Recently, my seven-daughter asked me why I wasn’t supporting Hillary Clinton. I explained it was a primary vote, and right now I choose Bernie Sanders because I like his message more than Hillary. My daughter kind of understood but then unequivocally told me she backs Hillary because she wants to see a woman as President. I told her that was a good reason, and I want to see that too. I also promised her if Hillary won the primary I’d vote for her, and we’d both go to the polling place together. She started making Hillary campaign posters and posted them around the house. She even made one for our cat and proclaimed feline allegiance to Hillary! Even though the cat had no choice in the matter, I didn’t worry about influencing my daughter’s (and kitty’s) vote because her reasoning was as sound as many other adult women. Plus, I got a kick out of the fact that she came to her own conclusions. That’s all I want for my girl, to use her mind, speak up and remain confident. Apparently, the poor cat is going to have to go along with her owner!
What I didn’t tell her is that I don’t find Hillary Clinton very inspiring, anymore. There was a time, way back in the 90’s, when I watched the First Lady of the United States fight tooth and nail for health care reform. I was an unemployed, dropout, living a textbook Generation X slacker lifestyle. It was a drab, low-energy, uninspiring time. But there she was a lone woman, at a table, sparring with senators ready to take her down. I related, I too felt the men in my life were taking me down. I tried to one up them, playing pool, smoking cigarettes, wearing combat boots and overalls. I didn’t like being told I couldn’t do something because I was a woman. If I was, I tried to be better than a man, even if it was a loser’s cause. And so Hillary became an inspiration, she was fighting for healthcare for all, and was emotional, transformational, and well-versed. She had answers for everything, and the men came off as hysterical and combative. All in all, I thought she rocked!
I still reflect upon this memory of Hillary and I know there is still a part of her that remembers this time. Obviously, she has skill, tact, and political prowess. She can think on her feet, with intelligence, steely composure and book smarts. But, Hillary doesn’t move me anymore, she doesn’t speak my language or inspire confidence. I do hesitate to write this because I’m aware that as a woman running for President of the United States she is getting a special dose of sexist treatment from the media, in stupid memes, and of course from her opponents. I don’t think some of the criticism lobbed against her time and again is totally legitimate, for example having to explain her husband’s illicit behaviors. But I do believe that she should be brought to task for some questionable activities in her long political history. It’s also not fair for her to call foul when she is criticized, especially since she and her surrogates play a nasty game of insidious political takedowns. She is no longer the newcomer, the wife of the President taking on a cause that was really a side project. Now she has created her own political legacy and she should be held to that record. I am not a fan of her corporate ties and her interventionist and harmful foreign policy that ally with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Yes, the cynical point of view is that all politicians are bought out by corporations, court lobbying groups and shake hands with despots and corrupt rulers abroad. Just because everyone does it, shouldn’t invalidate concern. I felt this way eight years ago and as time has passed and more evidence has been brought out, it’s evident she owes political favors that conflict with her ever-changing campaign message. And finally, I would have been inspired to support the first woman in the Oval Office if she had less baggage than Hillary. Despite the efforts of Hillary’s cronies to paint all criticism of her as misogynistic and sexist, I think it’s a fair assessment that she does have a pretty thorny background.
More importantly, I don’t believe her trickle down feminism will benefit women as much as she’d like us to believe. I’ve heard her say something like “we deserve to show our daughters that they can become anything they want even the President of the United States of America.” But there is so much more our daughters deserve to see! If girls want to be anything they want they deserve equal access to quality public education, beginning in early childhood through high school in particular. Girls deserve to have access to women’s health and progressive sexual education. Girls deserve justice when they are raped, molested and assaulted and not discredited, blamed for being too sexy, or drunk. Girls deserve to date boys that are also educated about consent and respect for their bodies. Girls deserve to be called on in class. Girls deserve to be bossy, smart, intelligent without impacting their confidence. Girls deserve to live in a country that is safe from guns, terrorism, and war. And while girls deserve to see more women in leadership, I also believe that girls deserve to see women in a variety of roles. We need to honor the hard work of the invisible and not just worship the visible and elite achievements of women in office, or movies, or music, or social media.
And I know, Hillary thinks she deserves to be President and I can see why, but for me this is not reason enough. There are a lot of women that deserve more than they have right now, and they don’t have the power or voice to ever be heard. Hillary often says, “I will fight for your support, I will do what it takes.” But she supports the continuation of economic policies that make it difficult for working families to get ahead. I know Hillary is endorsed by Planned Parenthood, but here again, I don’t feel that gets to the root of the issues that face all women. We know that economic inequality impact women’s day to day lives more than ever. The change that needs to take place starts here and I believe that reforming our economic policies will do more improve women’s health, education, and careers. Focusing on Planned Parenthood and abortion rights is only looking at a symptom but not addressing the root causes, it’s an aid, not a solution.
I wish I could say all of this to my daughter and maybe I will just rant to the kitty one afternoon! I know one day my intelligent child will make her own connections. After all, the arc of history changes perspective doesn’t it? Perhaps the feminist inspiration that I seek, where women in leadership display integrity, vulnerability, softness, and inclusion will become the norm for my daughter’s generation. Because right now, what is missing for me, is there isn’t enough respect for the true power of womanhood. I want to see women celebrate feminity, not as a reaction to stereotypes created by men, but forging our own identities. We are mothers, sisters, daughters, and we give life, nurture change, nudge our husbands, brothers, sons and fathers to do more. Luckily, I do see more of this message on the horizon. And while we may see a woman break the glass ceiling in DC, the real change is happening in our homes, communities and workplaces. A female President that still plays by the old rules and propels foreign and domestic policies that don’t protect our interests as a nation is just a symbolic gesture. But don’t tell my cat, she still thinks its cool to see a lady as President.