Culture, Feminism & Sexuality

Glass Ceilings are Broken on Merit, Not on Demand

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Glass Ceilings are Broken on Merit, not on Demand

Javits Convention Center, venue of Clinton’s Election Night Party (Source: Hollywood Reporter)

by Lil Tuttle

The stage was perfectly set for her victory celebration. The venue came with a ceiling of glass through which party-goers would be able to view a magnificent fireworks display in the late election night skies above. The feminist symbolism wouldn’t – couldn’t – be missed:  Hillary Clinton had shattered the ultimate patriarchal-imposed glass ceiling by becoming the first female U.S. president.

The planning was perfect except for one small glitch: she failed to earn the victory. She didn’t articulate a vision for the nation.  She never offered a viable public policy agenda that gave substance to her slogan, “Stronger Together.”

She began her campaign with a loyal following of modern feminists, but that may have hurt rather than helped her. On election night, women showed, for a second time, that “sisterhood” alone isn’t a compelling argument to win their support.  (Only 54 percent of women pulled the lever for her.) Women care about many of the same public policy issues as men, and they, too, expect candidates to have ideas and solutions to address those issues.

A young American woman expressed this sentiment in an on-camera interview by the U.K. Guardian:

At the very end I started to get excited about Donald Trump, and a few of my friends as well. I think it really has to do with outcomes … and outcomes for people that have suffered under the current system. …

I want a woman to be president, but I want the right woman. I don’t want her brand of feminism being a role model for myself, for my daughter, or other women I know.

Mrs. Clinton never persuaded the American people – women and men – that she had earned the right to the highest office in the land.  Relying heavily on associations developed by a former president and coalitions built by a sitting president, she signaled to voters throughout the campaign that she expected Americans to award her the office merely because she was a woman.  She presumed too much.

The fireworks display was cancelled last week. Party-goers came to the celebration on election night, but Mrs. Clinton did not.  Perhaps the symbolism of the venue was more than she could face after the election results.

In a concession speech the next day, Mrs. Clinton told her followers:

I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.

Yes, someone will. But it will be someone who understands that glass ceilings are not broken on demand.  Glass ceilings are broken on merit.