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April 13, 2015

I am Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Keith Kissel on Flickr

Today Hillary Clinton announced that she would be seeking the presidency in 2016.

Quickly I saw debates between friends. A friend of mine remarked that since I am a woman I must be voting for Hilary.  My feelings about Hillary Clinton are complicated but simple at the same time and can be summed up in a simple mantra: I am Hillary Clinton.

I think the reason that Hillary Clinton is so polemic is that we have all been involved in the sort of sexist patriarchal rhetoric that Hillary Clinton faces on a daily basis. As a former litigator, I witnessed daily struggles between women in a field where the vast majority of her counterparts are men. People questioned me and watched me constantly and I assumed it’s because I am a woman. There were still questions as to who I was related to and who I was in relationship with and in those moments I knew: I am Hilary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton has always been divisive. From the minute President Clinton was a candidate she made waves as the first First Lady to go by her maiden name—it was Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Growing up in the 80s and 90s I remember overhearing discussions in the beauty parlor or in distinctly female spheres about the audacity of Hillary Rodham Clinton. She was also one of the first first ladies who was distinctly her own, who had her own remarkable and professional identity outside of her husband, and for that she was despised. In those moments I knew that I would be despised despite my goodness, competence and passion and for that I am Hilary Rodham Clinton.

Her audacity and the glint in her eye made me defy my elders even then to respect her and hold sadness for her. Despite being surrounded by people and being one of the most powerful woman in the world, she was distinctly shackled by her lack of autonomy and was the object of people’s gaze and scorn. Her looks were always evaluated and her intelligence diminished—she was the victim and victim of a worldwide debate about the capacity of women as we watched and learn.

As I grew up, my empathy for Hillary grew. I saw her intelligence and her careful planning and I knew this was a woman to watch.

I don’t know if she is the woman who will be leading our country but she is a woman who has led me and demonstrated what it looks to disassociate herself from a man and become viable. For that, I am Hilary Clinton.

So if I get too virulent in my defense of Hilary Clinton it’s not because I think she should be the president, it’s because I think she earned a place at the table. She deserves her candidacy, not because she is a woman and a Clinton, but because of her strength, experience and diplomatic grit.

 

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Author: Katie Schellenberg

Editor: Katarina TavÄŤar

Photo: Keith Kissel on Flickr

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Katie Schellenberg