"I am playing with myself,
I am playing with the world's soul,
I am the dialogue between myself and el espiritu del mundo.
I change myself, I change the world."

Gloria AnzaldĂșa

19 March, 2008

Why Hillary?

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.

22 comments:

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Well said.

a. beaverhausen said...

I think you've said this beautifully. And without trying to sound like a "fence sitting" idiot who can't make up her mind I have to say that I really like both candidates. I think our party is blessed in this respect because we really have an embarrassment of riches with regard to political possibilities for change. I would be fine with seeing either Obama or Clinton in the White House. I seesaw back and forth, but I confess to landing on the Obama side for the simple fact that he seems to scare the Republicans more. And that fear is key to our victory. At least...for me.

Ginaagain said...

Thank you for such a well thought out and beautifully stated post. I don't think your position is shallow at all. In fact, I think this country would be better off if the good people, the principled and honest people, would not be swayed by the propagana of those who are concerned only with assuring that their candidate will win the election. They happily call our integrity into question, leaning on our insecurities (Am I so shallow that I'm voting for this candidate simply because they are female or black or just not Republican?) If they can create moral conflict then fewer people will even bother to vote. Look how well it worked in the last two elections.

Cheri said...

Wow. That is so well said, so beautifully written. I am right where you are, and there are so many parallels in our lives as to how we both got there. I too pick doctors, dentists, lawyers, recently a car sales person, and the like because that's what women do, they support each other, and because I always wanted to expose my daughters to women in these roles. I want my girls to know that their choices are limitless. Having said that, I also want them to know that as I challenged "the system" when, where, and how I could, the baton passes to them to do it too. I don't want them earning $.69 for every dollar their male counterparts earn. Thanks for making me think. I'm working on a post for my blog and I will link back to this post on yours. It might be my favorite one ever. Brava!

Mrs. G. said...

You shallow? I think not.

K. said...

That was amazing. And, yes. And thank you SO much.

we_be_toys said...

Nicely articulated, and basically, we are on the same page. I will vote for either of them with equal confidence, but I DO wish they could stop flinging mud at each other and pay more attention to McCain, who's going to beat them both if they don't cut it out.
Ai! Politicians!

Pearl C. Pritchard said...

Thanks Prof. J.

Fear of the other and issues of class and poverty. Indeed.

I'm not sure Americans are ready for that message.

I hope that we can bring about the change now that the neocons have succeeded in destroying the country. Oh wait... was that Bill Clinton's fault?

JCK said...

I love women who are not afraid to call themselves feminists! This was a well written post, Professor J! Right there with you!

Sojourner said...

YEAH! That's my comment. Very well said, sister! (A humorous aside here: if you came out at a NOW conference in '80, it was not years til your first sexual experience with a woman- I don't think I was the first and we were 1981.)
Anyway- all that you said is very pertinent and woman I wish the candidates would be so forthright about these issues! Thank you!

Jozet at Halushki said...

Thank you for that.

Just...thank you.

Can I...uh...can I just...

oooooo <-- hugs

Sorry, I don't usually hug on the Internet.

Motherhood for Dummies said...

It is hard beacuse I would love to have a black president or a woman president, but I also want one that is qualified. So I don't know who I want. But I have to admit that our country has come a great distance when a black, woman, and mormon can run and have a chance. Though the mormon did get some bigot remarks, but as a whole our country has come pretty far and that alone makes me proud.

Claire B. said...

You, my friend, have simply brought me to tears, right here, in my kitchen at 6:35 on a Sunday evening in spring.

I am a feminist. I support, promote, vote for and stand behind women whenever possible--and sometimes when it doesn't even make sense. But it is a natural, heartfelt feeling that I cannot argue with. And consciously I'm trying to do my part to make up for years and decades and centuries and eons of male dominance in every aspect of human existence. Not that that has always been a bad thing--ahem.

I completely understand your views. About women's struggles. About AIDS. About health care. And about supporting the female candidate because you are a feminist. Race/gender issues are at the forefront of this race, and American politics, like NEVER before and we have to sort ourselves out accordingly. I submit that most feminists, by nature and definition, are champions of the oppressed, whatever gender, race, or religion they happen to be.

One of my (seven) brothers is supporting Hillary for many reasons (he's a New Yorker) but my favorite is because he "can't wait to see the ultra right-wing's heads collectively explode."

And my reply to that guy's question about White Man's History Month would not have been nearly as kind as yours. I'm thinking more along the lines of, "Are you f#&*ing kidding me?"

I heart your mama, rest her soul. And I totally heart you tonight, Professor J. What a f#&*ing great post! You rock.

Julie Pippert said...

THANK YOU!

This is a fantastic exposition of why you---why women---can validly support Hillary and consider her gender as a factor.

So well stated.

THANK YOU!!

Kim@Religiarchy said...

As I said over at Momocrats, I can't imagine a bigger "change" to U.S. politics than putting a woman at its helm.

Nice to find your blog.

PunditMom said...

Not shallow at all. While I certainly want qualified women to be insurance adjusters or doctors or mechanics or real estate agents -- or politicians -- there does come a time when women have to say, "I'll stand with the woman."

Many, many men make that same gender calculation every day -- I'll ask the male junior associate to be on my team instead of the female, I'll vote for the male candidate, and I'll choose the guy accountant. On some level, we can't help ourselves -- we choose what we're comfortable and familiar with. I, too, was an Edwards supporter first. But I also have to go with Hillary on this one -- if she can last.

As my eight-year-old daughter has said many times during this race, "Mamma, if the girls haven't had a turn yet, I think it's only fair for them to have a turn now -- or two or three turns." I can't disagree with her.

Family Adventure said...

I'm late to the party here...and I'm not even voting in your election...but even all the way over in Europe, the treatment of Clinton has raised eyebrows. I keep telling my husband that women in American owe Clinton a huge thank you for trailblazing the path for the next female candidates.

The things she's had to put up with during this campaign would be enough to make most women run for cover. And yet she perseveres.

I, too, hope she wins (though I am starting to get worried)...because I think she's proven herself in the past to be a capable person with the right values. Because I know she won't fold at the first sign of trouble - goodness knows she's proven that over and over again during the last few months. And, finally, because she is a woman!

Heidi

MamaBird said...

This is so well said. It is unbelievable the vitriol people feel perfectly acceptable lobbing at HRC. I was an Edwards, then Obama voter, and my headstrong 4yo daughter? An HRC loyalist. Why? I oversimplified and said that HRC was for children and health care, and BO was against homelessness and poverty. She says, "Hillary cares about children and I am a child."

Irish Goddess said...

Yea!!!!!!!!!!! I am cheering out loud at home. This is my favorite post ever. Thank you! I love radical feminists. :)

Organic Mama said...

Beautifully articulated. As a mother to two daughters who question the ways the two senators have conducted their campaigns, I am consistently questioning the way this race is being run. While I respect Sen. Obama, I don't think he is the best person for the job: I WANT HRC to win. I also asked myself if I was, to quote the ridiculous comment Fran Drescher made on Larry King, voting with my vagina. Nope, thinking with my mind, my heart and my hope that her turn at the helm will prove beneficial to the entire bloody nation and beyond.

Robin said...

Why Hillary? When was this site created? I have my own "why hillary?" Check it out at myspace.com/robinselby

Ophelia Rising said...

Bravo!

Here's to the hope that someday the powerful woman won't be taken as a "bitch" - but, simply as a heroine.