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Playing the Hands We’re Dealt



So this really big bully guy called the girl names and said mean things hoping she’d slink away crying, and instead, the girl schooled the bully into how to turn cheap insults into motivating forces.

Hillary has nothing going for her except “the woman card,” said Donald with a sneer.

Well, if standing up for better health care and women’s rights is playing that card, “Deal me in!” retorted Hillary.

She’s even selling a bright pink “woman card” and a deck of “women cards” on her website.  Surely more delicious than a Trump steak.

People have to make their own choices about who to vote for in this election year, and certainly it’s not my place to endorse a particular candidate publicly.  But that does not mean remaining silent about the critical social, intellectual and moral issues playing out in this ugliest of all political seasons.  We all have a responsibility to call out candidates whose tactics and discourse are insults to the general public and our shared American values.

Trashing women, who are more than half of the electorate, is a dumb idea for any politician, but it also reveals a profoundly misogynist character that has no place in any position of public trust.  The president of the United States is president for all of us, not just a favored group of business pals.  Dismissing the accomplishments of a woman who has not only held numerous public positions — First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State — but engaged a remarkably broad spectrum of political, economic, diplomatic and business issues for many years is simply a gross lie.  Disagree with her, fine, but do not dismiss her!  Hillary Clinton’s track record in public life may be controversial in places, but it surely trumps Trump’s whose main claims to fame were manufactured through real estate deals and reality television shows.

Central to Trump’s insult against Hillary’s gender is some inchoate idea that being a woman, all by itself, conveys a mantle of privilege that is inaccessible to a less experienced white male.  Really??  Wow.

Only those of us who are card-carrying women know what that woman’s card really means.

It means having the boss tell you that, no, you can’t have a secretary like the other (male) managers have in your office because, “You type faster than anyone here.” (All of these tales are real from my own experience.)

It means having that same boss tell you, in the middle of an intense discussion about a work issue, “You know, there are times when you seem especially touchy about everything.”  Yeah, right.

It means being told by another boss that while you’re really good at what you do, he would rather have a “graybeard” in your job — as I was told many years ago as a reason for being passed over for a promotion.

It means that when that “graybeard” fails and the boss comes back to beg you to take over the job, he still offers you only 60% of what the graybeard earned in the same position. It means being told, “Well, he has a family, you don’t.”

That woman’s card means you are constantly asking yourself whether, this time, you should stand up and fight, or sit down and swallow your anger once more.  Sometimes you do have to play the hand you’re dealt in order to move ahead.  I had to learn that early in my career, choosing not to fight but, instead, learning the truth of the advice that says, “Don’t get mad, get even.”

I took that advice to heart, and in many ways, I’ve won the argument.  I’ve had a far more privileged life than most women — a college president is a position well up on the career ladder.  And yet, sometimes, being high up on the ladder simply means that we can see through the glass ceiling even more clearly.  The barrier is still there, and the harder we push, the more exhausting it can seem on many days.

Even at my advanced stage of life, I still sit in meetings where I am the only or one of very few women at the table.  I still have the experience of listening to the men talk and talk and talk, and when I venture to say one thing, I get interrupted.  I’ve had men say to me, gee, you seemed pretty aggressive in that meeting when, in fact, I spoke only once.  Yes, that actually has happened more than once.  In one group where I was the only woman on a particular board, one of the men made a habit of going after me in a publicly humiliating way every time I spoke up.  “There she goes again,” was the actual phrase. The other men at the table studied their notes.

It’s no secret that even while women are nearly 60% of the students in higher education, women are just about 25% of the presidents — and that’s good compared to the dreadful stats on women editors-in-chief, chief medical officers, law firm partners, CEOs of major companies, members of boards of directors.  All less than 20%.  And no, you cannot attribute that to women choosing to stay on the sidelines, having babies and deferring to male careers.

The fact remains that too many men in positions of power do not support women moving into similar positions, and the tone they set — the tone that Donald Trump has established for his campaign — adds diamond-hard layers to the glass ceiling.  Sadly, there are women who actually buy into that shameful kind of sexist ideology — it’s no secret that women can be the worst critics of women who aspire to leadership and power. Guys like The Donald love to watch us fight.  Let’s stop it!

Hillary Clinton’s blithe retort of “Deal me in!” is the best possible response.  We surely have to know what we’re up against, but we have to play the hands we’re dealt.  Let’s play them well — winning is surely the best revenge!



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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: