Since the beginning of her campaign, Hillary Clinton has repeatedly been called a “bitch” by Trump supporters. Slogans on buttons and posters at Trump rallies like “Life’s a Bitch, Don’t Vote For One” or “Trump that Bitch” have caught the attention of the U.S. media throughout the last year.
But this is nothing new for Hillary Clinton. No man has ever been chastised like Clinton has for smiling too little or caring more about policies than likeability. No man has ever been insulted before such a public audience for his confidence or ambition. There is not even a male equivalent for the word “bitch.” With its genderspecific connotations, “bitch” is the product of a toxic double standard imposed on women in positions of power. Women like Clinton are condemned for exhibiting the same assertive traits that are conversely encouraged in men. They are supposed to be warm, gentle, and sensitive. Any female who dares to deviate from the norm is considered threatening, unlikable, aggressive, and bossy – a bitch.
Clinton, however, has spun the word on its head. With her unapologetic presence, she has come to embody and champion the word “bitch,” forcing the word to take on a new, more positive meaning. The very characteristics that make her a bitch – power, success, tenacity, motivation, and resilience – qualify her for the position of the presidential nominee. For the first time in the history of the United States, a woman has reached the presidential debate stage and is representing the Democratic Party. If Clinton is elected in November, the word “bitch” will be irreversibly linked to the most prominent political position in the country. Win or lose, Clinton has spurred a movement by women everywhere to rewrite the negative connotations relating to confidence and power in women.
Yet even in a progressive and inclusive community like Andover, we have noticed that the word “bitch” is still associated with bossy or confident women in power. This often deters female students from being outspoken in discussions, ambitious in clubs and classes, and confident in their intellectual and athletic abilities.
Female students at Andover tend to qualify their arguments with “sorry” or “I don’t know if this is right,” or “I’m not too sure.” They say to their peer editors in class: “This is a rough draft, so don’t expect too much.” We sometimes resist taking control of group projects and presentations so our peers do not perceive us as bossy or overbearing. We do not want to be called a bitch, so we become passive, self-effacing, and unassuming.
Two weeks ago at the Women in Economics Conference hosted by the Brace Center for Gender Studies, Monica Mandelli, Managing Director of the private equity firm KKR & Co. L.P., discussed these gender stereotypes for women in power. In her workplace, she noticed that women – old and young – were often afraid to ask for promotions or compensation in fear of appearing overconfident or commanding. Mandelli pointed out, however, that this is precisely how men get ahead. She told the Andover community how harmful and self-deprecating this was. She told us never to diminish ourselves to save face or please others. Female Andover students must internalize this advice – the sooner the better.
While it may be terrifying to confront these sexist stereotypes head-on and place ourselves in a position of vulnerability, there is no other way to defeat these toxic gender norms. We must be more like Hillary Clinton: powerful in her fiery red pantsuit, unwaveringly facing the misogynistic language of a nation, breaking the glass ceiling each day.