When Hillary Clinton lost in the general election, it seemed unfathomable that her gender played a major role in her losing. Rather, it seemed her struggles as a candidate revolved around a history of baggage, a slew of scandals, as well as an overall inability to energize her base, much less the entirety of the American people.
These obstacles no doubt affected her candidacy; however, as I sat in a high school classroom recently, I was alarmed to hear a classmate say that she did not think that a woman should be the president of the United States. Perhaps even more unsettling was the fact that within the classroom she did not stand alone in this opinion. In fact, multiple heads nodded in agreement.
This experience was a disturbing reminder that not only is gender inequality still prevalent across America with mostly older generations, but that it is alive and well close to home, among America's youth, and propelled by both men and women.
There is another Hillary who hopes that the sad reality of sexism will not hamper her political efforts. Hillary Shields is looking to represent Missouri's 8th district in the Missouri State Senate with a victory in Tuesday's special election.
I spoke with Shields recently about gender inequality. She says she hopes that we can "work harder to be a society that values everyone."
Shields does not think she should be elected simply because she is a woman, but because she is the most qualified candidate in the race. She does not expect her gender to serve as a catalyst for her campaign; however, it certainly should not inhibit her like so many other women in American history.
As for those who doubt women's roles in politics, Shields says that women "can do anything they want, and be anything they want." Unfortunately, not everyone shares this view. It has become quite clear that gender bias is not just a subconscious phenomenon in the minds of many Americans, but rather it is acknowledged and professed publicly.
"The United States is a good deal less open to women in positions of power than it would like to pretend that it is," said Malcolm Gladwell, author and staff writer for the New Yorker. He then went on to say that, "We continue to expect that women have a kind of modesty in positions of authority. It makes it easier for us to accept the fact that they have moved into a man's realm."
In Missouri, only a small dent has been put into this man's realm as only six women currently serve in the State Senate. "I would love to add one more and be number seven," said Shields, who is not modest about her ambition in political activism.
We have young women within our community who think of their gender as a lesser component of our democracy. And yet they need to understand that not only are they capable in the area of government, they are much needed as well. Shields is a great example of this, so let's not let gender stand in the way of putting the most qualified candidate into office.
Addison Graham, Blue Springs
Blue Springs South High School