Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is the first woman to win a majority of delegates and the popular vote, capping it off with four primary victories this week, signifying the will of American Democrats that she be the party’s nominee in November’s election.
However, despite this victory, Democratic rival Bernie Sanders who has thus far been the most populist candidate, has refused to bow out. He will run in the nation’s final Democratic primary, next Tuesday in the District of Columbia, and has vowed to take his fight to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia where he will try to win over superdelegates, who may vote for either candidate, disregarding the popular vote. Many Sanders supporters had previously criticized Clinton and the media for counting on the support of superdelegates, but it seems Sanders is now employing this very tactic. Declaring that Sanders now faces insurmountable odds, the The New York Times wondered why he did not graciously accept defeat and make way for women’s history, saying he is displaying “striking stubbornness.”
While holding doors for women has long been customary, making way for women’s history has not. Before Clinton’s speech in Brooklyn, in which she lamented that her mother was not alive to witness her historic victory, she aired a video featuring the many women who have fought for women’s rights before her.
There were the women and men of Seneca Falls, including suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who signed the Declaration of Sentiments in 1848, proclaiming that “all men and women are created equal.” There were those who fought for women’s right to vote until it was granted nationwide in 1920. There were the members of the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s, including many queer women who fought for social equality and access to birth control among other things. There were individual leaders like Dolores Huerta, who stood up for the rights of migrant farm workers and transgender feminists like Sylvia Rivera who fought back at Stonewall.
No one ever made way for these trailblazers.
Throughout history, women have been prevented from wearing the pants both literally and in the sense of that sexist metaphor. Women could face arrest for wearing pants in places like San Francisco. American First Ladies were criticized for wearing pants in public, and just think, that is just the tip of the iceberg (and of this metaphor). Women have been prevented from serving in the armed forces, have been paid less for doing the same jobs as men, and have long been expected to outperform male rivals in order to receive credit for our work. Is this election is no different?
In her speech Tuesday night, Clinton said, “I know it never feels good to put your heart into a cause or a candidate you believe in — and to come up short. I know that feeling well,” alluding to the 2008 race for the Deomocratic nomination, in which she was defeated by Barack Obama. However, for Clinton, the 2008 loss wasn’t her first. All women know what it feels like to lose on a daily basis. We lose each time we walk down the street and someone harasses us. We lose when judges refuse to adequately sentence convicted rapists. We lose when we are appraised by our looks at job interviews. And, as with Clinton, even when it seems like we’ve won, there’s always one more “not quite,” “not yet,” or “almost” in our way.
“So yes, yes, there are still ceilings to break — for women and men, for all of us,” Clinton said, but she was hopeful. “Barriers can come down. Justice and equality can win. Our history has moved in that direction — slowly at times, but unmistakably — thanks to generations of Americans who refused to give up or back down.” It’s nice to see Clinton, whose hair has been the subject of magazine articles, deploy the audacity of hope.