Hillary Clinton’s political defeat is a stunning setback for the women’s movement in America.
She got beat by a candidate who openly demeaned women, and millions of voters could not care less. Donald Trump’s victory is tacit approval that men can call women “nasty” apropos of nothing, that women can be judged by their looks, that locker room talk is appropriate, and that groping is a sanctioned sport.
What’s next? After he builds a wall along Mexico, a Trump presidency could mean glass ceilings will be reinforced and beauty pageants will be held in the East Room of the White House.
Misogyny now has the White House seal of approval.
“What this says is that it’s OK to discriminate,” said Ellen Zane, the retired CEO of Tufts Medical Center, the first and only woman to run the 220-year-old institution. “That’s what I find scary. That there is a whole set of new rules around how people are viewed in our society.”
Zane, who sits on several corporate boards, has seen women make huge strides in the workplace, but a President Trump gives men license to hold them back.
“People, as you know, follow their leaders. When their leaders take a position that is abhorrent, it should be scary to all women,” she said. “I don’t think it will be overt, but I believe that it will be covert.”
Women were so close to changing history. Now they feel they’ve been sent to the back of the line.
On Tuesday, my Facebook feed filled with jubilant images of female Clinton supporters wearing white to honor the suffragist movement as they cast votes hoping to shatter the country’s hardest glass ceiling. By Wednesday morning, people posted stories of tears, disappointment, and despair.
“I am crushed,” Diane Hessan, chair of Boston marketing firm C Space, wrote in an e-mail to me.
We will spend a lot of time wondering how big a role gender played in Clinton’s defeat. She is the most qualified candidate to ever run for president — yet she was defeated by someone with no government experience.
She faced the ultimate double standard, and voters doubled down on it.
Men, in particular, were not ready for a female commander in chief.
Trump beat Clinton 53 percent to 41 percent among men, according to CBS News exit polls, while Clinton won women 54 percent to 42 percent. But among white male voters, Clinton won only 31 percent, compared with Trump’s 63 percent.
‘We have not yet reached bottom. There will be a cultural war.’
Boston lawyer Beth Boland, who has been a major fund-raiser for female candidates including Clinton, painted a stark picture of what women and minorities — another group Trump has denigrated — face.
“We have not yet reached bottom,” said Boland, who fears violence and other acts that further divide the country. “There will be a cultural war.”
In his victory speech, Trump offered an olive branch to groups he disparaged, and called for “America to bind the wounds of division.” He also vowed to be “president for all of Americans.”
The conciliatory tone from the bombastic leader was enough to send US stocks higher on Wednesday, defying widespread expectations of a sell-off in the event he upset Clinton.
But it wasn’t enough to convince Boland. “I don’t believe him,” she said. “I think he had a good speechwriter.”
Clinton’s loss will likely put a chill on the pipeline of female candidates seeking the presidency.
“If you don’t have models that you can follow and learn from, it makes life a whole lot tougher and dreams of leadership positions less likely to happen,” said Susan Adams, professor of management at Bentley University. “That’s the piece that worries me the most: the symbolism. Some people say, ‘Anybody can be president.’ No, not really.”
Let’s get it all out there today. Yes, we live among millions of Americans who cast a vote for sexism and racism in electing Trump, but when they look in the mirror they see none of those traits in themselves.
Blind they are, and they are the ones who will make life difficult for women and minorities in the name of Trump.
But we need to get back up and keep pushing for progress especially now. Clinton, even in her darkest moment, held out hope.
“This loss hurts. But please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it,” she said in her concession speech. “I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but some day someone will and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.”
If President-elect Trump is serious about uniting this country, he needs to think about more than bipartisanship. He’s got to set the example on equal respect for women.Shirley Leung is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at shirley.leung
@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @leung.