Why Women in Politics Shouldn’t Be Worried About Hillary Clinton’s Loss

There are very, very good reasons for women to be worried about Donald Trump's win in this year's United States Presidential election. Many of them to do with our reproductive rights. Hell, with our rights in general (and this is especially for women of color and women in minority groups).

But that's not the same thing as being worried about Hillary Clinton's loss.

The misogyny and sexism displayed throughout, and after, the election was disheartening. It wasn't just on one side: Many Bernie Sanders' supporters have been just as vitriolic as Trump's at many points. And it would be easy for women in politics to take Clinton's loss, and the world's response to it, as a bad sign.

Here's why they shouldn't.

The concern: Clinton's loss will discourage other women from running for high-stakes positions.

"The contentious nature of the race and Clinton’s high-profile defeat could even discourage other women from running for elected office in their own right," writes Clare Foran for The Atlantic.

According to various research, she says there are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the main barrier to women putting themselves forward in politics is a tendency to "second guess their viability"—and Clinton's loss could reinforce this insecurity.

The second is a simple instinct for self-preservation. Clinton copped constant scrutiny, insults, and even threats—and many of them intensely gendered—on the campaign trail, and female candidates could be understandably deterred from exposing themselves or their families to similar treatment.

The answer: It's up to other frontrunners—women and men—to actively encourage, mentor, and defend them.

It's simple. Showing and telling women that they are respected and valued architects of government will help ensure they get and stay involved.

In an interview for Broadly, director of the Women & Politics Institute Jennifer Lawless talks about the importance of "shoulder-tapping" in getting women to step forward. She explains that while, of course, encouragement from political seniors is great, it matters from any corner.

"It's one of those small things we can all try to do, to close this gender gap in political ambition," Lawless says. "To be very explicit when we're encouraging young women to run for office; to say to them: 'Look, we mean it. You should really consider doing this one day.'"

Clinton herself gave the biggest, most public shoulder-tap of all—in no less significant a moment than her concession speech:

"I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling but someday someone will, and hopefully sooner than we might think right now, and to all the little girls who are watching this: never doubt that you are valuable, and powerful, and deserving of every opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your dreams."

The concern: Clinton's loss will discourage political parties from putting forward female candidates.

A popular narrative after the loss of a historical candidate in any situation—for an office, a role, or even a photoshoot—is, "Oh no, they blew it. There goes any chance for all [insert reason candidate is historic here]."

Before Trump had even given his victory speech, commentators on MSNBC's election coverage panel were wondering if things might have been different if Bernie Sanders had run against Trump, or even Joe Biden. Not, I feel, because either was a better candidate (over and over, we've been told Clinton is one of history's most qualified), but because they were a safer bet in the status quo.

The answer: The numbers.

In America, we have Tammy Duckworth, Kamala Harris, and many others. 2017 will see a record number of women—21—in the senate. These historic gains also, as Lawrence says, put these women "in the pipeline to then run for higher positions".

Overseas, Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, and Angela Merkel in Germany are examples of women elected to the highest offices in their country. And, my extreme personal distaste for Marine Le Pen aside, she's leading an extremely effective (if, again, alarming) political movement in France.

And Clinton won the popular vote, as we're seeing with the ever-increasing margins in the weeks following the election result. Yes, the Electoral College system means she didn't win the job—but the numbers are in her favor. When it comes down to it, America wanted Clinton, and she happens to be a woman.

The concern: Clinton's loss proves the glass ceiling in politics is too big to overcome.

"The glass ceiling held firm," said CNN (and indeed, most news outlets) after the result was called in the early hours of November 9.

But despite anecdotes and reports about voters being reluctant to be led "by a woman", the consensus now among many political experts seems to be that Clinton lost not because she was a woman, but because she was Hillary Clinton.

Still, the specter of the glass ceiling won't go away.

"We had the most qualified female candidate we've ever seen, but also the one with the most baggage we had ever seen," says Lawrence.

She explains you can't call the election in terms of gender until there's more data: "at least one more female presidential candidate. Even just one more election cycle."

The answer: Take it as a challenge

“I don’t think Clinton’s loss is going to set women back,” Farida Jalalzai, a political science professor at Oklahoma State University, told The Atlantic. “I think the conversations we have been having about women and gender before and after Clinton’s loss are lighting a fire in some women to do more.”

Clinton's constant call in the wake of an election result that was shocking and disappointing to many has been to keep going.

In a recent Instagram post, she wrote, "I often quote Marian [Wright Edelman, Children's Defense Fund founder] when she says that service is the rent we pay for lining. Well, you don't get to stop paying rent just because things don't go your way."

America just missed the opportunity to elect its first female leader. But women who work in and care about politics are saying, "Screw you, we'll get there anyway."

And you know what? We will.

A photo posted by Hillary Clinton (@hillaryclinton) on