Last year, when Kirsten Gillibrand was promoting her memoir — a book detailing a number of sexist encounters with unpleasant male colleagues — the senator said of one occasion, "I wasn’t in a place where I could tell him to go fuck himself.”
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has been in that place.
"Yes, I have," she said in an interview with Another Round, a BuzzFeed podcast, declining to elaborate. Typically, however, Clinton said she refrains from cursing. “I say, 'Did you hear what you just said?' I’ve had some luck with that over the years."
"But I’ve encountered those kinds of situations over the years," she said, describing men who find it difficult to work respectfully with women. "Sometimes you just have to ignore what’s happening because there’s a larger issue you're trying to deal with, and sometimes you have to confront it, and it’s almost a snap decision."
She recounted one moment in particular. It was 1976, and Clinton had taken a leave from Arkansas to go work for Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign in Indiana. As she writes in her memoir, Living History, Clinton had dinner one night with the men running Carter's get-out-the-vote efforts. She was the only woman at the table:
"They wouldn't give me any specifics, and I kept pressing for details about how many phone calls, cars, and door hangers they planned to put out on Election Day. All of a sudden, one of the men reached across the table and grabbed me by my turtleneck. 'Just shut up, will you. We said we'd do it, we will, and we don't have to tell you how!' I was scared. I knew he had been drinking, and I also knew that all eyes were on me. My heart was beating fast as I looked him in the eye, removed his hands from my neck and said, 'First don't ever touch me again. Second, if you were as fast with the answers to my questions as you are with your hands, I'd have the information I need to do my job. Then I could leave you alone — which is what I'm going to do now.' My knees were shaking, but I got up and walked out."
"So," Clinton said in the Another Round interview, taped last week in Iowa, "I’ve been around a lot longer, and I’ve had a lot of challenges, but what I've found is that the vast majority of them can be dealt with by, 'Come on, really?' — basically saying, 'You’ve got to be kidding me. Did you just hear what you said?' — and not, you know, not accelerating it, making it an even bigger confrontation."
"But then sometimes, you have to do what you have to do."
"Sometimes nothing helps," Clinton said. "You’re just up against somebody who has got his own problems that he’s trying to act out."
Asked whether sexist encounters with men are common on Capitol Hill, Clinton said, "That does happen. I mean, when I got there it was clear that there were some people that were just troubling. And they just, you just wanted to avoid them."
Listen to the Another Round interview with Hillary Clinton and subscribe on iTunes to Another Round.
Ruby Cramer is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Ruby Cramer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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