Everything you know if you’re a ‘walled off’ girl

If Hilary Clinton doesn’t have anything nice to say, it turns out she’s still expected to say something


On the list of things I thought I would never say, ‘Hillary Clinton has hit the nail on the head’ is pretty close to the top. However, upon reading her submission to ‘Humans of New York,’ not only has she suddenly become completely relatable, but she’s shed light on an issue that is oppressing professional women on a day to day basis. Clinton expressed her torment of constantly being branded ‘closed off’, ‘aloof’ and even ‘cold’ when faced with public or social situations.

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Her full story is as follows: “I was taking a law school admissions test in a big classroom at Harvard. My friend and I were some of the only women in the room. I was feeling nervous. I was a senior in college. I wasn’t sure how well I’d do. And while we’re waiting for the exam to start, a group of men began to yell things like: ‘You don’t need to be here.’ And ‘There’s plenty else you can do.’ It turned into a real ‘pile on.’ One of them even said: ‘If you take my spot, I’ll get drafted, and I’ll go to Vietnam, and I’ll die.’

“And they weren’t kidding around. It was intense. It got very personal. But I couldn’t respond. I couldn’t afford to get distracted because I didn’t want to mess up the test. So I just kept looking down, hoping that the proctor would walk in the room. I know that I can be perceived as aloof or cold or unemotional. But I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions.

“And that’s a hard path to walk. Because you need to protect yourself, you need to keep steady, but at the same time you don’t want to seem ‘walled off.’ And sometimes I think I come across more in the ‘walled off’ arena. And if I create that perception, then I take responsibility. I don’t view myself as cold or unemotional. And neither do my friends. And neither does my family.

“But if that sometimes is the perception I create, then I can’t blame people for thinking that.”

It shows again that women are still consistently faced with making the choice between being accepted in their careers, as Hillary shouldn’t have to face any repercussion of acting like a professional in her place of work,  or being seen as emotionally available and running the risk of being undermined and labelled as unstable.

As someone who has also been berated as standoffish, especially in situations where I’ve felt I could be penalised for ‘acting like a girl’ otherwise, this is a list Hillary and I know all too well.

Literally everyone thinks you hate them

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It’s not just that we’re perceived as quiet girls. There’s a huge difference between the equally as degrading ‘quiet girl’ stereotype and the ‘closed off girl’ one. If people simply perceived us as shy and quiet, I genuinely think we’d have less of a hard time proving ourselves because at least these two words fall into the outdated concept of the sexist ‘feminine mystique.’ Our facial expressions always let slip that we’re full of things to say, but it’s almost always overlooked that we’re simply addressing the situation correctly.

Hillary’s extract shed much needed light on the fact that while male politicians are praised for the conveyance of passion, she is more often complained to and heckled for how she comes across in the media. She went on to explain that in the 15 minute slot she has to display how seriously she takes the future of America, she’s more often criticized for not possessing the fluid ‘coolness’ of Obama or even Donald Trump.

Your circle stays small

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This is not a bad thing by any means. When you establish with almost everyone you meet you aren’t much of a talker on a personal level, conversations and invites drop like flies. What’s even worse is when you get a name for yourself as only having harsh comments to contribute because of your (completely acceptable) no-nonsense demeanor.

It was sadly all too familiar when Hillary recalled: “I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions,” and revealed that she, like anyone else in their line of work, can’t afford distractions. Instead of being praised in these situations, the curse of the closed off girl then looks to again being criticized for being goal orientated, especially prominent for Hillary in the world of politics. I’ve all too often had people drop off the radar because being focused can so easily read as being cold.

People mistake you for a narcissist

I’ve been called self obsessed more times than I can count. Now, that’s probably a pretty self obsessed thing to say, but another perk of being a walled off girl as opposed to being a wallflower is people often assume you’re just too tied up in your own drama to be more vocal about the people and situations around you.

While this might work in the world of politics, it’s becoming more and more of a no-no for girls. Simply because we have the tendency to keep ourselves to ourselves in our nature, or because previously when we’ve displayed emotion we’ve been labelled erratic or weak, it’s assumed we’re unapproachable or that we just don’t care.

This hit home particularly as when I’ve lived with girls I’ve considered friends, I’ve still faced their drunken confessions that they ‘didn’t get me’ and demands as to why I came across as simply ‘a bitch’ because if I’m not being quiet, I’m just being straightforward.

After reading Hillary’s account, I couldn’t help but think of the times her male counterparts have been praised for getting straight to the point without any waffle to distract from their point. We aren’t quite granted this royalty yet.

There’s a risk of becoming terminally single

The President, First Lady, and Chelsea on parade down Pennsylvannia Avenue on Inauguration day.

The President, First Lady, and Chelsea on parade down Pennsylvannia Avenue on Inauguration day.

We don’t all have a former president to curl up next to at the end of a hard day like Hillary does. This is where her argument of being walled off peaks, in that we simply cannot act the same way as men do and still be considered approachable and attractive. Where she goes on to explain that she has to reign in her passions to avoid being sinfully shrill or, heaven forbid, too loud, it speaks volumes for how men can carry themselves when seeking a partner as opposed to how we can.

Girls are more frequently being encouraged to grow up to be strong and independent, and that’s a good thing. They then so often, are penalized for not coming across as soft or nurturing enough, and this can intimidate any potential suitors. That’s the frustrating truth.

You know it’s not going to change any time soon

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Even as someone outside of politics or any kind of real status, I still feel the future of the walled off girl is bleak. It’s difficult to imagine a time when despite old stereotypes expire, and females in responsible roles stop becoming the target of sexist criticism concerning how women should act, look and speak.

Hillary’s story hits close to home as a girl who takes her future and career seriously, and accepting the sacrifice that’s more likely going to have to be made in terms of  being seemed as likable or friendly.

What Clinton has done has raised awareness that while we’re striving towards a more equal future with women being accepted in male dominant work places such as the White House, we’re still seen as the lesser of two evils in terms of emotional stability versus work ethic.