When I was an undergraduate, there was a young man in the English department, another student, who was a bit of a jerk. I remember one March day when he was complaining about the women’s history activities on campus, and he said, “We have black history month, and we have women’s history month. When are we going to have White Men’s History Month?” I reacted to this query in much the same way that I reacted to everything Andy had to say—with a sneer and a snort. “Every month is white men’s history month. Have you ever taken a history or literature class?” He didn’t like me very much.
A couple of weeks ago—after the Texas primaries—Julie asked me to write about why I had decided to support Hillary Clinton and become a delegate for her. Obviously, I haven’t done so yet. Indeed, I find it difficult to continue my support in the face of so much negative campaigning. Of course, I have obligated myself to be a delegate and to support Senator Clinton, so clarifying my reasons for supporting her is a good idea.
I am a second wave feminist who came of age during the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment. When I was twelve years old, I subscribed to two magazines: American Girl (the Girl Scouts’ monthly) and Ms. (My mother thought it was the perfect expression of adolescence.) I cut my teeth on the early writings of Gloria Steinem, Alice Walker, and Robin Morgan. I came out as a lesbian in 1980 at a National Organization of Women conference. As it was years before my first sexual encounter with a woman, you might well say that my coming out was as much a political act as it was a response to the crush I had on Sharon.
For much of my adult life I have identified as a radical feminist.
And so, the opportunity to vote for a woman as president is no small thing for me.
Even so, I originally supported John Edwards for president, and I was torn when it came to choosing between Senators Clinton and Obama. I like to think that I have grown beyond thinking of gender as the defining issue of our times. That is, until I witnessed the gross and blatant misogyny of my students and the internet campaign against Senator Clinton.
Let us tell the truth. In the fourteenth century, women made sixty cents to a man’s dollar. What does she earn now? Sixty-nine cents? Seventy? In the nineteenth century, many of our great writers were dealing with the fact that marriage, while ideally a wonderful institution, is often a burden on women. In the twenty-first century, most women work outside the home, giving them the illusion of freedom, but they are also the keepers of the home. It is their responsibility to care for the home and children. As a result, most women work two jobs. The institution of marriage is still not a democratic institution for most families.
And it is more acceptable to hate women than it is to hate African Americans. Not that we don’t hate African Americans—we just can’t say so.
In the furor over Sen. Obama’s pastor, I realized that, although I wouldn’t put it in quite the same way, I agree with much of what he said. I don’t think white America created AIDs as a way to kill African Americans, but I can remember thinking that it was a mighty convenient way to kill gays. A little paranoia is difficult to avoid when the really are out to get you. I really appreciated Obama’s speech yesterday. I wish Senator Clinton would address gender issues as well. And mostly, I wish they both would address issues of class and poverty. Because the truth is that gender isn’t the central issue, and race isn’t the central issue: the central issue is the fear of the other.
Both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama would work to bring about social change that would benefit our country. Simply offering health care to the poor and the working poor would be a huge change for the better. I will happily vote for either of them in the Fall.
I remember when Geraldine Ferraro was running for vice president and someone asked my mother if she would honestly vote for someone simply because she was a woman. “Damn Right!” mama replied. I remember when I first got auto insurance from my adjuster, and she was shocked that I had picked her name out of the yellow pages simply because she was a woman.
I am a feminist.
And, as shallow as others may think it, I must support the female business woman, the female candidate, if I can. Certainly I would not support a business woman who was shoddy or dishonest, and I would not support a female candidate who held a position I considered reprehensible. Fortunately, I do not have that problem today. I believe that Senator Clinton is a decent person with good values and ideas. And so, I support her.