Hillary Clinton is far from the perfect politician. She sometimes comes across as cold, as unemotional. She, unlike her opponent, though, is perfectly aware of her flaws and in a deeply moving op-ed in the Humans of New York blog, Clinton opens up about her flaws and about being a woman in what’s still a man’s world.
If anyone is demonstrating the double standard between women and men, it’s Clinton’s opponent, Donald Trump, who just this week said that Clinton doesn’t have “a presidential look.” Yeah, we know what that means. Or how about the people who are criticizing Clinton for not smiling enough? Could you imagine that happening with a man?
By this time, Clinton is used to the double standard, but it does make it tougher for the most qualified presidential candidate in decades to compete. In the article in Humans of New York, Clinton talked about her history and about how hard she works at not appearing too feminine.
She relayed a story about law school, and how hard she worked to learn to control her emotions. She also recognizes that she comes across as cold and unemotional because of that.
“I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions. And that’s a hard path to walk. Because you need to protect yourself, you need to keep steady, but at the same time you don’t want to seem ‘walled off.’ And sometimes I think I come across more in the ‘walled off’ arena. And if I create that perception, then I take responsibility. I don’t view myself as cold or unemotional. And neither do my friends. And neither does my family. But if that sometimes is the perception I create, then I can’t blame people for thinking that.”
As for the inevitable comparisons with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, well, she knows she doesn’t have their charisma. She also sees how hard they work on it.
“I’m not Barack Obama. I’m not Bill Clinton. Both of them carry themselves with a naturalness that is very appealing to audiences. But I’m married to one and I’ve worked for the other, so I know how hard they work at being natural. It’s not something they just dial in. They work and they practice what they’re going to say. It’s not that they’re trying to be somebody else. But it’s hard work to present yourself in the best possible way.”
She also notes that there are very few role models for women in politics and that Obama’s and her husband’s type of charisma doesn’t work for women.
It’s a double-edged sword. Clinton is accused of being stiff, but if she’s animated, things get even worse.
“But I’ve learned that I can’t be quite so passionate in my presentation. I love to wave my arms, but apparently that’s a little bit scary to people. And I can’t yell too much. It comes across as ‘too loud’ or ‘too shrill’ or ‘too this’ or ‘too that.’ Which is funny, because I’m always convinced that the people in the front row are loving it.”
If Clinton wins, some of these double standards might start drifting away, but it’s still a misogynistic world. A woman president won’t solve misogyny any more than an African-American president solved racism. It’s a societal problem, but for those who don’t consider themselves sexist, perhaps it’s time to take a good hard look at your criticisms of Clinton. Would the criticisms be the same if she was a man?