Don’t worry — I won’t play the woman card. I know how deeply offended some are when being a woman gets talked about. No, I would rather wear the woman card, or more specifically, a woman placard. The longer the media drones on about “Crooked Hillary” or refers to Hillary Clinton as representing “the establishment,” the more I feel like parading down Hennepin Avenue wearing the kind of sign usually reserved for car washes and pizza joints. On this sign, I’ve decided, I will paste photographs of the leaders in our country across business, government, entertainment and education. Because, despite an apparently widespread belief that equal rights have prevailed and that sexism and racism are mostly in the past, the faces of those in charge are predominantly, overwhelmingly white and male.
I don’t expect anyone to support Hillary because she is a woman. Everyone should have the right to vote their conscience. But I would like to point out that Hillary has managed to break through barrier after barrier to gain the kind of experience that is needed to be president. And I cannot think of another woman who has managed to do so. Yes, there are impressive women in government across both parties, but they are years away from achieving Hillary’s level of experience. My own life has been profoundly impacted by women who have had the courage and tenacity and personal strength to go where few women have gone before. During my 35-year career at General Mills, I witnessed the transformation of leadership as women rose to positions of increasing authority. But I also saw firsthand the personal sacrifices it took to be “the first.”
If you are someone who voted for President Obama twice and now won’t vote for Hillary because you dislike her, I admit to being disappointed. Hillary lines up philosophically with Obama on virtually every significant policy position. If you are someone who has supported Bernie Sanders but won’t vote for Hillary, I am deeply saddened by your position. During the time Sanders and Hillary overlapped in the Senate, their votes agreed more than 90 percent of the time. Polls show that the voters who dislike Hillary are overwhelmingly white and male. But I don’t mean to accuse anyone of sexism. I just want people who dislike Hillary to re-examine their rationale.
Social research shows that men and women are judged very differently. Successful women walk a much narrower line than do their male counterparts. When a woman steps outside of the social norms, she opens herself up to criticism and mistrust. I must admit I laughed when I heard the accusation that Hillary is too ambitious to be president. Seriously? No man running for president would be accused of being too ambitious because male ambition is expected.
I supported Obama over Hillary in 2008 and felt uncomfortable with the charges swirling around her. This election cycle I’ve done my homework and read all the reports, and I’m ranting like a former smoker. I’ve kicked the Hillary-bashing habit, and I want others to do the same. I’ve given up the negative Hillary narrative because I now believe it to be untrue and biased, precisely because she is a strong, successful woman and the first serious female candidate for president.
I was never shocked that Hillary would set up her own e-mail server. Anyone who has ever been on a government website can understand why someone would do that. But I am shocked that so few media stories have mentioned the name of the other State Department employee who violated e-mail rules, Colin Powell. And now that the Benghazi Committee has spent $7 million and come up empty-handed, I can’t say that a Republican investigation surprised me. I am surprised and disappointed that the media coverage did not point out the number of lives lost in U.S. embassies during George W. Bush’s time in office.
Of course, I won’t have time to say all of this to the people rushing by me in cars and buses. But I’m hoping at least a few people will stop and ask me what all those white guys are doing on my sign.
Vivian Milroy Martin, of Minneapolis, is a retired corporate officer and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Business.