10 lessons for ambitious girls from Hilary Clinton
Hilary Clinton is a brilliant, experienced and hardworking woman who in early November watched a decidedly less qualified man get the job she wanted. In the days afterward, I was assured by a great many people who know much more about women’s empowerment and equality than I do (a man who is married to a feminist, a marine industry veteran who works on an all-male crew, an MMA hobbyist plus an assortment of other well-informed pundits) that Hilary’s loss had absolutely nothing to do with gender.
They explained to me that my beliefs around why Hilary lost to a crotch-grabbing, hate-mongering celebrity were “simplistic.” It had nothing to do with the fact that she was a woman, or how society views powerful women, or how we are willing to tolerate and overlook the proclivities of rich, powerful and privileged men. The real problem, they told me, was that Hilary should never have been selected by the Democratic party in the first place. She was so very unlikeable. And not only was she unlikeable, but she had simply been around too long. And if I was still unconvinced that gender had nothing to do with her loss, they told me to consider all the women who voted for Trump. (My retort that “there were lots of women who opposed women’s suffrage, did that mean women shouldn’t have the right to vote?” was also deemed simplistic.)
Got it. The former First Lady, Secretary of State and Senator who had devoted her life to public service was unlikeable, old and disliked by other women. Shame on the Democratic Party for choosing her. And shame on simplistic thinkers like me who dared to suggest that her loss had anything at all to do with gender.
In the wake of the election, many people wondered how to explain the results to our daughters. This is an excellent question. Here are 10 highly practical, non-simplistic lessons any girl can take from observing the 2016 US election.
1. You are allowed to want a perfect body, gorgeous clothes, work life balance, a good education and a high paying job. You are prohibited from seeking power. This is a key lesson girls, so let me repeat: you may strive for beauty, balance and money, but never power.
2. You are allowed to speak out about sexual harassment and sexual violence. But don’t expect justice and be prepared that society will support the perpetrator anyway — especially if he’s privileged and powerful.
4. Show confidence but not too much confidence. People will call it arrogance.
5. For best results always be warm and nice but not too nice or people will think you have no backbone and not too warm or you will get yourself into an awkward situation.
6. Keep smiling.
7. Dream big but not too big. It’s unattractive and unrealistic.
8. Smart and competent are good. Attractive and likeable are better.
9. You are allowed to work hard and build a solid career and gain experience. But don’t gain too much experience before seeking big opportunities because you will age out. Being in your 60s is distinguished on a man but old on a woman. So cram as much life experience as you can into your 20s, 30s and 40s. Accept that people will tell you to “slow down and enjoy your kids — it will be over before you know it”, but don’t heed their advice, because the other thing that will be over before you know it is your youth and associated potential.
10. Know that while Rules 1-9 are absurd, they are absolutely real. Challenge them at every opportunity. Cultivate strong relationships with women and men who will support you as you break these rules. You will not always feel celebrated and validated for owning your ambition, but you will feel free. Freedom is better.
11. OK, this is a bonus rule, but critically important. Every woman needs at least one white pantsuit.