Posted in: Feminism
Published on Mar 03, 2008 by Phyllis Chesler
My Column for Hillary
This column might offend or at least suprise many people, including myself. It is the column in which I urge those who live in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont to vote for Hillary Clinton in the upcoming primaries.
Thinking as an individual and on an issue by issue basis, as opposed to thinking as an ideologue or party member, ususally offends everyone. Changing one’s mind as a function of the historical moment also confuses people and leads to charges of “flip-flopping” or opportunism.
No, I am talking about myself, not about Hillary Clinton. But the observation applies to her as well.
We are at war and voting to defend ourselves is a prudent and responsible move; it is not a treacherous or “dumb macho” move. Hillary Clinton voted “for the war” and she was wise to do so at the time. Yes, perhaps we should have invaded Iran, the Pakistani tribal areas, and Saudi Arabia, not just Afghanistan and Iraq; perhaps the war against totalitarian barbarism is unwinnable by both military and educational means –although win we must or we are doomed; perhaps we should have sent more troops early on and equipped them more efficiently–but the “surge” now seems to be working. Let’s give Clinton credit for that.
Not all feminists oppose self-defense. On the contrary. Many of us pioneered a battered woman’s right to self-defense and a woman’s right to enter previously male-only fields, including that of the armed forces. It is true: Organized feminism has a lousy track record when it comes to supporting the military, including women in the military; many feminists supported only those military women who alleged rape or sexual harassment but not those military women who wanted to become career officers. Read Erin Solaro’s excellent book on this subject: “Women In The Line of Fire: What You Should Know About Women in the Military.”
Not all feminists view John McCain negatively because he is a genuine bona fide war hero –I certainly do not. His suffering on behalf of our country was heroic and what he did with his life afterwards in terms of public service has also been heroic. I have not yet studied his voting record and proposed policies in the domestic and foreign policy areas and will obviously do so but in the near future, not tommorrow. This is the historical moment in which registered Democratic Americans must choose between Clinton and Obama.
My son has done volunteer work for Clinton ’s campaign but he really “believes that the two Democratic contenders are “99% similar.” He has implored me not to sound too hysterical/polemical/”racist ” when I write about Obama. I think that my son is representative of many Americans who are between 18-30 and who “groove” to black rap, athletic, and entertainment stars and who may unconsciously view Obama similarly, as a “political” star. My son’s generation views such African-American stars as “sexy,” (never mind that such eroticized adoration might be another more disguised form of racism); my point is that young Americans take our hard-won feminist gains for granted. Women in power are not “sexy,” we’re kinda like Schoolmarms who may be right but who are…no fun.
This generation think they are politically correct about racism and feel that voting for someone because they are African-American (or because they are both white and African-American) is a “cool” or even redemptive thing to do. Here’s where I sigh. The young are always too young to recognize a cult in formation, too breathless, too optimistic to recognize the possible beginnings of fascism.
No, I am not saying that Obama is a fascist but that his cult-like following is ripe for the taking. Here’s where I agree with Herr Doktor Freud: Life itself is tragic. And this moment in history is essentially a tragic one too. Failing to understand this is a fatal flaw –our Achilles heel if you will.
Clinton, unlike Obama, is a known quantity. She has not waffled–at least not anymore than any independent thinker and politician is obliged to do. Clinton has worked very hard in the Senate and is very good on all the core domestic issues: women, children, education, health care, etc. She is unfairly hated–not because she is married to “that man;” and not because she has collaborated with him or at least profited from her husband’s corruption and abuse of power but because she is a woman who actually cares about women’s rights.
There, I’ve said it. ‘Tis true, the media (which if oft perceived as far too politically correct–and by me!) still remains sexist to the core. Yes, one can both walk and chew gum at the same time. Thus, the media has barely challenged Obama but has done nothing else but challenge Clinton. Often viciously. And non-stop.
But, most importantly: Not enough women are bonding to elect the first woman Presidential candidate who really has a chance to win. I have discussed all the possible reasons for why women sabotage each other or do not behave in team-like ways in both my 1998 book “Letters to a Young Feminist” and in my 2002 book “Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman.”
Feminists are also not bonding to elect Clinton. What began as a pro-peace and pro-Obama petition launched by Katha Pollitt of Nation magazine in New York City has gone national and attracted at least 1000 or more signatures. The signatures are very instructive. They belong to many women whom I know personally but whose politics have always been more Marxist or socialist than feminist. I and others have fought with them for at least 40 years because of this distinction. Many of the signatories are tenured and Distinguished Professors, celebrated artists, activists, authors, and politicians such as Kathleen Chalfant, Barbara Ehrenreich, Ronnie Eldridge, Mary Gordon, Marilyn Hacker, Alice Kessler Harris, Frances Kissling, Margaret Randall, Susan Sarandon–and many of the high profile feminist faculty at my old university, the City University of New York.
Of course, they have the absolute right to prefer and to campaign for Obama and I have the absolute right to do so for Clinton. It’s what makes our country great.
For those in the know: Please appreciate that I am actually in agreement with Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan on this one. (This does not mean that I agree with them on other issues, believe me).
As for tommorrow: May the best woman win! And then onward to the floor of the Democratic Convention and to the election itself.
This is Part One of a two-part series.
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