This could be the year that we elect our first woman President. However, only 67% of Americans believe that we are ready to elect a female President. While we’ve made great strides in terms of gender equality in our political and social institutions over the past few decades, we still lag far behind many other countries. In fact, the U.S. is ranked 72nd in terms of female representation in Congress (or Parliament).
With millennials filling more of the voter rolls, it can be assumed that we could see progress in the near future in terms of equal gender representation in political office, including the White House. Yet, reports are showing that millennials are turning away from Hillary Clinton. Clinton lost the youth vote to President Obama in 2008 and it appears that Democratic rival Bernie Sanders is besting Clinton with younger voters this time around. With social media, celebrities, and millennial daughter Chelsea Clinton behind her, Hillary Clinton should theoretically be enjoying support from young voters.
Yet, a quick Google search produces results that include “Why Millennial Feminists Don’t Like Hillary” which posits that Hillary’s brand of feminism is decidedly first-wave—a perspective that is elitist in nature and ignores important concepts like intersectionality which stress that one cannot disentangle race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, education, etc. from the rights of all women. Another quick hit includes “Hillary Misses Mark with Millennials” which weaves a tale of disengaged and bored college students who attended a rally for Clinton simply because there was nothing better to do. There is also “Hey Millennials, Is Hillary Clinton Authentic?” and “Poll: 61% of Millennials Hold Unfavorable View of Hillary Clinton.”
Some claim that Clinton is ideologically inconsistent. Others have never forgiven her for standing by her man. Still others claim a lack of genuineness and political pandering whenever she needs support. Perhaps she is an establishment candidate, which is natural anathema to young voters.
These barriers to elected office may in fact be true (or not), however it is clear that Clinton faces criticism unlike any other candidate. Her likability, capability, and decision-making ability are constantly questioned, and arguably should be questioned for the highest post in the U.S. Yet, she also faces criticism regarding her attractiveness, age, and energy—her ability to be a grandma while also Commander in Chief or her choices in pantsuits or hairdos. A spokeswoman from the Barbara Lee Family Foundation stated that “voters vote for men they don’t like all the time, while for women the bar is set higher. Voters must like women in order to vote for her.” Hillary Clinton once quoted Eleanor Roosevelt in stating that “if a woman wants to be in politics, she has to have the skin of a rhinoceros.”
Are millennials particularly harsh or judgmental? Do they make up excuses because they just aren’t ready for a female President? Is Hillary just not the right female candidate? Whatever the reasons, Clinton has been judged in a way that arguably no other political figure has ever dealt with. This is most likely the last time that she will run for political office. Having spent a lifetime building her resume, and her rhinoceros skin, it would be unfortunate if this election came down to the candidate voters want to have a beer with versus the best woman for the job.