At last night’s debate, an open secret was made public, at long last. No, not that Hillary Clinton has been fighting ISIS her entire adult life, but this: that literally every woman on the planet has been raised, taught and trained to tolerate men with dignity and grace.
finally the whole country will watch as a woman stands politely listening to a loud man's bad ideas about the field she spent her life in— Alexandra Petri (@petridishes) September 26, 2016
FACT: by age 18, all women have mastered this expression in response to braving the many temper tantrums of misogynistic, domineering men. pic.twitter.com/iemLstHURi— Anne T. Donahue (@annetdonahue) September 27, 2016
Like most women, Hilary Clinton long ago mastered the ability to look interested when a dumb man is talking. #debates— Lacy Baugher (@LacyMB) September 27, 2016
To the men amazed Clinton hasn't snapped: Every woman you know has learned to do this. This is our life in this society. #debatenight— E. Van Every (@E_VanEvery) September 27, 2016
Every single woman you know? She’s at some point in her life—and probably at a lot of points, and most probably on a daily basis—been forced to quietly sit and just accept that a man is yelling at her, or being wrong toward her or any other nonsensical thing that we as a society of women just accept is our lot in life.
I don’t know what men think about this. I don’t know if they notice it at all, or if they just believe all women are exceptionally polite save for a few mouthy ones we refer to as “bitches” for not following these rules of quiet acceptance.
But it’s not because we’re polite. It’s not even because it’s what society expects of us necessarily. We remain quiet and polite at best to advance in school or the workplace to an imagined point where we won’t have to deal with this anymore. We remain quiet and polite at worst but most universally in order to survive.
It’s why we give out fake phone numbers. It’s why we politely decline potentially roofied drinks rather than yell “DON’T RAPE ME” like we actually want to. It’s why you’ve been able to monologue for 30 minutes or more about your thoughts on music, cinema and the world while she listens and you think she’s just such a good listener and you’re so interesting. It’s why at 22 we are so angry at our female supervisors for not standing up more in the office place only to learn within a few years that this is the only way she was even allowed to advance and more “combative” women, like my first boss and mentor, were shown the door for being out of line. It’s why many of us don’t engage in Facebook arguments and why we mute and block on Twitter rather than strike up “fun” arguments, and it’s why we are so impressed by and proud of women who are loud and who fight and who speak up. Because many of us want to, many of us can’t.
And last night, we all saw one woman who stood up, who presented facts, who smiled politely. And she still won. And there are still millions of people who think she lost, but we all saw something familiar in her, but wildly inspiring.