Clinton Campaign Faces Obstacles Along, Within Gender Lines

AUSTIN, Texas -- The most recent presidential polls show Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump practically in a dead heat.

Some say the greatest obstacle in Mrs. Clinton's campaign is the fact she's a woman.

"The idea of having the first female president, for me personally, is incredibly emotional," said UT doctoral student Emily Whalen.

Many feel the same way as Whalen. But recently, polls show that Hillary Clinton has struggled more than originally expected with women and younger voters.

Experts we spoke with say many of those struggles are a product of sexism in our society.

"She has to fit an attractive female stereotype, but she’s also not the stereotypical female figure in our society,” said UT history professor Jeremi Suri.

Suri attributes Clinton's campaign troubles in part to the fact that older women aren't traditionally seen in positions of power, and that, as a woman, Clinton has to be careful with what she says and how she says it.

"And male toughness, especially for an office like the presidency, comes across as being commanding, female toughness comes across as off-putting, nasty," said Suri.

Plus, he says being former President Bill Clinton's wife is, itself, a liability. 

"Bill Clinton’s philandering becomes more of a responsibility for the woman, for Hillary Clinton, than Donald Trump’s philandering does for Donald Trump," Suri said.

Both Suri and Whalen believe these gender challenges have been more difficult for Clinton to overcome than the racial challenges President Obama faced eight years ago.

"It is more kind of recognizable for us to see a black man in the spotlight than it is for us to see a white older woman, specifically an older woman,” said Whalen.

But as a young working woman, Whalen sees glimpses of the nominee in herself.

"And reflections of some of the decisions that we’ve had to make to get forward in our careers and to survive in a world that is still very much stacked against us as young women," said Whalen.

Perhaps it's those struggles, the ones that come with breaking barriers, that will help Secretary Clinton in the long run.