Stop Telling Us That Hillary's Loss Wasn't About Sexism

10/01/2017 17:24 GMT | Updated 11/01/2018 10:12 GMT

As I sit and write this, it has been two months exactly since Donald Trump won the US election, and next week, he will be inaugurated as the fourty-fifth President of the United States.

At the start of a new year, after one that was historic for politics globally, there is so much to reflect on. The political divides are changing. Conversations are being had around the failings of both the left and the right. Of the rise of the working class and those left behind by globalisation. With the German and French elections this year, everything could shift further still. The world order as we have known it since the end of the Second World War is dismantling before our very own eyes. Nobody is completely sure of what the future holds, or where this might lead us.

Of all of the heavy, divisive discussions that have gone on in the past few months, there is one unsettled issue that still bothers me, even though to some, it seems minor. One argument that I have heard over and over again, is people commenting that the Hillary vs. Trump race 'wasn't about sexism'. The amount of articles, videos and comments that I've heard, that 'nobody voted for Trump because he was a man', that 'she couldn't be trusted and women need to stop whinging about it, because there were so many other factors'. Firstly -we are not idiots. We understand the current political landscape, so please stop patronising us. But when we talk about women in politics, and how important her election was to us - please just try and understand for a moment, what it can be like for a girl to grow up in this society. Please just try to grasp why for so many of us, this was always about sexism, and it always will be.

From a young age, we didn't have many female role models. When you go back to our childhood days, even fictional characters were out of bounds. In everything from Postman Pat to Harry Potter - boys always got to be the smart ones, the brave ones, the action heroes and the leading roles. Girls -- well, we got to look good. We got to be Cinderella, or Snow White, maybe Penelope Pitstop. We were told that we cared first and foremost about the way we looked. We were told that we liked to gossip, usually behind the backs of our friends. And our stories nearly always revolved around very little else but finally being rescued by our Prince Charming. We were certainly never the action heroes, or anyone with any real strength and determination. And when we were, such as when we were Lara Croft or Wonder Woman, our worth was placed in our looks, our sexualisation, and the fact that we were every young boy's fantasy. Just take a second to imagine what that must do to a child growing up. Have a think about the impact that might have on a young girl's ambition and self-worth.

As an adult, going into the working world - nothing changes. Everywhere we look, men lead the way in practically every field. From business to academia to sport, we have become accustomed to seeing similar looking faces pushing society forward; similar faces at the tops of organisations, similar faces making new technological advances, similar faces leading the countries and cities that we live in. And the majority of the time -  those faces don't look like us. Even in industries that we traditionally associate with as being 'for women', such as hairdressing or cooking, it is still men that are the celebrities in those industries. It is still men that show us women, and the rest of society, apparently, how it is done best.

To argue that this doesn't have an impact on people just simply isn't true. I am only in my early twenties, and the amount of times that I have seen men speak over women, whether it is in the boardroom or in the pub. The amount of times that I have seen women fail to put themselves forward for things, and when asked why, it is simply because they don't have the confidence to do so. The amount of times that I have seen men get so much further in life, simply because they believe in themselves. That is the difference between men and women in this society. Without realising it, we have groomed men to feel self-assured, to have an air of confidence that most women simply just don't have. Nine times out of ten, they will do better at convincing us that they are more qualified and more talented -  the right person for the job.

And this is what the Hillary vs. Trump race represented to a lot of us. Hillary had spent her life in politics. From health care reform to women's rights, she had spent her life fighting hard for what she believed in. She was determined to make a difference; and she was probably the most qualified Presidential candidate to stand in US history. But people still doubted her capability. People still weren't sure.

Even the left opposed her. They criticised her for cosy-ing up to the banks and big businesses, for changing her political stances throughout her life and for not breaking away from the Establishment enough. But show me a woman that could get away with being as radical as Corbyn or Sanders and still get half as far as they have.

When she lost, I'll admit that I cried. I then spent the morning researching more about her online, and then I cried some more. She was the girl involved in student politics, who had worked to get more black students enrolled at her college. She was the lawyer that had given up her spare time to provide free legal advice for the poor. She was the academic who had founded the first rape crisis centre in the city that she then lived in.

Few people know this, but it was actually Hillary who had been spotted as having the most potential as a future leader. She even had a mentor move to Washington in order to provide her with coaching. But she did the classic thing that too many women still do. She gave it all up to support her husband. And from then on in, she spent her life in his shadow. People were sick of having another Clinton stand for President - but she could have been the first.

So for girls like me - yes, this is about sexism. Every time we saw someone on television say that women can't be trusted, because they are 'too emotional' - yes, it has an impact.

When people tweeted on the morning of the results saying that the Democrats shouldn't have 'risked' putting a woman forward - yes, it has an impact.

And every time we see another newspaper article talking about our own Prime Minister's leopard-print shoes, or the price of her trousers, before anything else - yes, it has an impact.

Because whether or not we realise it - our society as a whole still thinks that we might not be 'up-to-it'. Our society as a whole still think that we might not be strong enough, might not be determined enough. People still believe deep-down that we would rather be at home looking after our children, or that the only way to get us interested in politics is to relate it back to fashion. And I'll admit that that can hurt a bit. When you have so much to give, and people still don't believe in you, it can take a lot to keep your confidence up. Of course, the attitude should always be to prove everyone wrong; but in this day and age, quite frankly, we shouldn't have to.

I am still undecided on what I think about Margaret Thatcher's politics. But what I do know is that when I walk into work in the House of Commons every day, and I see her picture on the wall, a wave of confidence comes over me. If she could do it -  than so can I.

And women and girls, not just in America, but all over the world, needed that. We deserved it. We've waited long enough for it. That's what Hillary meant to so many of us. If she could be the most powerful person on the planet, than one day, so can we. And when people didn't believe in her enough, when they doubted her capability and trusted someone with no knowledge whatsoever instead -  understand how that felt. How much it knocked our confidence and self-belief. When we speak about this election being about sexism, don't patronise us with all of the reasons as to why we're wrong. Just understand that for so many of us, it was.