This election is personal.
Nervous introductions filled my first day as an intern at Embassy Moscow’s Press Office, but, by that evening, I realized I had met mostly men. Talented, sharp, service-oriented, and kind men, but men, nonetheless. I couldn’t look to them as models for how to dress. And, initially, I was even wary of modeling my writing on theirs. At Cambridge, my professor told me to write like a man. To make bold, exciting claims rather than weaker, more refined hypotheses. Should I adopt this style in Moscow? Or would it make me seem too masculine? In the past, I hadn’t questioned my writing. What did it mean to write like a woman anyway?
In the end, I wrote like Miranda. And that seemed to work out ok. And I eventually found fantastic female role models, both in the Press Office and in other sections of the Embassy. But it is Hillary Clinton who has had the greatest impact on my trajectory.
As an ambitious, hardworking, and caring woman pursuing a foreign policy career, I find myself privately facing lesser versions of the same dilemmas she has to contend with on a national stage.
To the boy who, surprised by my witty comeback,exclaimed “you’re smarter than you look!” - what does a smart woman look like? Are skirts and bright tops and blonde hair signs of stupidity? Must women dress like men to look smart? To me, Hillary epitomizes both intelligence and appropriate fashion. But she too must grapple with what our world sees as a binary for women: brains or appearance. However this either or tradeoff is not mutually exclusive for men. While I have only to respond to a (probably well-meaning) college guy, Hillary takes on the national media, members of which aggressively criticize her outfit choices.
On the other side of the spectrum, to the boy who was taken back by my expression of feelings, particularly of hurt - why do you assume industrious women do not care? I am not a machine that plows through work, although the adjectives others sometimes use to describe me might indicate otherwise. Efficient. Productive. Ask my roommate, my parents, my best friends: I cry over school work, over failures, this election, and, yes, over boys. I get upset because I care deeply about my future, about others, and especially about this country. Hillary, too, is often called cold and calculating. But you’ll find evidence of her humility and Methodist concern for humanity in perhaps the most ironic of places: her illustrious emails. She writes to bring a traumatized Yemeni girl to the states. To help desperate doctors in Haiti. These are not stunts to improve her image, but private and intimate matters not intended for public consumption.
As Emma and I stood in line waiting to enter the Hillary rally, I pulled out a book for a literature class. Emma gently teased me for “being neurotic", and I made fun of myself. But then Emma noted, seriously, that Hillary would have also brought her homework. In that moment, I realised how personal, how visceral, this election is to me. Because Hillary has made me less self-conscious of who I am and who I would like to be.
So thank you, Hillary. You are both warm and effective. Clever and feminine. And, regardless of what happens, you're bravely blazing the trail for me and countless other women hoping to serve our country abroad. And you will get up tomorrow and keep fighting, president or not.