These Tweets About Hillary Clinton's Speech Expose a Double Standard for Women in Politics

November 17th 2016

Lucy Tiven

Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton faced an onslaught of sexist criticism during her recent presidential bid. The gender double-standards that permeated election coverage of Clinton's campaign certainly didn't go away after she lost the race.


The impact of these stereotypes resurfaced Wednesday, when Clinton delivered her first public address since conceding the election.

Speaking at the Children’s Defense Fund's Beat the Odds Celebration in Washington, D.C., Clinton opened up about the results and offered hope for the future.

Clinton supporters on social media commended the address. Yet, much of their feedback fixated on the former Secretary of State's appearance and choice of cosmetics.

Though these remarks appear well-intentioned — celebrating Clinton's alleged refutation of an age-old gender norm — they also invoke gender stereotypes that pose significant obstacles for female politicians.

It is overreaching — and possibly inaccurate, since Clinton has not addressed the topic — to characterize going without make-up as a substantial, deliberate step toward gender equality. It also — however, accidentally — seems to erase Clinton's actual words, many of which specifically addressed gender equality and young women.

More troubling is the sense that Clinton's appearance garnered so much attraction because it "humanized" her and made her easier to relate to.

Clinton has been scrutinized throughout her political career over how she expresses herself.

This has included overtly sexist attacks on her facial expressions and tone of voice.

But it has also taken shape in the subtle notion that Clinton need be "humanized" and open up emotionally in order to be politically successful.

Within the context of Clinton's long record advocating for women and families, it seems insulting and unnecessary to paint her use of cosmetics as a powerful indicator of compassion and human feeling.

Clinton spoke about how her political ambitions shaped her public persona on Humans of New York.

“I was taking a law school admissions test in a big classroom at Harvard. My friend and I were some of the only women...

Posted by Humans of New York on Thursday, September 8, 2016

"I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions," Clinton writes. She later admits that this very quality — cultivated in order to pursue a successful career as woman — has likely led to media backlash.

Women in politics face criticism about their relatability and demeanors that men do not experience in equal measure.

Clinton is not alone in facing the "relatability problem," a report from the Barbara Lee Family Foundation explains. Female politicians encounter a great deal of commentary about their personalities, likability, and if they appear "relatable."

Clinton's speech offered plenty of substantial things to take heart in and relate to — that did not involve her glam squad or lack thereof.

“I know that over the past week a lot of people have asked themselves if America is the country we thought it was," Clinton said. "The divisions laid bare by this election run deep, but please listen to me when I say this: America is worth it, our children are worth it.”

Clinton also confessed that she was disappointed and thrown by the results, and her response is more human than her lack of makeup:

“I will admit coming here tonight wasn’t the easiest thing for me," she said. "There have been a few times this past week when all I wanted to do was just to curl up with a good book and our dogs and never leave the house again."