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(Photographer: Markian Lozowchuk/Marie Henein)
(Photographer: Markian Lozowchuk/Marie Henein)

Marie Henein

Thank you, Hillary. Now women know retreat is not an option Add to ...

Marie Henein is a lawyer and senior partner with Henein Hutchison.

Going high when they go low means you speak only to people who were listening in the first place. It’s like bringing thank-you cards to a knife fight. You’re going to get hurt or worse, lose.

Donald Trump isn’t the first demagogue to be carried to power – and carried he was. He was treated as legitimate by many who should have known better. In providing a “balanced” approach, the media helped legitimize what he said. Free speech does not mean equal airtime. You shouldn’t need to go to a “fact checker” to know that Mexicans don’t rape and kill; that black lives matter; that Hillary Clinton didn’t start a war, or the birther movement. There was no “balance” to be had here. Just a resounding refute by those who had the floor. Instead, they went high – into the clouds, where no one heard them. Wherever they went, high or low, we should have gone with vigorous force. Suffering fools quietly means that they can become president. Or prime minister.

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I will get over the election. But the thing that I can’t shake is what women – particularly young girls who stayed up to watch the historic moment that never was – are going to take from this. What are you going to tell your daughters? It’s hard not to feel demoralized by what we watched. But dismissing him as misogynist is no answer. The problem is bigger than Mr. Trump.

It is the reaction to Ms. Clinton that shook me to my core – watching her struggle to be “relatable.” To be cuddly. To assure the world that she was a good mom and grandma. To twist and contort herself out of shape. Her clothing; her hair; her temperament; her stamina. All of it reduced to one clear message – there is something not quite right about that “nasty woman.” She was not to be trusted. That is what shook me to my core. This is the message that was sent over and over again. To women.

So what did Ms. Clinton’s run tell us? That even a progressive society has difficulty embracing women in positions of power. That women decision makers and power brokers continue to be viewed with inherent suspicion. You can hold office, just not the highest one. You can succeed, just not too much. I’m going to say it; she lost because she is a woman. If she was a man, she would be president-elect today. Plain and simple. We have not fared better in Canada – our only female prime minister took over when Brian Mulroney stepped down. She lasted five months. That was 23 years ago. Since then, no serious female prospect has dared surface again. So no need to pat ourselves on the back quite yet. A woman has yet to be elected to the highest office in Canada and the United States. At least the U.S. had one run.

At my house Tuesday night, my colleagues, my sons, my husband, my brother, my father, my mother were waiting to celebrate Ms. Clinton – not because they saw a woman but because they saw competence and strength and values they shared.

It is easy to be demoralized. I was. And then it occurred to me: as inspiring as it would have been to see a female president, failure and adversity must motivate equally. What Ms. Clinton did, in the most public way, is remind us how firmly entrenched that glass ceiling is. And what it will take to break it. We owe her a debt of gratitude. But what this means is that every single woman, young and old, does not have the luxury of retreating.

This is what I would like you to tell your daughters today: engagement on every front is the only answer. It means that young women must participate. I do not care where. I do not care what view you take. I do not care what your political stripes are. I do not care whether I agree with you or not. What I care about is that you are seen. In every boardroom. In every school. In every C-suite. In every political party. Engineer. Artist. Judge. Politician. Doctor. Until you cannot be overlooked. Until seeing you in the highest office anywhere is as normal as breathing.

The sky is not falling. It just feels a little darker right now. She is out there. I know it in my core. In some school. On some playground. In some boardroom. She may not even know it yet. And our collective job is to light the path so everyone else can find her.

So thank you, Hillary. We know what we need to do. We will lick our wounds, buck up, and we’ll be starting a little further ahead because you ran.

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