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A Plus from 2016 Presidential Campaign (gender bias)

by Tim Isbell, 9/15/2016


I’m writing this post for people who think, or even say, “I hate both Clinton and Trump; they’re unfit and an embarrassment for the job. So I’m not going to vote (or I’m voting for a third party).”

It’s in vogue to write off this election because of the terrible, hateful, angry, dishonest rhetoric from everywhere. And as seems inevitable, the candidates drag some real, and some overblown, baggage along behind them.

I, too, was disgusted with the election politics. But recently my disgust changed to hope when I realized that this year's ruckus is forcing America to address the “elephant in the room.” It’s a painful, humbling process, but as America has the courage to address it, we will become a better country.

The “elephant” is gender bias. It took me several months to conclude that the "I hate Hillary" talk is mostly gender bias. But it is. So, with my wife and granddaughter's blessing, I decided to post this web page. Here’s my story, and as the country song says, I’m stickin' to it.

A couple of weeks ago, I realized that the start of my new perspective began this past March when I read a 1-page, article by Melinda Gates in Time Magazine: "Poverty is Sexist." I talked about the article with Robin (my wife of almost 50 years) and shared it with my granddaughter (a university student in Boston).

Somewhere between March and now, I was listening to Freakonomics Radio podcasts on economic and financial matters, and one popped up about segregation in the workplace: "What Are Gender Barriers Made Of?." I shared it with my granddaughter and my wife.

Later, a friend suggested that I listen to some of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcasts. One of these was "The Lady Vanishes." It told two interesting stories and made an intriguing point. The first story described a 19th-century English painter and the second covered a recent Prime Minister of Australia. I shared this with my granddaughter and wife.

As time went by I listened to other podcasts, read several thoughtful articles, watched the political news channels, and felt that ping of discovery over and over.

Just this morning my wife read me a short article posted on Facebook by Garrison Keillor: "Hillary Clinton's Concrete Shoes." 

Before March I thought I was reasonably knowledgeable, maybe even somewhat enlightened, about women’s issues - for an older white guy, at least. I figured I might have some blind spots, but not enough to be too troublesome.

Over these past few months, I watched the irrational treatment of Hillary Clinton. Six months ago I was dumbfounded about how people continued to hate this lady and discount her life of public service as a sham. Even Christians were saying they hate her when in fact she's a pretty conventional, old-time Methodist Christian who has given much of her life to charitable causes. Then a couple of weeks ago I had an “aha experience” - the kind where various inputs, working in the background for weeks, break through to clarity. Here’s how I see it now:

In this political season, America is having a brutal argument and it’s not primarily about unbalanced wealth, terrorism, immigration, Supreme Court appointments, government dysfunction, the national debt or deficit, guns, or any of that stuff. Those are all important issues that deserve a rational discussion, but there’s a bigger fight. It's the battle about the legitimate roles of the more than 50% of our population who are female. Hillary Clinton faces the brunt of the fight because she’s a presidential candidate and she has the courage and will to stand in the forefront. I’m sure she completely understands what she faces. She knows that to “call it out” will be counterproductive - just like it has always been for women. It’s sad that she, our women, and the whole country must go through this. But it’s good that we are.

Detractors point to Hillary's poor handling of various personal and political issues, but the real problem is ours - too many of us aren’t comfortable with a woman doing some of the "unfeminine" things needed to lead America into the future. None of us stands up and says, “I hate Hillary because she’s a woman doing what women aren’t supposed to do.” We don't even realize that's why we hate her. But that's the truth about how we feel deep down. I hear this sort of veiled criticism from both women and men who are otherwise well-intentioned, good people. We are subconsciously reacting to the fact that Hillary is a woman doing some things that only males are "supposed" to do. So, when we see her getting passionately angry about a cause, or assertive for a position, or raising her voice, we're uncomfortable. We want her to tone it down, smile more, wear a different outfit, act more feminine - but if she were those things she couldn't do the work of running the country and dealing with the (mostly) male world leaders. Many fine people want an alternative to Donald Trump, but gender bias keeps them from recognizing the perfectly qualified candidate standing right in front of them.

So, here’s my challenge: No matter how open-minded you think you are, no matter how “right” you know you are, if you’re looking for an alternative to Donald Trump, work your way through some or all of the resources below. The experience may enlighten and encourage you to show up at the polls and responsibly cast your vote in November.

Resource list:

Poverty is Sexist, Melinda Gates article in Time Magazine.

What Are Gender Barriers Made Of?, Freakonomics podcast.

The Lady Vanishes, an episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History series.

This Is What a Feminist Looks Like, an article by President Obama published in Glamour Magazine.

Hillary Clinton’s Concrete Shoes, an article by Garrison Keillor.

The Gender Pay Gap, a Los Angeles Times article.

Who is Hillary Clinton?, an interview with Carl Bernstein, her biographer.

Hillary Clinton Exposed The Emotional Tightrope Women Constantly Walk, Emma Gray article in the Huffington Post.

What if Hillary were a Man?, Richard Cohen article in the Washington Post.


For a list of all my posts on the run-up to the 2016 presidential election click on Politics 2016.

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