A Feminist Take on Hillary
During Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign I didn't buy the idea of a "feminist first lady.” I thought, and said then, if Hillary were a feminist she run for President herself. So I should be behind her 100% now. Right? Wrong.
I liked the work she did to try to get health care reform, and her speech at the Bejing World Women’s Conference was exceptional. I heard her speak in Austin, a typical stump speech, cardboard, didn’t buy the thousand dollar opportunity to speak to her backstage.
I paid attention to the Whitewater Savings & Loans scandal (hardest hit in this were seniors whose life savings disappeared).
Let’s look at the Clinton years, which she claims as her own political experience. Bill Clinton allowed weekly bombing raids on Iraq and continued sanctions which killed hundreds of thousands of people, mostly children. In the name of economic responsibility, he made cuts in social programs that help US children and women on welfare. He failed to act in Rwanda allowing a horrific bloodbath which the United States might have helped stop. His legacy is mixed at best. The economy was good, but he initiated NAFTA, which started the end of American jobs, exploitation of foreign workers and environmental devastation.
People are missing something important here. Bill Clinton held the office of President of the United States.
Hillary Clinton was the first lady. She now claims those years as “experience” which will make her able, from “day one” to function as president. This experience may prepare her to, from day one, to be a First Lady, but not Commander in Chief.
As a feminist, that is important to me. It is dishonest to claim a spouse’s achievement for your own, a husband’s power as your power. That is one of the basic tenants of the feminism I embrace and it offends me every time I hear her claim Bill’s time in office as her experience.
Yesterday’s Truthout article by Scott Galindez, “Obama vs. Billary,” named the phenomenon.
Since I began feminist work in the early 70s in New Haven, CT, with the now famous New Haven Women’s Center, my understanding of the women’s movement has changed and grown almost daily.
But I have never abandoned that first insight — that women are not part of a man’s being, psyche, world. We are individual, free-standing beings.
My husband can build an entire house beginning with a pile of sticks on the ground. Either of my sons can accomplish a break job on a car in minutes. I cannot. It would fool hearted for one to hire me to build a house, or fix the brakes on their car. If I said I could do either based on the experience of my husband and sons, I would be lying.
As a feminist another aspect of the Clinton campaign bothers me enormously. Because of comments both Bill and Hillary have made, race and gender are now huge playing cards. The media is obsessed with them. It should work for her, so the play book goes, because if women go for Hillary and Blacks for Obama – demographics give us numbers like this: 50%+ people in the United States are woman, 10% or so are black (men and women both).
Swiftboaters are already smearing Obama with every sort of ridiculous lie. Clintons are silent. And the news media has from day one, coronated Hillary to be the Democratic winner. Why? I think it's because Republicans want to run against her. That said, is it a coincidence that the exit polls in New Hampshire were flipped by the actual "vote?" Will it happen again in S. Carolina today?
As a feminist, I see women’s movement in the context of other movements for justice. Women and people of color must work together to change the negative lock all the “isms” have on our lives. The Clinton strategy to marginalize Obama as the Black candidate, then split the Black vote with the progressive Southern card, to ask for women’s solidarity and to court the Latino vote is divisive of a coalition which I think it is good for America.
I think it does matter how one wins.
It’s not enough to elect a woman if you want to advance the status of women in the world. Thatcher showed us that. Nancy Pelosi is giving us a refresher course. We need an enlightened woman, free of corporate strings, separate from a political machine, an independent thinker, person, being -- not one who claims her husband's experience as her own.
A friend sent me this video by Walt Handelsman which sets a much lighter tone to my problems with the Clinton campaign than they probably deserve. I don't think they will be good for America, or for the world. You have to click off our site to see it. The YouTube piece here is from Black Box Voting.
©Susan Bright 2008
Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.
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