America, we need to talk about sexism.

It’s fashionable not to, of course. For this entire presidential race, the media and the American public have acted as though the potential election of the first ever female president of the United States wasn’t a big story. Hillary Clinton’s gender wasn’t an issue, except when she was “playing the gender card” by appealing to women voters or chastising Donald Trump for his misogynist rhetoric. So busy was the world branding her as the face of establishment, of the Washington elite, that the 240-year-old boundary she was attempting to break was hardly mentioned.

But it matters.

There is no shortage of theories about the cause of Trump’s shock victory. Backlash against globalisation that has left too many behind. Anxiety over the pace of immigration and the changing shape of American society. Frustration at “political correctness”. Enthusiasm for reality TV style politics. Anger at Washington’s out-of-touch disengagement with ordinary Americans. Revenge for eight years of Obama. A swell of support for third-party candidates. The WikiLeaks release of hacked e-mails that show the inner-workings of the Democratic party. The FBI’s interference eleven days before the election. All of them are important and played some role in this morning’s result, to a greater or lesser extent.

But this election was also a referendum on diversity, on minorities, and on the apparently controversial premise that a woman can be as good as a man. Yesterday, America voted that she couldn’t. A hyper-qualified woman was rejected in favour of a demonstrably unqualified man. And nobody wants to admit it.

This blindness about such a blatant double standard was played out countless times during this election. Clinton was routinely criticised for seeming “disingenuous”, while Trump’s litany of lies – he once uttered 37 falsehoods in a single day – was ignored or forgotten. Clinton’s detailed and expansive policy proposals barely got a mention, while Trump was able to get away with empty one-liners such as “Mosul is so sad”. Clinton’s decades of experience as a lawyer, a Senator, and Secretary of State were chalked up as irrelevant compared to Trump’s history of mismanaging businesses and going bankrupt. Clinton was labelled “uninspiring”, while Trump was given free reign to alienate and attack every minority demographic group – women, Hispanics, Muslims, immigrants, African Americans, the disabled. Clinton was accused of acting “entitled”, when Trump literally refused to commit to honouring the result of the election and claimed it was “rigged” against him.

And that’s before we even mention the fact that a female candidate who has spent her life advocating for women’s rights – healthcare, equal pay, family protections – was defeated by a man who has bragged about being a sexual predator and faces pending lawsuits for sexual harassment and assault.

Trump called Clinton a “nasty woman” on national TV and the country didn’t even blink.

Hillary Clinton did not lose purely because she is a woman. But her campaign played out in a way that would have been inconceivable had she been a man.

The fact is, America has a problem with ambitious women, with outspoken women, with women who put themselves forward and dare to argue that they are as capable as the men around them. So while what the country needs now is to come together and heal, to look at the divisions caused by globalisation and rethink the workings of the political establishment, it also needs to be honest about why so many voters were so uncomfortable about the prospect of a female leader, even one who outstripped her rival’s abilities on every conceivable metric.

Your move, America.