I was stunned. First of all, I was a good fifteen years older than him. Secondly, I outranked him within a system where rank is significant. Thirdly, no matter my age or my position, his response was downright inappropriate. After the few seconds I needed to pick up my jaw, I answered back. He stammered. Luckily, he didn’t last long.
This incident, somehow etched in my memory, but that I am sure he would be hard pressed to remember if I ever bumped into him and reminded him, came back to my mind while I was driving along, listening to a quiz show on the radio. The listener who had called in, answering a question related to a new book by a politician, answered: “Hillary”. Just Hillary.
Maybe it’s a term of endearment to call a public figure by his or her first name only. Or a measure of one’s fame. But this particular Hillary happens to have been an accomplished attorney, a First Lady of Arkansas, a First Lady of the United States, a Senator and a Presidential candidate – amongst other things.
The inept and incompetent being we call our President gets afforded the courtesy of his last name. And so did a black man so many hated but nobody called just Barack – it was always Obama.
It’s a subtle and, on the surface, meaningless double standard but it’s in the subtle that roots grow. After all is said and done – and I certainly wouldn’t want to rehash it here nor examine the more complicated motives – the reason why Mrs. Clinton couldn’t ascend to the Presidency boils down to this familiarity: America could accept a reality tv star with orange hair and orange skin formerly called The Donald over an accomplished Hillary. Being an incompetent man was still better than being a woman.
For a long time I pointed to the mistakes the Clinton campaign made, the antipathy she had – rightly or wrongly – earned over her long time in the spotlight, the anger of a certain segment of the population. But, let’s face it, for too many her sex was an impediment.
In a recent interview, Mrs. Clinton said:
“The idea that women have to fit certain stereotypes; that’s a weight around the ankle of every ambitious woman I’ve ever met. You should be able to work hard and succeed – not because you’re perfect, but because you are good enough.”
Now that Secretary Clinton is on a cathartic book tour, she is in the news again. Haters will hate her, supporters will buy her book and nothing much will change. Too late for that and we all need to learn to live with it. What we cannot learn to live with is robbing an accomplished person, regardless of whether or not she is in our camp, of the proper respect she is owed.