Hillary Clinton’s Ambition is not a Four-Letter Word

There is no doubt a double-standard persists: Women are routinely criticized for working hard to reach professional goals, and men are rewarded for doing the same.

On Tuesday, Bernie Sanders’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, continued the long tradition of vilifying women who dare to lead, saying about Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton: “Don’t destroy the Democratic Party to satisfy the secretary’s ambitions to become President of the United States.”

Clinton laughed out loud when asked about this comment during an interview, and I can’t blame her: When people say the same sexist thing about you over and over again, sometimes you just have to laugh. (And it also helps to go on Jimmy Kimmel Live and let him hilariously “mansplain” how to look, sound, and act when you’re a woman running for President).

It’s particularly laughable because Hillary Clinton is the most qualified person to run for President in decades — despite her primary opponent’s ridiculous claim to the contrary — and she is somehow not expected, or allowed, to have ambition?

As New York Magazine’s Rebecca Traister put it, “[…] a portrait of a woman trying too hard to do any kind of work, being driven by professional determination and a thirst for victory, is one that rarely flatters that woman.”

Effectiveness paired with ambition is a sought after combination in men, but, often, translates into over-the-top audacity for women. The message to women who want to take their place as leaders has been: You can sit here, but don’t expect to be at the head of the table. If you were a woman who did exactly the same things a man in your position would do, you were unfairly seen as overly ambitious, self-serving, a liability to your party.

It’s time we move past that tired trope. For 20 years, I’ve been encouraging women to embrace their ambition and run for office.

I want the next President of the United States to be someone I can count on to approach goals with a plan and pragmatism. I want someone who knows that being President is hard work, and who has the work ethic to match. I want someone who has been consistently ambitious in service to others, just as Hillary Clinton has, for decades, lifting up women and families. Her ambition is inspiring.

This conversation about Hillary Clinton is the latest example of a woman being knocked for embracing her competence, but it is far from the only one. Penalizing half the population for having the determination and drive to succeed stacks the deck against women.

Let’s acknowledge and celebrate women’s ambition. It’s not a four-letter word.