The path to the general election for a woman nominee is uncharted territory. “Think about it this way: Only a hundred years ago, women couldn't even vote,” said the Rutgers University assistant political-science professor Shauna Shames. “The progress to this point in just a few decades is nothing short of stunning, and I think we forget that. But it also means there has been a tremendous backlash, some of which I think we see in the opposition to Hillary.”
For women who plan to vote for Clinton, her nomination victory stands as a groundbreaking moment. Many resist the idea that they support Clinton solely because they want a woman to win the White House. At the same time, they insist they should be able to celebrate the fact that Clinton is a woman succeeding in American politics in a way no woman has before.
“I hate those people who say, ‘Oh, you’re only voting for her because she’s a woman,’” said Brittany MacPherson, a 25-year-old Clinton convention delegate. “I’m like ‘Fuck yeah.’ I mean, it’s not the only reason I’m voting for her, but yes, that’s a good reason.”
Shana Stull, a 30-year-old Clinton delegate chimed in: “She happens to be the most qualified person who is a woman. When people shame me for that, I get really defensive. People have really come down on me, and I’m like, ‘I’m allowed to be excited about that.’”
Other women who admire Clinton stress the importance of equal representation in positions of political power. “We need more women in the House and the Senate, and in all levels of government,” said Amanda Soloway, a 23-year-old who attended the women’s caucus event. “We need to have the opportunity to have that whole part of society that’s really been pushed over to the side and into the shadows to be able to speak.”
To shatter that highest of glass ceilings, Clinton will have to overcome her vulnerabilities. As a candidate, she has an image problem. Clinton and Donald Trump are both historically unpopular. Among voters who don’t like Clinton, many believe she is untrustworthy, a Morning Consult poll found.
It’s common to hear women who admire Clinton say the criticism she faces is tinged with sexism. Yet for some of them, she is inspirational, not in spite of her reputation, but because of it. Where critics might see an irrevocably damaged reputation, admirers see perseverance in the face of adversity. “It’s been remarkable to see her career unfold,” said Dana Dabek, a 34-year-old at the women’s caucus event. “Watching her trajectory from First Lady until now, and seeing how even in the midst of misogyny, she has just kept going, kept advancing. That’s inspiring.”
At least some women say they have faced backlash for supporting Clinton. “We’ve been driven underground because people attack us,” MacPherson said. Now that Clinton has formally won the nomination that could change. “I still see Bernie holdouts,” Dabek said, “but I think people are starting to feel more comfortable making that declaration and telling people why they support her and why it’s important.”