Will We Ever Be Able to Trust “Ambitious” Women?


In our culture, women’s ambition has long been portrayed as something evil while an ambitious man is lauded and seen as well qualified for whatever position. If a woman knows her place and isn’t “too ambitious” all is good and the male status quo goes undisrupted. But have a woman step out and dare to channel her ambition toward a position no woman has ever held? How much of a leap is it to wonder how long it will be before Hillary gets compared to Kylo Ren?

A Bernie Sanders spokesperson played a desperate and sexist political card against Hillary Clinton. It wasn’t a new one, but Sanders’ representative surely knew that to call the former secretary of state and U.S. senator the “A” word would bring into question her fitness for the White House without actually having to utter those words.

That “A” word was Ambitious.

Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, suggested that Clinton’s personal political ambition to get to the White House would be destructive to the Democratic Party.

Ambitious is the word professional and accomplished women dread. While it’s no secret that we are a society that values ambition in men, ambitious women are scary, threatening or abrasive. It’s quite the sexist double standard in just about any word used to describe men and women.

The accusation, repeated to Hillary Clinton in a CNN interview, brought out her famous belly laugh, but Clinton surely knows when men start accusing women of being “ambitious”, it’s generally not meant as a compliment and is intended to be sexist shorthand for raising the question of whether one can ever trust an ambitious woman.

In our culture, women’s ambition has long been portrayed as something evil, while an ambitious man is lauded and seen as well qualified for whatever position he seeks. If a woman knows her place and isn’t “too ambitious” all is good and the male status quo goes undisrupted. But have a woman step out and dare to channel her ambition toward a position no woman has ever held? Well, one can count the seconds until the “A” word rains down on her like an early spring thunderstorm. Because who knows if you can trust a woman with the kind of ambition it takes to be elected to the White House? Few criticize the level of ambition needed in a man to announce a run for president when he’s only held national elective office for two years like Barack Obama, but a woman who has been elected twice as a U.S. Senator, served four years as secretary of state and who was the first woman ever to win a national primary contest? She has “destructive” ambition.

How much of a leap is it to wonder how long it will be before Hillary gets compared to Kylo Ren?

Clinton is hardly the first powerful woman accused of being overly ambitious as a way to criticize and question motives or experience. DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has faced the question about whether her personal political ambitions stand in the way of the DNC’s goals. Carly Fiorina has been called someone with “self-serving ambition.” And when the topic is politically ambitious women, no one can fail to mention Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick in the movie Election (though let’s not forget, she did become student body president).

The fact that women must continually try to convince others – especially men – that female ambition isn’t a bad thing is born out by the fact that we are still talking about the idea in 2016. Clearly, no one – man or woman – can be elected president without a certain amount of drive, ego and, yes, ambition. So how will we ever be ready for a woman to step into the White House in her own right?

When Sanders’ team started tossing out the idea that a woman’s ambition to be president is destructive, but Sanders’ own presidential ambition, as a man, should remain unquestioned, they knew they were playing that card in the hope that they could get voters to pick up on the unspoken inference that an ambitious woman is suspect, untrustworthy and not deserving of voters’ confidence.

Interestingly, Sanders is married to a woman of ambition – she was the head of Burlington College in Vermont – so one has to wonder what amount of female ambition he considers acceptable and when a woman crosses the line into “destructive” ambition in his mind. That will be an interesting question to answer if he becomes president, when he’ll need plenty of those ambitious women on his staff.

Joanne Bamberger is the author/editor of the award-winning book “Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox” (She Writes Press). She is also the publisher and editor in chief of The Broad Side. You can find her on Twitter at @jlcbamberger and at joannebamberger.com.

Image via State Department/in the public domain

  • cherylsass123

    The problem Bernie Sanders supporters have with Hillary Clinton have nothing to do with the fact that she’s a woman. They actually have EVERYTHING to do with the fact that Hillary Clinton is NOT the RIGHT WOMAN to be the next president of the United States! I have nothing against woman and am one; however, were that woman Angela Merkel-Chancellor of Germany? I would say YES, she is the right woman for president. The problem is this. Shillary Clinton is NOT Angela Merkel! She is nothing more than an embarrassment to the whole Democratic Party of America and the Democratic National Committee at that.

    The reason I say this is because Shillary takes money from big banks on and off Wall Street, both in the form of $200,000 a piece “Corporate Motivational Speeches” designed to supposedly “Empower women”. Not to mention her Clinton super PACs like Hillary PAC and the other one link to the Clinton Foundation run by her “husband of convenience”, former President Bill Clinton and she herself. Bernie Sanders does NOT take any money from Big Bastard Bank, NA of Wall Street, Inc. Bernie Sanders does NOT have a super PAC. He also doesn’t take money from Big Healthcare/Big Pharma nor does he take money from any big Corporation and/or group of employees acting on good faith of that corporation and contributing to his campaign in one lump sum. With the exception of being for a woman’s right to choose and gender equity when it comes to differences in pay between what men earn, and what women earn, okay, Hillary is somewhat progressive when compared with the Republicans (excluding moderate, pro-choice Republicans such as former New York State Governor George Pataki and US Senator Susan Collins of Maine). With the exception of the so-called “pro-life position” of both Ohio Governor John Kasich and governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, Hillary IS a Democrat. However, when compared with Governor George Pataki, or maybe US Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Hillary Clinton is really no different!

