Community & Government

Ambition, Sexism & the ‘Double Bind’

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Lesson time 14:58 min

In this lesson, Hillary shares the key takeaways she’s learned from navigating decades of stereotypes and gender-based limitations imposed on her, and how she’s prevailed despite their constant looming presence.

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Topics include: Ambition, Sexism, and the “Double Bind” • Sexism and the “Double Bind” Are Real • Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Chase Smith • Misogyny in Politics • Claim Your Reality •


[MUSIC PLAYING] HILLARY CLINTON: After decades of working in male-dominated fields, I've experienced firsthand how so much of the criticism of women is steeped in bias or gender-based stereotypes and expectations. So in this lesson, I'll break down what ambition, sexism, and the double bind mean to me. [MUSIC PLAYING] - Well, I couldn't run as anything other than a woman. I am proud to be running as a woman. And I'm excited that I may-- --may be able finally to break that hardest of all glass ceilings. You know, the word "ambition" is such a loaded word. If you use it for yourself, or you have had it used about you, I would bet that it lands differently if you're a man or you are a woman, because it is a word that is either used to lift up some people and their activities or to put down other people. I was lucky to have a father who pushed me to excel. I don't remember him ever using the word "ambition." But he did want me to do the best I could with everything that I undertook. And he would tell me, I know you can do better, and I want you to keep doing better. So he was in his own way instilling ambition in me, not to go do some extraordinary feat so much as to do the best I could do. That's what I was ambitious for. I wanted to achieve the goals in school and in my extracurricular life that at the time seemed important. So as I got older, I began to encounter people who thought ambition, namely competitiveness, achievement, in girls and women was somehow inappropriate, unladylike. [MUSIC PLAYING] I remember running for class office when I was in high school. And I was thinking about running for president of the student government. And a couple of boys said, how silly are you? A girl can't be president. So the ambition idea was already in my teenage years being imposed as a barrier instead of a diving platform to see how far you could go. You cannot listen to that. You cannot be engulfed in other people's expectations or labels about you. You cannot let someone else tailor or squash your ambitions. You cannot allow that to happen. And if you're criticized, guess what? Everybody's criticized for almost anything we try to do, especially if it's about us trying to be true to ourselves and go as far as our talent and hard work will take us. Ambition is not a dirty word for either women or men. [MUSIC PLAYING] I think sexism really is rooted in ideal images of what girls and women are supposed to be. So if you hear someone, or if you are hearing yourself saying, well, I wish she were taller. I wish she were thinner. I wish she were prettier. That's all part of a sexist judging system that has impact on how girls see themselves, their confidence, how they approach the world. And the double bind is when you are damned if you do and damned if you don't. You really can't win. If you don't have children, people wonder why you don't have children. If you have childre...

About the Instructor

With a lifetime of smashing barriers and achieving at the highest levels of public service, Hillary Rodham Clinton has learned to tap deep wells of resilience to reach her goals. Now the former U.S. senator and secretary of state is teaching the values, lessons, and practical tools that help her rise above, even sharing her never-before-heard 2016 presidential victory speech. Be inspired to own your ambition and make your mark.

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Hillary Rodham Clinton

Barrier-smashing leader Hillary Rodham Clinton teaches you how to overcome setbacks and build a life of principle and purpose.

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