Hillary Clinton did not break that highest and hardest glass ceiling.
Instead, a man who has called women “fat pigs,” bragged about sexually assaulting them, and said a woman who accused him of kissing and groping her without consent would not be his “first choice” to assault, was elected president of the United States. (Not by winning the popular vote, it must be noted).
Sexual assault aside, nothing about Donald Trump’s candidacy indicates he will be a friend to working women. He has said his wife’s place is in the home. His paid leave policy, a priority for working men and women of both parties, is deeply flawed, implying that childrearing is a woman’s responsibility alone. A man who was pushed out of Fox News for reportedly sexually harassing women for decades was Trump’s trusted campaign advisor. And on top of it all, the Republican Party does not support Equal Pay for Equal Work.
This entire campaign, pundits and reporters have mused about what a Clinton presidency would mean for women in America. Of course, sexism would not be eliminated overnight, and very possibly it would get worse. But it was a step in the right direction. Clinton’s representation in the top spot could have served as positive reinforcement for all the women who have been told they are too emotional, that they need to “calm down,” that they should focus on taking care of the children; for all the women who have been continually interrupted at work and at home, who have had every possible topic and duty mansplained to them ad nauseam. That they can’t do something because they’re a girl.
But much of America is still not comfortable with a powerful woman in charge.
It’s something Clinton has been acutely aware of for a long time. In her 1999 book Hillary’s Choice, journalist Gail Sheehy recalls a conversation with Hillary in which the then-First Lady cited a study that concluded men at the time wanted a wife to remain home and take care of the children, while women wanted to start careers and earn their own money. In other words, times were already changing, and men were not happy about being left behind.
“I know I’m the projection for many of those wounded men. I’m the boss they never wanted to have…It’s not me, personally, they hate—it’s the changes I represent,” Clinton reportedly said.
There is not and never has been a woman at the top, but there are other issues that can help in the fight for equality: Paid parental leave—for both men and women, sorry, Ivanka—equal pay for equal work, subsidized childcare, intolerance of sexual harassment and sexual innuendo in the workplace, better recruiting efforts for women in high-paying professions, and more female representation in the upper echelons of the public and private sectors, to name a few.
In Pantsuit Nation, the once-private, pro-Clinton Facebook group that now has well over 3 million members and climbing, supporters shared messages of warmth and encouragement after her defeat.
“My dear, beautiful, heartbroken friends. This is not the end. And while we must take time to grieve, we must also look ahead,” one user wrote. “We’re still here. Just because our candidate lost does not mean our voices disappear. We need each other and many in our country need our love and support more than ever before.”
Women are now breadwinners in 40% of households. They work longer hours than men, and they’re better educated. And on Tuesday, the second black women in history was elected to the Senate, as was the first Latina. Kate Brown became the first openly LGBT governor.
Clinton herself embodies that change, as she said, better than most, having gone from First Lady to Secretary of State to the first female presidential nominee of a major party in a time of unprecedented change for women in America.
“To all the little girls watching, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world,” she said in her concession speech. Clinton was given the opportunity to fail. It’s time to ensure the next Clinton has the opportunity to succeed.