explicitly admit it. Misogyny is something that affects women, but it is also something that some women contribute to, even if it is internalized. Women did not have to support Clinton, simply because she was also a woman. However, the fact that some woman had problems simply because she was a woman is indicative of the larger issue here.
You shouldn’t admire someone (or vote for them) just because they are successful. But ambitious and successful women being continually held back by what should be perceived as positive traits demonstrates that something needs to change. As devastating a loss as she endured, Hillary Clinton remains an inspirational symbol in the fight for female politicians and leaders to be viewed as equals to their male counterparts.
Clinton was poised to break the glass ceiling. Instead, misogyny prevailed. What happens next is up to us.