We got the one tear, and that is enough

The Baltimore Sun

For the first time in the history of crying, it actually helped a woman in the workplace.

And Hillary Clinton wasn't even hiding in the ladies room.

There she was in a New Hampshire coffee shop - and forever on a YouTube loop - voice cracking, eyes welling and clearly overcome by passion for her work and frustration that she might not be allowed to complete it.

That was Monday. On Tuesday, she won the New Hampshire primary in a come-from-behind - no, come-back-from-the-dead - stunner of an upset, making fools of all the pollsters who had predicted her loss to Barack Obama by a double-digit margin.

But those predictions were made before she cried. Before The Crying Factor.

Well, she didn't actually cry. No tears got loose. But her eyes were clearly puddling and it shocked everybody who didn't think Hillary could cry if she had an onion under her nose.

(Then, of course, everybody started looking for the onion. Columnist Robert Novak said anyone who believed the moment wasn't staged is "naive.")

I'll bet all the women in New Hampshire who have ever felt a male co-worker's unspoken ridicule of their tears went out and voted for her.

And probably every woman in New Hampshire who has ever been accused of using crocodile tears to manipulate went out and voted for her, too.

In a lot of ways Hillary is not Every Woman. She's too smart, too strong, too rich, too powerful. And too controlled.

But we have all been betrayed by our tears, and we have had to endure the suspicion or the revulsion that even the purest of tears evoke in others.

No man knows what to do when a woman cries. Even those who love us best just want to "fix" it. And when they can't, they get mad at us. Like it is our fault that they can't make it better.

And no woman wants to cry in the workplace. Crying might have made Hillary look human, but it makes the rest of us look weak.

Crying just confirms every man's suspicion about our ability to perform under pressure. They are embarrassed for us when we cry. They think less of us.

Even the sisterhood gets upset when we cry in the workplace. As if our tears stain every woman in the room.

Maureen Dowd was brutal in her column for The New York Times.

She called it "a whiff of Nixonian self-pity" and added a snide reference to appearance, which is the other prong on the fork with which only women are poked:

"She became emotional because she feared that she had reached her political midnight, when she would suddenly revert to the school girl with the geeky glasses and frizzy hair, smart but not the favorite."

Ouch. You are not only emotional, you aren't pretty.

But the women in New Hampshire knew immediately what Hillary was feeling, because they have felt it, too, and they knew her tears were sincere because they have cried those same tears.

The tears of exhaustion, of frustration, of powerlessness. The tears of anger, of passionately held beliefs, of not being heard.

Men don't cry those kinds of tears, because they don't have to.

Bill Clinton can bite his lip and lower his eyes and his voice, and the world considers him "The Great Empath."

But if Hillary emotes, people immediately label it a calculation or ask if she's got the guts to stare down a tyrant at the brink of war.

It is a double standard that applies everywhere, not just in campaigns for the presidency.

That's why Hillary has to be careful. No more crying. She can't play that card again, no matter how desperate her campaign might become.

That's because women may understand the tears, but they don't like crybabies.

Get tough, we would say. Don't let them see you cry.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

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