Saturday, January 26, 2008

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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Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the Clinton's seem hard on Barack, imagine what the Republicans could have in store for him.

Some Republicans admitted on the air that they had "crossed over" to vote for Barack. Why? Might he be perceived as the one more easily beatable?

I am a feminist for Hillary. She may not be perfect but she's come a long way, baby. She's the first and only women seriously in the race, ever.

She is tough enough, bright enough and will represent a position that is dear to my heart--a woman's point of view.

She is running for the presidency in her own right. Bill Clinton was not behind her decision to run. Just because she is married to Bill ought not be held against her either.

I dearly want to see him as First Mate. I hope that she will dump the Health Care conundrum on his shoulders first thing outta the chute, too. Perhaps he can come up with the idea of expanding Medicare to cover all Americans.

Frances Morey

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I post this note Bill Clinton is giving Hillary's concession speech in S. Carolina. Maybe she will speak as well, I'll check again later.

It appears that the voting process in S. Carolina didn't flip votes to come up with a close call -- and that's good. Possibly when there is a big sweep, like there has been today, the hacking programs aren't as effective -- are written in increments that are too small. Black Box voting will continue to be the best source for voting information. We'll post more about voting machines soon.

I am encouraged at one poll result -- of white people asked if they thought the Clinton campaign treated Obama disrespectfully -- 68% agreed. I think Americans may be tired of the "isms" driving us apart. I know I am.

As always -- I thank folks for their comments.



5:35 PM  
Blogger Charlie Loving said...

A Hillary and Bill ticket would please the GOP no end.

7:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note: A comment left by one of our readers was removed because it was based on mistaken identity. If that person wonders what happened to her comment, we took it off because the person she objected to isn't one of our writers.


6:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Obama can withstand the Clintons attacks he can withstand the republicans, too. One has to ask too if voting for Hillary isn't a vote for a 3rd term Bill Clinton presidency. She stands in the shadows as Bill Clinton overrides her. If per chance she does win, the electorate will discover they got a co-Presidency at best, if not Bill Clinton.

I've read so many comments across the net by women who seem intent on voting for Clinton because she is a woman without taking into consideration her judgment vs "experience."

Hillary lacks vision. Her decisions are carefully planned out prior to announcing them, but are usually ineffective. Experience outside Washington versus inside-Washington experience, the former is actually better for America. Obama has shown a maturity and respect in judgment that is nonexistent in the WH today.

He stood against the Iraq war since the beginning. Yes he's voted for funding, but how could he not fund the troops. In contrast Hillary initially voted for the Iraq invasion and every funding bill since without protest or objection. She claims that her vote for the AUMF was not a vote for war, but clearly that belies the fact she has continually supported and (while popular) cheered Bush's misadventure into the Middle-East.

Additionally Hillary voted for the Kyl-Lieberman bill. The bill, similar to the AUMF, although she disputes it, according to what I've read gives Bush almost carte blanche to attack Iran.

A day prior to the New Hampshire primary Hillary morphed into Bush! Citing the attacks in Spain and London as examples, Hillary asserted she has the "credentials" as the best equipped to handle terrorists attacks should that occur following the election. Neither her experiences nor her credentials support those claims. However it shows she will go to any length, at any cost to win, even if that means scaring voters into voting for her. Haven't we had enough of that!

Rovian tactics divided this country so any candidate willing to employ the same ruthlessness disqualifies him or her. IMHO. And after 7 years of the Bush administration's politics of fear the country is so ready for change.

Perpetuating false narratives and false impressions are not what progressives stand for. One e-mail in circulation suggesting Obama is Muslim is not true. Other emails regarding his religion likewise are false. Obama is a Christian. Other rumours say Obama [& Edwards] accept lobbyist money. Not true at least not to any substantial extent. On the other hand Hillary accepts more corporate-lobbyist money than the candidates combined.

Remarkably Obama is well aware of what needs to be done to move the nation forward: change the thinking. He says we need to change the mind-set that got us into war, in the first place (vital for success). We have other options than the military, but Cheney & Bush worked diligently to cement into the public-thinking that using military aggression is the only option.

A public tired of the war, tired of the politics of fear, has an opportunity to put the genie back in the bottle. It is a step toward correcting the nightmare Bush and Cheney created when they opened Pandora's box. America has been fractured for far too long under the Bush administration. I suspect it will continue if Hillary is elected. At no fault of hers the right-wing attack machine is armed and ready. Thus putting the country through years of the rancor and belligerence again.

Obama's message resonates. He exhibits leadership qualities by bringing together people of all stripes. Moreover he is not just talk, Obama is a man of conviction. He has fought for people's rights as a civil rights attorney and as a Constitutional professor. Organizing poor neighbourhoods, taking on genocide in Darfur and opposing the war in Iraq -- even when it was unpopular -- demonstrate Obama is a man who acts on his convictions, who cares about people and who thinks deeply about the issues. He proved his mettle. Obama has the desire and yearning to lead, given the chance.

The nation's choice: the politics of fear or the politics of hope -- a different path or stay the course sure to last a generation at the very least is up to you.

If we are to ever move forward, vote not out of fear, but vote for your aspirations.

Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton and Clinton.

Hopefully American voters will come to their senses and vote for someone fresh and new, preferably Obama. After all we are not a monarchy.

So much for feminism.

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm inspired today hearing Ted Kennedy, Caroline and Patrick Kennedy pass the torch to Obama, and his words at the American Univ in DC and after the St. of the Un Sp were also inspiring -- food for the political heart of America.

Thanks for yr comments.

re. So much for feminism. Mary Wolstonecraft Shelley first wrote about the relationship between men and women using the word. To her it meant that men and women should be equal in marriage and that women, who weren't usually educated, or if they were educated were taught manners not ideas, history,etc. -- should be educated also equally to men.

She also wrote in support of the French Revolution -- a tract basically ripped off by Thomas Paine. I'll do a post about her. Feminism has grown to be, in my world, a healthy and encouraging approach to life on earth.

More to come.


8:06 PM  

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