By: Madeline Coffey
It’s no secret that Clinton excited people at the South Carolina primary last Saturday; her huge lead over Sanders shows it. But why exactly is this the case? Once I was in South Carolina, I finally understood. As I walked into the campaign office in Columbia, I realized that it was the energy that Clinton’s team is creating that pulls people in and gets them involved. From the catchy posters to the hospitality at the chicken and waffles restaurant that the campaign was operating out of, Clinton’s campaign site had an inescapable energy about it that made everyone feel like they were a part of something big.
The atmosphere was inclusive; it was something that I had never experienced before at a campaign office. One of the most notable things, however, is that no men at Clinton’s campaign talked over me. They respected me. Even as a lowly volunteer only there for the weekend, I felt more respect at the Columbia office than in any campaign setting I’ve been exposed to before. It became very clear to me that those working for Clinton are taking on something so much bigger than electing a former Secretary of State. They’re taking on the patriarchy. Every single person who works for Clinton wants a woman to be president. I think that’s what made it feel so good.
As a self-proclaimed radical feminist, I’ve never felt more at home at any candidate’s office. Now, I’m not saying that Clinton’s views match my own; they don’t. However, there was something intoxicating about being around people who really, truly wanted a woman to be the president of the United States and actually cared about her policy. For these Clinton supporters, it wasn’t about electing the first woman president. It was about electing a great candidate who happens to be a woman.
Just a couple of days before arriving in South Carolina, I’d had a discussion with some of my housemates about how Clinton’s identity affects her politics. There’s no denying that women endure some tough criticism in the political sphere, but Hillary Clinton has faced extreme scrutiny. She has to dress a certain way; she has to talk a certain way; she has to make sure that Americans all over the country neither read her as too soft and emotional nor too stern and tough. These are things that no male candidate has had to face. Ever.
These are things that I’ve been ignoring for a long time. I kept chalking it all up to Clinton giving in. I kept saying she wasn’t genuine. But here’s the truth: Clinton cannot be completely genuine because the American people do not like genuine women. The American people like women who smile and dress femininely. Hillary isn’t that woman, but she has to be. After working on her campaign and having so many discussions with my housemates and fellow cohort members, I finally came to some conclusions about why I’m okay with Hillary’s persona. Sure, she’s not that woman, but neither am I. I think that Clinton knows that. She knows that there are millions of young girls and women out there who have never seen a woman lead the free world and who don’t know where to start in the political sphere.
Clinton is being that woman so that we don’t have to. She’s fighting to break the glass ceiling so that women can get some damn respect in the patriarchal system we live in. She knows that if she doesn’t carry this burden and fight for what she believes is right, it will only be another woman’s duty to do so. So thank you, Secretary Clinton. Thank you for helping us to advance in this world. Thank you for having a staff that talked to me like a human instead of a clearly queer woman. Thank you for putting up with the patriarchy so that one day, just maybe, I won’t get talked over by white men at literally every political office and event that I go to. You’re making the difference for women like me. Win or lose, we owe you one. Because of you, we will one day be able to say, “I’m with her,” about many ambitious women rather than just one.