The Woman Card

By: Madeline Coffey

On Thursday night, I walked into the DNC with the expectation that once again, I would be underwhelmed by Hillary Clinton.  Earlier this week, I called for Clinton to respond to millennials.  I noted that I thought her campaign had overlooked us, something that many millennials seem to be upset about.  After the DNC, some millennials still felt the same.  However, I noticed one characteristic that was different between my liberal friends who felt touched by Clinton’s speech and those who continued to say it wasn’t enough.  That difference was, precisely, gender.

As I stood in the stands behind the podium where I could hardly even see Clinton giving her address, I began to cry.  I remembered that in 1995, the year I was born, Wal-Mart banned a t-shirt with a young girl that said, “Someday I will be President,” because it was too scandalous.  In just my lifetime, everything has changed.  I thought about a time when I was only eight years old and a woman asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I said that I wanted to be the first woman president, but that I thought Hillary Clinton might be first.  Who knew that thirteen years later, I would be standing by watching Clinton except the historic nomination to become President of the United States.

When I walked in that day, I said I wanted Clinton to give me more, but when she walked onto the stage, I didn’t need anything else.  I was standing in a row with three other women Wake the Voters when Hillary appeared.  We all screamed at the top of our lungs and became incredibly overwhelmed.  I realized, in that moment, that many of us had taken for granted what was really happening here.

Since the beginning of Clinton’s political career, she has been repeatedly criticized for her masculine characteristics.  But what can you do when America doesn’t see a feminine woman as presidential?  Once in Dr. Harris-Perry’s Race, Class, and Social Justice course last fall, she lectured to us about cognitive dissonance.  She noted that the reason that many presidents have had similar physical characteristics is because Americans have an idea of what a president looks like.  In the past, presidents been tall, white, and physically attractive in many cases.   All of this became turned on its head, Dr. Harris-Perry said, when Barack Obama’s all-star campaign team created cognitive dissonance that a black man could be president.

In 2008, Clinton didn’t convince America that a woman could be president.  Her image as a ball-busting bitch reminded America of the thing they hate most about Hillary: her uncommon female masculinity.  Fast forward to 2016.  Clinton hires Barack Obama’s campaign team, probably in hopes that she can create the same type of cognitive dissonance that would allow her to use her identity as a woman to her advantage.  Well folks, it worked.

The Woman Card will be remembered as the great thing that elected Hillary Clinton.  This isn’t to say that she is going to be elected simply because she is a woman, but it is what is making America ready to say, finally, that it is time for a woman president.  I noticed throughout her speech, Clinton spoke a lot about her identity as a daughter, a mother, and a grandmother.  She talked intimately about the lineage of women in her family and how much the moment meant for all of them.  Right then, I stopped.  I remembered my own mother and grandmother, neither of whom attended college, crying as they dropped me of at Wake Forest.  They were so proud.  There is a bond between women, I believe, that is stronger than anything in the world.

That is why when Hillary Clinton got real about womanhood and family, we all cried out.  We all knew what she meant.  We felt it.  For me, The Woman Card worked.  It worked because it reminded me that this is big.  Huge, in fact.  To see a woman talk about something as intimate as motherhood as she accepted the nomination for President of the United States really got me.  I realized that now, because Hillary played the Woman Card, many Americans had begun to see women as more dynamic than ever before.  Finally, motherhood and womanhood and female masculinity are all things that can be seen as presidential.  For that, I cry.  I cry because when I have daughters, they will never think that women are inherently non-presidential.  Instead, they will be able to be proud of their femininity and realize that it is not a weakness but a strength.  Thanks, Hillary, from us all.


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