Each of us is tasked with playing the hand we’re dealt. Some of the cards are stacked in our favor; many are not. Nonetheless, it’s a package deal, and the better we understand those cards, the more we’ll be able to accomplish.
I thought about this after reading David Remnick’s sad portrait of Hillary Clinton, in which she blames her gender — among other things — for her loss. Mrs. Clinton is a super-sized public figure and a role model of tremendous potential. Perhaps it is a necessary catharsis, but I was disappointed to read that she chose to waste her time.
It’s helpful to understand why we fail. But blame is time consuming. This I know: the faster we lay it aside, the less time we waste. Contrasting the Clinton debacle with Al Gore’s loss to George W. Bush in 2000, Remnick notes that Gore was 52 at the time; Clinton, 69. Gore had time to grieve, move on, make a fortune and win a Nobel Peace Prize. Clinton is 69. “She will have a hard time finding a similar peace or place in public affairs.”
Oh, gosh I hope not.
The “genderizing’ conundrum
It’s always worrisome when a noun becomes a verb. So let’s step back. The 19th Amendment was passed in 1920. When I was in high school, girls weren’t allowed to learn small engine repair; we were shuffled off to home economics and white sauce. When I left school and took a temporary job with H.Ross Perot’s Electronic Data Systems, I was humiliated by a fellow (male) employee’s passing me a handwritten note warning me that my sleeveless dress was inappropriate because it revealed my arms. I left the job.
Mrs. Clinton, like Texas Governor Miriam “Ma” Ferguson who presided in the 1920’s and 30’s, rose to power on the coattails of her husband. She, like Sherry Lansing in Hollywood, Toni Morrison in literature, and Indra Nooyi and others among the Fortune 50, carved their roles out of a male tradition There was no can-do legacy. Unlike Athena, the goddess of wisdom, who sprang fully formed from Zeus’ head, confidence is earned, not awarded.
Focus on making the world a better place — starting where you are
So why not focus our time and energy on moving forward? The fields of law and medicine are being transformed by women. I look forward to seeing similar trends in education and politics (you go, Mrs. Clinton). But no question, it’s a slippery slope. Every day I see young women reverting to baby talk, tantrums, behavior that may have worked in middle school, but is cringe-making in the workplace.
We have a limited time to do what we want and need to do. Life tosses storm debris in our way. I don’t know how many times I said, “I can’t find the job I want until after my mother dies.” I didn’t want to face the conflict and ultimately wasted precious time blaming absent siblings, geography — and gender — for lost time and opportunity.
It was a waste of time. Ultimately, we’re shaped by the battles we fight, and its our ability to accept our faults and failures that make us role models.