BY JASELLE MARTINO
Last week's Democratic National Convention was one for the history books. Hillary Clinton became the first woman to be nominated by a major party for the United States presidential election. This achievement didn't come easily for Clinton, who also campaigned for the nomination in 2008 against Barack Obama. In her moving acceptance speech, she declared “When there are no ceilings, the sky's the limit.” As amazing as it is to see Clinton shatter what's been called the highest glass ceiling in the country, a look back on her campaign and her career brings up the question: How many times does a woman have to break this damn ceiling?
Women throughout history have been banging against this invisible, imaginary ceiling. And let's be clear - it was never those who championed women's suffrage who wondered if a woman could be trusted to vote, to work, to lead. Women have always known how capable they are. It is the men of society who needed to realize that yes, it is possible for a woman to run a company or a country. And so women fought and continue fighting to disprove the systematic belief that men are stronger, smarter, and inherently more capable than women. And though we now have a female presidential nominee, we still look up and see more ceilings to break (equal pay, we're coming for you next).
Why is it women aspiring for positions of leadership in the United States have to constantly convince us every step of the way that they are qualified?
According to usaid.gov, “[D]espite representing half the global population, women comprise less than 20 percent of the world’s legislators. From discrimination and violence to a lack of support and resources, women face countless challenges to participation in the civic and political life of their countries.” It is no secret that systematic gender bias is ingrained in the power dynamic in the United States. If you have been paying attention during this current campaign, there was a common train of thought following the woman vying for the presidential nomination - “Can she lead?” Why is it women aspiring for positions of leadership in the United States have to constantly convince us every step of the way that they are qualified?
Clinton is following the trail blazed by Shirley Chisholm, who was elected to congress in 1968 and ran for the Democratic nomination in 1972. In looking at Chilsholm's campaign, and comparing it to Clinton's, we can see a familiar pattern - that women have to prove, over and over, that their accomplishments make them qualified for positions of authority. Shirley Chisholm was a congresswoman in the New York State Assembly, and by the time she launched her bid for the nomination, she too had a list of credits to her name, including being a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Women’s Caucus. Despite her qualifications, she had to fight to be given equal consideration – resorting to a lawsuit to be sure she would be allowed to participate in the debates. She lost the nomination to George McGovern, and though her campaign was a catalyst for change, she is largely unremembered in American political history.
To look clearly at this current election is to see that Hillary Clinton is in fact far more qualified and experienced than all of the candidates. The president himself acknowledged this at the Democratic National Convention. But if you can't take his word for it, just look at her history. This is the woman who took a hands-on approach to being First Lady, including her 1995 human rights speech in China that gave birth to the phrase “human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights”. Who followed up her term as First Lady with two terms in the Senate, and followed that by serving as Secretary of State, where she was instrumental both in the death of Osama bin Laden and in the Iran Deal. There's more, too. And she's done all that while being beset with attacks on her family and her character. There should be no question about this woman's qualifications.
Watching Clinton officially accept the nomination was historic - but don't think it only means something for girls thinking that one day they could be president. It is also for boys, watching and learning that women can do anything. It is for those who knew a female presidential nominee was possible, for Shirley Chisholm and the leaders of the suffragette movement, yes – but it is also for every politician, every citizen, male or female, who thought it couldn't be done. And it is most especially for the next generation, who will grow up always knowing it can be done. It is for that future day, now closer than ever, when those with dreams of making the world better will look up and there will be no ceilings – only sky.
Jaselle despises muffins because they look like cupcakes but aren't.
Follow Jaselle on Twitter @JaselleMartino & Instagram
All photos of Hillary Clinton were provided by Gage Skidmore.