Something’s eating away at Hillary Rodham Clinton.

You can sense it in the way talks; now nearly two years removed from a US Presidential campaign that didn’t exactly pan out the way she’d planned.

Fronting some 5,500-odd at The Plenary last night on a bitterly cold Melbourne evening, you can’t help but get the sense that when she provides commentary on current US foreign policy (as astute, if not ever-so-slightly jingoistic as that commentary may be) it’s through profoundly gritted teeth.

Clinton is currently in the country for a pair of special An Evening with Hillary Rodham Clinton events, which concludes tonight in Sydney at the ICC Sydney Theatre in Darling Harbour.

Gritted teeth, however present they are right now, are a common theme of Clinton’s career; one that’s broken boundaries for women in US politics as quick as they were erected to box her in.

Last night’s talk, moderated by good friend and former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, covered a multitude of ground; foreign and domestic policy, Hillary’s early life and romance with Bill, through to a stern warning to Australia about resisting digital interference from foreign powers like China and Russia, the latter of whom she placed almost unequivocal blame for swinging her ultimately fruitless Presidential campaign against her.

But it’s when speaking of female representation in politics that Secretary Clinton comes alive, speaking with the kind of fierce clarity and pointedness that took her to the Democratic Presidential nomination.

Dotted throughout what otherwise teetered on the brink of being a meandering, toothless public discussion, HRC spoke in large, broad terms as she laid bare the issues plaguing women in politics; words that aren’t necessarily game-changing turns of phrase, buts ones that nonetheless feel resonant in her well-heard voice.

Secretary Clinton noted that “In the past, being a woman in politics, I’ve been pretty guarded in what I say… Those days are over,” a comment that carried a knowing nod towards Gillard, sitting no more than two feet away from her as the enraptured audience of ardent believers applauded dutifully.

Clinton offered analytical observations on the woman’s experience in politics, concisely framing what not just formal research, but anecdotal evidence has been saying for quite some time.

Women are seen favourably when we advocate for others, but are seen less favourably when we advocate for ourselves.

The only way we’ll get sexism out of politics is to put more women into politics.

[The voting public] is used to seeing men in these roles. [Women] are still breaking through.

The double standard is alive and well. There are expectations about women’s appearance that are deep in our DNA. When you are the only woman – or the first woman – doing something, there is no basis for comparison.

Astute too are her musings that undermining women on the basis of looks is not just an engrained trait of pig-headed men or a broken society, but a dedicated, caustic political tactic that has a batting average through the roof.

It’s a serious way of undermining women’s confidence. There is a big audience for that, I regret to tell you.

The easiest way to avoid looking at a woman on her merits is to dismiss her on her looks.

In many ways, the past 12 months have represented a period of pause for Clinton; withdrawing from public life to produce the book What Happened, despite all advice to the contrary. In Hillary’s words, it was “something that I had to do.”

But now, with looming elections in the US set for November that will shape the course of America for the back end of the Trump Presidential term (Clinton believes the Democrats need to wrest control of at least one of the Houses for America to balance itself back out), it seems likely that Hillary Rodham Clinton will again play a major part in shaping the course of American politics, for better or worse.

Whatever it is that’s eating away at her, it will not be excised quietly.

Folks in Sydney can catch An Evening with Hillary Clinton this evening, with the event scheduled to begin at 7:30pm. Ticket information can be found via this link.

Image: Getty Images / Robert Cianflone