Hillary Clinton has done this a thousand times—analyzed the pitfalls that women in power face, considered the role that misogyny plays in her public perception, shrewdly assessed an international political crisis on the fly. But this time, she didn’t do it as a candidate or a cabinet member or a senator. She did it as a civilian; just like you and me, except in a better pantsuits and a darker sense of humor.
In her first interview since the election, Clinton sat down with New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof at the 2017 Women in the World Summit to discuss our dire political moment, what advice she has for women in politics, and how the healthcare debacle produced what she deemed her favorite GIF (but, technically, what she really meant was meme; aw, mom!), and the deterioration of our democratic ideals. And FYI: she didn’t say his name even once.
Here, six moments that made the almost exclusively female audience yearn for what could have been:
She tries not to revel in this administration’s failures, except…
“I will confess to this—having listened to them talk about repeal and replace for seven years now, they had not a clue what that meant. They had no idea. I don’t know that any of them had ever even read the bill, read the law, understood how it worked. It was so obvious. Health care is complicated, right? They don’t know what to do, and I do admit that was somewhat gratifying.”
But she’s pretty worried about what it’s doing to women
“The targeting of women, which is what’s going on, is absolutely beyond any political agenda. There is something else happening here. So the global gag rule, you know, that bounces back and forth between Republican and Democrats, but the way they wrote it this time…would be to remove all aid if there is some kind of alleged breach, because you provide family planning services, but somebody says to a woman desperate to get an abortion because she’s been told she will die if she bears another child. And so you try to help her and you lose everything, everything, not just a little bit, but all of it…. The impact that those dollars have is saving women and children’s lives and helping women have a better shot at a future because maybe she can get contraception and not have her first child at 14…. This is not just the right and moral position for the United States to take; this in our national security interest. The more we support women, the more we support democracy, the more we beat back terrorism. Women’s issues are national security issues around the world.”
She believes young women should take criticism “seriously, but not personally.”
“Yeah, be ready. It is not a new phenomenon, but it feels new and painful every time it happens to you. One of my favorite Americans, Eleanor Roosevelt, said…70 years ago now, that every woman who enters the public arena needs to grow skin as thick as the hide of a rhinoceros. And boy, would I relate to that…. So, toughen up your skin. Take criticism seriously, not personally…because part of the attacks, the personal attacks, part of the bullying, part of the name-calling that has certainly become much more pervasive because of the internet is to crush your spirit, to make you feel inadequate, to make you doubt yourself. And I just refused to do that. And that infuriated them even more.”
Oh, relax. She doesn’t blame Bernie! But she does blame sexism.
“Certainly, misogyny played a role. And that just has to be admitted, and why and what the underlying reasons for that, is what I’m trying to figure out myself.… I think in this election there was a very real struggle between what is viewed as change that is welcomed and exciting to so many Americans and change which is worrisome and threatening to so many others. You layer on the first woman president over that, and I think some people, women included, had big problems.”
All that said, you’ll probably never see her name on another ballot.
“I am really focused on doing some things that I can help make a difference with, like the supporting of young people and getting more women into politics…. I am looking at doing interesting things. I don’t think that will include ever running for office again.”