Why Is It So Hard for Women to Say “I’m With Her, Period”?

Hillary Clinton's been ripped to shreds by the GOP to the FBI to our Trump-loving uncle, and we're still justifying our love by saying, "I like her, but..." when we want to declare our full support.

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One week remains in what has been a seemingly interminable, combative, and ridiculously base presidential election cycle. And as the dip in the polls reveal, following FBI director James Comey’s announcement in his letter to Congress on Friday about the “existence of emails that appear to be pertinent” suggesting they had to with an ongoing investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email (when, in fact, it was later revealed to be part of an Anthony Weiner sexting investigation) this is going to be a bumpy hellride to the bitter end. While the fact of such a denouement should come as no surprise, we hold out hope that it will ultimately result in Hillary Clinton becoming our first woman President of the United States of America. It makes the historical significance and triumph of such a moment much more so, considering the innumerable ways we have seen what so many women have long known over these past 18 months: that men harbor a deep fear and loathing of women in power. And will do anything to stop it from happening.

Misogyny doesn’t always manifest itself through overt calls for sexual violence, as we’ve seen with GOP candidate Donald Trump and his acolytes. It’s integral in the language we use to discuss the promise of having our first Madam President.

We’ve seen so many Hillary supporters, particularly women, say:

“She’s not perfect but…”

“I don’t like her but…”

“She wasn’t my first choice but…”

Why do we feel the need to rationalize our support for her and her candidacy? I often get pressured to equivocate, to be apologetic. And I know I’m far from the only one.

The amount of vitriol to which Hillary Clinton has been subjected is horrifying, but so is the day-to-day assumption that she is “meh.” The criticism she has received from those on the left and the right for her husband’s sexual behavior and policy positions eradicates her individuality and instead makes her an extension of her husband. The fact that Comey announced the investigation is partisan—he has refused to name Russia, e.g., in meddling with our presidential election because he says it is too close to Election Day—and, according to many at the FBI and the Department of Justice, is also unethical and potentially illegal due to policy against discussing current criminal investigations and by appearing to be seen as meddling in elections. And consider, too, the frequency with which she is scolded for not smiling enough (or for smiling too much), for sounding shrill, or for appearing angry and cold, are simply unmatched in recent electoral memory. The fact that you can’t champion her candidacy without suspect looks or chiding remarks reveals how little we regard qualified women.

The overriding assumption seems to be the that you can vote for Hillary Clinton; you can even volunteer for her. But you cannot be joyful at her historic candidacy. You cannot fully embrace her. You cannot be excited for her to be president of the United States.

“More so at the beginning of the election period, I had to qualify my support for Hillary since she is a woman,” said Isabella Valcárcel, a 30 year-old lawyer who lives in Florida. “It was hard for me to argue with other equally educated colleagues such an elemental and sexist issue. I felt pressure from men who I admire for their intellect, who I consider highly educated, who sat next to me in law school, who present genuine legal and rational argument every day—I was forced to explain my support for Senator Clinton.”

I’m tired of qualifying my support for Hillary Clinton, and I’m tired of watching others, particularly women, feel that they have to do the same.

Carissa Casbon LaTourette, a 46-year-old classic voice teacher from La Villa, Illinois, felt so frustrated by the attacks on her support for Hillary Clinton that she and friend Jennifer Bonjean, a defense attorney and mother of four, created their own blog, The Woman’s Part, to advocate for her candidacy in an open way. “She was being attacked from the left, which was truly shocking to us,” said LaTourette. “We felt that folks on both the right and the left were distorting her record. We felt it was fueled in large part by misogyny.”

Amanda Dylina Morse, a 29-year-old woman who works in public-health policy for the state of Washington, has had a similar experience. “Men in particularly would often accuse me of voting for her ‘because she’s a woman,’ as though men don’t vote for men for the same reason,” Morse recalled. “I’d continually have to defend her as being enormously more qualified because we’re both women.”

I have never voted for a perfect candidate because those candidates don’t exist. Every single Presidential candidate has flaws because every single Presidential candidate is human. Why do we feel the need to qualify our support for Hillary Clinton, one of the most qualified candidates for President in our nation’s history?

Hillary Clinton isn’t allowed to be flawed because she isn’t allowed to be human. She’s a woman, and we are constantly having to apologize for qualified, powerful women.

In her impassioned plea for voters to support Hillary Clinton, even Oprah reflected on Clinton’s unlikability: “I hear this all the time. You get into conversations — and there’s not a person in this room who hasn’t been in this same conversation — where people say, ‘I just don’t know if I like her.’”

“She’s not coming over to your house! You don’t have to like her,” she continued. “You don’t have to like her. Do you like this country? Do you like this country? You better get out there and vote.”

Oprah is right; you don’t have to like Hillary Clinton in order to vote for her. You don’t have to like any candidate in order to think they’re qualified for the job — their likeability really shouldn’t be the point. It’s true — we’ve all voted for candidates for whom we’re less than enthusiastic. But there’s something different with Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton isn’t the problem. The problem is misogyny. The problem is sexism. The problem is us.

I am excited to vote for Hillary Clinton. I think she will be a strong, effective president, who will work to ensure that basic rights are protected and defended. This doesn’t make me a puppet. It doesn’t make me a feminazi. It doesn’t make me a fool. It doesn’t mean that I won’t challenge her when I think she’s wrong or fight if she supports legislation that I find harmful. It simply means that I think she is, far and away, the best candidate for president, and I am proud to support someone qualified, adept, and who happens to be a woman. In light of the Comey announcement about his investigation into emails that weren’t written by her nor in her possession, I am even more excited to vote for her. We have watched this woman be vilified and attacked by misogynist men from the moment she stepped foot on the national stage, and she simply refuses to give into them. She refuses to give up. That is someone worth voting for.

There really is a lot of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton. So Hillary didn’t elicit the activist mania akin to Bernie Sanders nor incite the hateful energy of Donald Trump. Perhaps that is the occupational hazard of being part of a political dynasty of sorts, and from enjoying a long and illustrious career. But for those of us, especially women, who are excited to vote for her on November 8, having watched her record distorted, her character assassinated, and her supporters derided, we know better.

And we can’t wait to elect her.



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