Hillary Rodham Clinton is the guest-editor of our Volume IV issue, on newsstands nationally December 5. She will keynote at the first-ever Teen Vogue Summit in conversation with actress, scholar, and activist Yara Shahidi. The Teen Vogue Summit will take place on December 1 & 2 in Los Angeles. Tickets and information are available here. Here, Gloria Steinem reflects on what Hillary’s political career has taught her.
I first became aware of Hillary when she was a young attorney working with the congressional committee investigating President Richard Nixon. There were virtually no women doing what she was doing, so I remembered her name — Hillary Rodham. To this day, we’ve never sat down and had lunch together, but we have passed messages and shared hopes, and I suspect we feel we can depend on each other long-distance.
Hillary doesn’t play the game, but the irrationality of the current political game plays her. Whenever she’s been in a role for a while — for instance, in the White House or as a senator or as Secretary of State — her approval ratings soar. Yet the minute she aspires to something higher, those ratings drop. The bias against women who don’t play a “feminine” role could not be more obvious: Who does she think she is? How dare she aspire to something more?
Hillary doesn’t play the game, but the irrationality of the current political game plays her.
Supporting Hillary in the election was an easy decision: She may have been the most experienced presidential candidate in the history of the nation. But I did recognize that if I had supported Bernie Sanders, I would have been praised by the same people who condemned me for supporting Hillary. She and Bernie shared many of the same ideas, so it wasn’t as if there were a huge difference on issues. It’s the fact that women who deny themselves by supporting a man are always praised more by some people than those who affirm and support a woman.
On election night, I was sitting with a group of female ambassadors to the U.N., women from different continents, who were watching the results in New York. I could see from the faces around me that her defeat was devastating — not just in this country but worldwide. Yet I know that in the future, Hillary’s defeat will be part of our victories because the path up is always a jagged line, not a straight one. Our victory is not a one-person marathon but a relay race. When the first of many diverse women wins this highest of all democratic offices, she will be climbing steps that were carved out by Hillary. And everyone who has been inspired by her will activate talents that might have stayed dormant without her.
From Hillary, I learned courage, calm, and kindness — even when her own character was being attacked with fantastic lies. All you have to do is list the accusations against her and they fall from their own unspeakably ridiculous weight. I also learned the depth of hatred that comes when you break with centuries of hierarchy that starts with sex and race.
And above all, I learned to keep going and to stay true to yourself.
Want more from Volume IV contributors like Lauren Duca? Check this out: Hillary Clinton Wrote a Powerful Letter to Her Teenage Self