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Why Identity Politics Didn’t Energize Women For Hillary


The Internet is currently filled with the wailing and gnashing of teeth of many a broken-hearted liberal. Most are reading from the official script of despair about our vile, racist, homophobic, and xenophobic president-elect, but others are more concerned with the election’s effect on their children. What, they ask, do we tell the children? Particularly the girls?

The recurring theme of these concerns is: We tell young girls they can do anything. Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election. Now what do we say? How will young girls know they can achieve anything?

Petula Dvorak, for instance, has written about a group of girls who learned a hard truth: Hillary Clinton lost, which undoubtedly proves that girls cannot excel. Why? Because of sexism. The headline declared, “They existed in a girls-can-do-anything world. Then Donald Trump won the White House.”

Clinton’s concession speech relayed a similar message. Towards the end, she assured “all the little girls who are watching this” and reminded them to “never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

Clinton’s Failure Isn’t Collective

Young girls and boys should be encouraged to pursue worthwhile goals and ambitions, but they should reject the implication that Clinton’s failure effectively destroys any chance that young girls and women can succeed in life. The insinuation that without a female president women cannot pursue and achieve their dreams is not only false but recalls the ever-condescending liberal attitude toward women: “We know what women want, even if they do not.”

Clinton and her supporters make several assumptions about women and success that are not only patronizing, but also lead to grave errors about the very needs and concerns of the female voters who sealed her electoral defeat.

First, that women need a female president to feel like they too can be successful. Many of those mourning the loss of a Clinton presidency ardently believe that the mere fact of a female president will affirm to the whole world the importance of female ambition.

This is both absurd and belittling. Women do not need a female president to be affirmed in their ambition. Most women I know, including myself, already have confidence in our own ability without the supposedly necessary legitimization of a female president. Contrary to what the Left thinks, we do not need a female president to assure us that we, as women, can be ambitious and successful.

All Women Matter

Second, that the success of working-class women does not matter. Clinton and her gaggle also suggest that women only honor one type of success, or that they should. Hillary Clinton, as commentators and Facebookers alike have stated, was an important exemplar for their daughters.

It is far more difficult to sell gender politics to women who are more concerned about keeping their jobs and putting food on the table.

However, who doubts that Clinton’s supporters, from Madeleine Albright to Katy Perry and Lena Dunham, would have little persuasive appeal to working-class female voters? Fifty-three percent of white women voted for Donald Trump. Most of these were women who did not attend college. Why? Because it is far more difficult to sell gender politics to women who are more concerned about keeping their jobs and putting food on the table.

Third, that women do not care about integrity in success. What’s more, those liberals who fear Clinton’s loss may somehow harm the womanly pursuit of glory seem to think women honor success for itself alone, not how that success was acquired. They assume that women do not care about integrity on one’s way to becoming successful, or whether the path to success was riddled with deception, corruption, and scandal.

No, what matters to women—and should matter to young girls—is Clinton’s status as a successful female. Yet a noticeably high number of women who preferred Trump over Clinton took issue with her e-mail scandals and the endemic corruption within the Clinton Foundation.

We’re Not a Beehive

Finally, Clinton and her supporters assume that women are all the same and should vote accordingly. A current gripe with many on the Left is that a majority of white women did not vote for Clinton. Women, they suggest, are like bees: simple, homogenous creatures, who all have the same interests and concerns. Consequentially, all women should vote for Hillary Clinton, a woman who will represent these interests and concerns.

When a woman breaks away from the hive, it is because she does not recognize her true interests and has betrayed not only the sisterhood, but herself. In reality, of course, women have different interests and concerns. Therefore, it is not unreasonable that they would vote accordingly.

Most women are not so simply deceived by such opportunistic slogans for female empowerment. Nor are they so helpless that they need Hillary Clinton to show them the way to excel and achieve success. Liberal assumptions underestimate women. Recent criticisms of female Trump supporters indicate that liberals might not learn their lesson this time around. The young girls whom liberals claim to be so concerned about would be better off ignoring their self-appointed liberal guardians.