One Feminist’s Perspective on the 2008 Election

By all rights, I should be a Hillary Clinton supporter. I’m white, in my late 30’s, mother of two, educated, pro-choice, and was, up until recently, a member of EMILY’s List. I’m a soccer Mom, happily married, and live just about an hour south of DC. If forced, I declare myself Protestant, though I’m not a Sunday church go-er and consider myself more spiritual than religious. I was raised to believe that there is nothing a woman can’t do and since I heard the word, I have categorized myself as a feminist.
When it became clear (and honestly, when wasn’t it?) that Mrs. Clinton was going to run for President, I knew that I would support her. Come on, a woman as leader of the free world? What woman-like-me wouldn’t go for that? My knee jerk reaction was, “Go, Hillary!” But there was something niggling at the back of my mind.
I hate to go backwards. I detest the idea that people running for President aren’t allowed the mistakes of their pasts. And yet there are certain mistakes that belie candidates’ internal compasses and these mistakes, I believe, are fair game. With Mrs. Clinton, her conduct during her husband’s pecadillos is, for me, one of these watershed moments.

As arguably one of the most visible women in the world, Hillary Clinton had a choice when Bill screwed around. She could stand up for herself and, by extension, women around the world or she could stand by her man and essentially prove that women deserve to be treated with little or no respect. She chose the latter and sent a message to men everywhere that they could screw around and to their women that we have to take it and not only shut up, but vehemently defend them.

Several feminists and feminist organizations have looked past Mrs. Clinton’s stand-by-your man example and into an endorsement of her campaign. I love that they looked past this traditional, “shut up and take it for the the good of the marriage” role, championed her as a feminist, as Gloria Steinem has done on the New York Times Op Ed page, and then refused to cry foul when Mrs. Clinton essentially won New Hampshire because she got weepy when discussing how hard it is to have perfect hair and stay perky on the campaign trail. In fact, when writing in the New York Times on January 8, Ms. Steinem made the case that, “. . . Hillary Clinton could (not) have used Mr. Obama’s public style – or Bill Clinton’s either – without being considered too emotional by Washington pundits.” It is convenient to be able to make such a comment in print and then overlook the national hubbub over the “mist” that won New Hampshire.

My point here, of course, is that championing Mrs. Clinton as a feminist and then overlooking such blatantly un-feminist actions is, at best, hypocritical. I can hear the old guard now, scolding me because I didn’t live through the 60’s and was only a babe in the 70’s when they were fighting for the equal rights I now enjoy. While I appreciate their vision, I think it has left them with blinders. My point is that we shouldn’t support the wrong woman just because she is the only one running.

When I went shopping for a new feminist candidate, I found Barack Obama. Coincidentally, he has also been called a feminist by Gloria Steinem on the OpEd page of the New York Times. He has a stellar record on reproductive rights issues; a plan for addressing math and science education, which is an area of concern for girls; an economic plan with focuses on expanding child care tax credits, providing a living wage, and job training; and a platform of promoting responsible fatherhood.

So, thanks Gloria, et al., for your input, but I’ll be voting for Barack in my state’s primary. He’s one man I can both stand by and endorse.

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