Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Guest column: How is Hillary a feminist?

by Dorothy Cole

Okay, here is my obligatory disclaimer. I don't dislike, let alone hate, Hillary Clinton. I didn't vote for her husband, but that was because I preferred the men he ran against. I am after all a moderate-to-liberal Republican. Yes, Ann and Rush don't want you to know this, but we exist. Although I never went out of my way to watch or listen to her either as first lady, senator from a state I don't live in, or presidential candidate, I found her intelligent, sympathetic and dryly funny, if somewhat unimaginative.

Her background is similar to my own, although she followed most of the rules that I did not, like doing her homework and graduating from college in four years instead of staying up late drinking, and attending a prestigious law school instead of working at a series of poorly paid jobs. Then again, she has to borrow anecdotes about employment and housing insecurity from others, while I have got plenty of good stories of my own. I'm not saying she doesn't know how it feels to be poor, but I bet she never had to decide whether to buy groceries, put gas in her car or pay for her daughter's school field trip.

Whether I like her or not, though, isn't the point. What I want to know is, how did Hillary Clinton become the standard-bearer for feminists? I'm sorry, but that is sort of like saying the two doubting Thomases -- Thomas Sowell and Clarence Thomas -- are the natural heroes of civil rights. After all, they are black. Excuse me, African-American.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is a woman, and she may well espouse a genuinely feminist view of life. If so, she hasn't acted on that view. There is no point in her biography where she gave anything up in order to be true to her feminist ideals. Quite the contrary. She made the choice years ago to put her own aspirations on hold in order to marry a man she really loved and help him attain his hopes. There was nothing wrong with that choice. Feminists who came before her helped clear the way for it. Her husband's successes, in which she was clearly and closely involved, enabled her to pursue a career of her own. She never had to put a roof over her head or quit a job to be there for her daughter. That's all fine.

Clinton may well be qualified to be president of the United States. I'm not sure she is any better qualified than my congresswoman, Heather Wilson, who served as an Air Force officer and held positions of authority in state government before being elected to congress as a moderate Republican. Wilson's career has certainly never depended on her husband; I'm not even sure what his name is or what he does for a living. I have never heard her call herself a feminist, and she faces a tough fight every other year to be re-elected in a state and a district that is by no means solidly Republican. In other words, she'd use it if she thought it would help.

To be fair, I've never heard Clinton call herself a feminist either. That's left to people like Gloria Steinem and Erica Jong, who have now used up any shred of credibility they had to argue -- what? That women who vote for Obama, or God forbid McCain, have no self respect? That those who choose to vote differently want to hold back all members of our gender? Give me a break. I know plenty of women who voted for Clinton in the primary because they agreed with her positions on the issues. I'm sure some if not all of them were also influenced by her being a woman. Sure, it's a factor, but only one factor.

I don't agree with her positions on the issues, and I don't think she has the mental and emotional flexibility to be a good president. There are women out there who do possess the flexibility and imagination to be leaders of the free world, like Patricia Schroeder and Janet Napolitano, and there are men who do not, most notably George W. Bush. That's my choice; it's an informed choice and it has nothing to do with gender. I know all about painful choices, having voted for Al Gore in 2000, enthusiastically, and for John Kerry in 2004, reluctantly. Others are free to choose differently, and I will not accuse them of betraying any group they belong to by birth or by background.

One more thing. If Hillary Clinton's campaign had been based on a true and honest assessment of her life story, she might have lost the votes of the knee-jerk identity mongers. But we will never know how many eventual Obama supporters she could have won over if she'd said the following: "I stood to the side for years while ideologues and other unreasonable men made decisions that weren't good for the country. It's my turn now, and I'm finally getting the opportunity to implement the real solutions that the men never had the courage to try." Instead, she ran as a version of the woman-behind-the-man, on unverifiable stories of her experience as co-governor and co-president with her husband.

Where is the feminism in that story?


Danielle said...

Well written - your point is jolting!

Anonymous said...

Hill is a feminist because El Rushbo says so. Everybody knows that, Dennis.

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