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Women worldwide react to Clinton’s defeat

For years now, Hillary Clinton has ranked as one of the most famous and influential women in the world ― winning fans among the world’s female leaders for her advocacy of global feminism and her work championing women and girls.

The next step, many thought, would be to the White House where she would elevate her feminist foreign policy and join the ranks of a powerful, growing group of female leaders sweeping into office across Europe, Africa and Latin America. After all, 59 countries have already had a female head of state. All the polls indicated the US was next.

But then early Wednesday morning the climb to the top stopped.

As we digest the results, reactions from women leaders worldwide have poured in. Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany and Prime Minister Theresa May in the UK have tweeted out the customary formal congratulations for Trump.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Clinton friend, told the BBC she was “extremely saddened” by Trump’s victory, but would “give him the benefit of the doubt.” Canada’s first female prime minister, Kim Campbell, was less diplomatic, calling Trump’s victory a “disaster not just for Canada but for the world.” While the female leader of the far right French National Front, Marine Le Pen, tweeted a hearty “Congratulations… to the free American people!”

What about regular women? As a part of our project to bring more women’s voices into discussion of foreign policy, I asked women around the world for their reaction, and was surprised at how deeply connected many felt by the surprising defeat of Hillary Clinton, and the message it sent.

Egyptian feminist and author Mona Eltahawy stayed up all night to watch the returns from a sports bar in London. “We started out upbeat and confident, and the Brits said, ‘never say never,’ because of Brexit. Then Florida swung wildly and we were on a roller coaster heading down.”

I spoke with Eltahawy around 5 am UK time, just after Clinton had conceded. “It’s an awful day,” she said, wearily. Eltahawy drew parallels between the misogyny she heard coming from Trump and what she observed as a reporter in Egypt, where she was arrested and beaten.

“Never again can the US lecture us on extremism or misogyny or on how we should treat women. This election sends a message to women in Egypt and across the world that powerful men can sexually assault you and worse and still be elected president.”

There was similar shock in Mexico City, where filmmaker Natalia Bonilla lives. She says women are rethinking their perception that the US represents egalitarian ideals and freedom after the electorate displayed such chauvinism. Latin American countries are notorious for a culture of machismo, yet most have voted in female leaders.

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[Photo Credit: Brian Snyder/Reuters]
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