    They are essentially one and the same. Something which shows in the fact that Hillary Clinton uses every damn excuse in the book she can think of to say that Bernie Sanders single-payer health care, and yes, his free college education plan is “Not reasonable” and “Impractical”. Bullshit. How does Bernie Sanders plan on paying for free college education, you may ask? The answer is simple; by enacting a $.50 tax on every $100 worth of stocks, bonds, commodities, and other financial products traded on Wall Street as well as off Wall Street. In other words of $.50 tax on every $100 worth of investments; this does not hurt anyone except for the very rich who do not want to be taxed because it’ll hurt them from getting richer than they already are. (0.005% tax on every $100! That is NOT A LOT OF MONEY!)

    However, Hillary Clinton doesn’t see this as practical; the reason being that, no matter how much she goes on and on trying to convince American Democrats and/or so-called “liberals” that those $200,000 a piece speeches she makes for these banks and corporations does not affect her judgment when it comes to her policies, IT ACTUALLY DOES. Not only that, but everything Hillary Clinton has said so far about Bernie Sanders during the 2016 Democratic Presidential Primary Race has essentially been either distorted facts, OR OUTRIGHT LIES. Which, I hate to say, doesn’t make her any different then Donald Trump of the Republican Presidential Primary Race; a man whom Bernie Sanders himself referred to as a “Pathological LIAR.” There were times when I actually think that Hillary is more of a liar than Donald Trump is; reason being that Donald Trump is a storyteller. An extremely successful American businessman who later became a reality television star, Trump knows how to milk the weak and the stupid; low information voters who do not have a clue as to what end is up in what end is down. The only exception being when it comes to which end of the gun the trigger is on, of course; that they know and know well!

    However, the same could be said about “Low information voters” when it comes to the many American WOMEN who think Hillary is the right choice for president. Is it possible to vote with your vagina? If so one could call Hillary’s female supporters the “All-American Pussy Vote” because that is exactly what it is. Open wide and spread your legs for Dr. Hillary Rodham Clinton, OB/GYN. Not that she actually knows what the hell it’s like to live off of food stamps, mind you. She does not; she lives like a queen pig in manure with her “husband of convenience”, former President William Jefferson Clinton in their $2.2 million McMansion in Chappaqua, New York! Hillary Clinton serves the banks. She does not serve the poor Mexican-American, documented or undocumented, woman living like a piece of anaerobic bacteria trapped in a septic tank serving as her South Bronx slum tenement apartment. Hillary Clinton is a FRAUD. I, as well as many other Bernie Sanders supporters will believe otherwise when Hillary finally releases those transcripts detailing EXACTLY what is in each and every one of those $200,000 speeches she made for the Wall Street banks! Until then, should Hillary Clinton LIE her way all the way to the Democratic Presidential Nomination, with a little help from her “husband of convenience”, Bill Clinton (who was well known for the blowjobs received from his young interns working for him when he was president of the United States-Monica Lewinsky come to mind?), I will spread the word to each and every one of my Bernie Sanders supporters that they should either write in the words “Bernie Sanders” on the writing portion of the ballot. That or better yet, vote for the Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein! Jill, after all, is running on essentially the same platform that Bernie Sanders is with a slight difference when it comes to her position on defense and the United States Military. #noshillary #nohillary #BERNIESANDERSORBUST #JillnotHill #releasethetranscripts

    • 8Pi

      The fact that you must reduce your argument to “Shillary,” is revealing. You are a tool.

  • 8Pi

    No. Women will continue to thwart all other women until there are no humans left on the planet, whether they are considered “ambitious” or not, because, at the core, women believe themselves to be without value, worthless, mean to breed, be passive, etc. And, without a man, unthinkable as human.

Why I Wrote “Trumping And Drinking”
Get Over Yourselves. We’re All Rory Gilmore
Hillary Clinton, Shake It Off, Taylor Swift, Hillary Clinton Campaign song
Six Reasons “Shake It Off” Should Be Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Theme Song
Nancy Reagan dies, Just Say No, Ronald Reagan
A Not-So-Positive Ode to Nancy Reagan’s Frothy “Just Say No” Campaign
I Married for Health Insurance
Why I Wrote “Trumping And Drinking”
A Case of Nixonian Deja Vu
Post-Election Munchies: What is Your Grief Snack of Choice?
Why I Wrote “Trumping And Drinking”
A Case of Nixonian Deja Vu
Trump Reality Check, Now with Actual Facts!
Fascism Facts
I Married for Health Insurance
Get Over Yourselves. We’re All Rory Gilmore
Post-Election Munchies: What is Your Grief Snack of Choice?
Women’s Elections Rights in Saudi Arabia: A Token Drop in an Abysmal Bucket & the Plight of Women Under Sharia Law
Maybe It Wasn’t Rape: Emerging Matriarchy and the Altering of Women’s Past Sexual Narratives
Paris attacks, Paris terrorism
Is Paris Burning?
Chinese government and women's reproductive rights, adopting Chinese girls, international adoption
Dear Xi Jinping, I Am Writing to You as an American Mom of a 19-Year-Old Chinese Daughter
The Vital Voice of Hillary Clinton: Part 1
Maybe It Wasn’t Rape: Emerging Matriarchy and the Altering of Women’s Past Sexual Narratives
The Eyes Have It!
Ashley Madison, Jared Fogle, sex, rape, sexual affairs
Ashley Madison vs. Jared Fogle: Rape, Sex and Hacking in America
women's viagra, Viagra, Flibanserin, sexual arousal, women's desire, sex after menopause
That “Little Pink Pill” Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Get our new weekly email
Broadly Speaking

featuring our best words for the week + an exclusive longread