I eagerly welcome respectful discussion of the ideas I raise in this post. I truly do. But please be warned, if your comment is sarcastic, snarky, mean-spirited or filled with hate speech, I’ll take it down. There are plenty of other places online to get into name-calling and shallow fights.
I have been avoiding writing this blog post for a long time. I want it to be perfect. I want to harness all the right facts and figures and examples. But I keep seeing people sharing things on social media that I want to address but can’t in 140 words or less, so I finally decided, I’m just writing this, accepting that it will not be perfect, and hoping it contributes to the current discussion about the election in a meaningful way.
Let me get one thing out of the way upfront: I do not believe that all women “should” vote for Hillary. I wish they would, yes, very much, but I accept that there are valid reasons for choosing not to do so.
I do not believe that you are a “bad feminist” if you vote for Bernie. The whole point of feminism is that women should have all the rights that men have, and certainly, obviously, that includes the right to make up your own mind. We feminists are not a herd, or an army, we are individuals, each with our own set of life experiences and values and priorities and blah blah blah. You get the point. Vote your conscience, vote your ideals, vote your agenda.
You do not need my permission, clearly, and my intention is not to try to give it to you (I am imagining myself as some sort of absurd gatekeeper: “Yes, you may vote for Bernie. You! You may NOT vote for Bernie!”). My point is simply: Please, as you read this blog post, take my word that I have no interest in making you feel bad for supporting Bernie or heck, even the Green Party (yes, “even” them). I happen to be married to an ardent Bernie supporter who is also the person I respect most in this world. We have been having a very passionate yet very respectful debate these past few weeks, and while I wish he would change his mind, I respect his position deeply. And I respect my women friends who are ardent Bernie supporters. I respect anyone who takes the time to research the candidates thoughtfully, and who plans to cast a thoughtful vote.
I am voting for Hillary not because (as some Bernie supporters have suggested must be true of all in the HRC camp) I am a cynical coward or moneyed interest who doesn’t believe that the purity of Bernie’s platform is possible. Bernie’s platform might be pure. It might be possible. But I want Hillary.
I want Hillary because I think she is supremely qualified to be President of the United States, and because I cannot think of anything more powerful to the cause of gender equality than having a supremely qualified, competent woman President — which I think she’d be.
The deck is stacked so high against women in this country and across the globe. I’m not just talking about things like salary inequality (which is outrageous); I’m not even “just” talking about how the U.S. lags behind dozens of other countries (including some in the developing world) when it comes to the number of women leaders in Congress and elsewhere. I’m talking, too, about how, according to the UN, 1 out of every 3 women is a victim of violence, mostly at the hand of an intimate partner. Think about what this means about how many women you know who have been assaulted, sexually or otherwise. Maybe you have been assaulted. I haven’t been. I am one of the lucky ones. It shouldn’t be a matter of profound luck to be able to say that I’ve never been assaulted by a man.
Just as it warms my heart and fills me with hope (the same hope many Bernie supporters feel, at the thought of someone representing their values and ideals in the White House) to think of black children all over this country, black boys especially, who are demonized simply for the color of their skin and the hoodies they wear — to think of them growing up with Barack Obama as their president, just as that warms my heart, I want little girls everywhere who are assaulted from such an early age not just with the kind of violence I mentioned above, but also with gender stereotypes (in their dolls, their media, the messages the adults in their lives reinforce to them), to look up at the TV and see the President and have it be a woman. For that to be completely normal. And for that to register deep inside them as they make sense of the world and of their place within it.
And I know, that just as President Obama hasn’t ended (by any stretch) the outrageous injustice that black boys and men face, President H. Clinton wouldn’t singlehandedly end the outrageous injustice that women and girls of all backgrounds face. But the impact, the imprint, on what girls consider possible, even as they confront violence and injustice, would be profound.
“Oh, so, would you vote for Carly Fiorina??”, people have asked me, and the answer is, of course not. Nor would I vote for Sarah Palin (I’d sooner vote for Tina Fey, or, say, Tina-and-Amy — yes! There’s a ticket I could get behind). So no, I am not voting for Hillary simply by virtue of her being a woman. When I look at Hillary’s record, I am impressed. She has been fighting for women and children since the earliest stage of her career. She has worked to get results no matter what context she has found herself in — First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State. She’s never just rested on her laurels, or decided to cash out and put her feet up. It’s always a forward march, overcoming obstacles, working with the circumstances and challenges given her to try to get things done. Her initial attempt at healthcare was a disaster. She learned from that. She knew how to humble herself as a new Senator, and by nearly every account, she was an excellent colleague to those in her party and outside it, working constructively to pass meaningful legislation. She has proven herself to be an intelligent, tireless, effective problem-solver, who is able to work with all kinds of people to get results.
People are concerned that because Wall Street banks have hired her and donated to her over the years, her administration will cow to their influence. I get that. And like many Americans, I am disgusted by the extent to which money influences our government. Bernie’s passionate opposition to the ugliness of capitalism as it currently exists in our country and in our political system resonates deeply. And yet, I cannot believe that given the issues that Hillary has chosen to take on over the course of her life and career, even when there was clearly no glory to be gained from doing so (see: her early work for children and women, her healthcare work in the 90s), that the net impact of her Presidential accomplishments will simply be to make the rich, richer, and the poor suffer more. Does that mean she’ll do enough (a relative term, to be sure) to make life better for those Americans who suffer most? Will she overhaul the system and get money out of politics? Probably not, and certainly not single-handedly. Does that prevent the rest of us from working tirelessly to create the change we wish to see? No.
And would Bernie overhaul the system and get money out of politics? Again, I say, certainly not single-handedly. Of course, I do truly understand that his mere election would be a buoying signal to those in this country who are more and more despondent and angry at the toxic income inequality in this country and at the oligarchy that fuels it. I understand and respect that, I do.
Look. I didn’t used to like Hillary. On just a gut level, in the past, I thought she was an opportunist, interested in power in whatever form she could have it. Oh, you feel like running for Senate in a state you never even lived in before? What’s next, you’ll decide to act in movies, just so you can get an Oscar? But then, something in me shifted. I don’t know why, except that, I became the mother to a daughter. It politicized me. I surveyed the landscape facing my daughter as she grows up in this country. From the over-sexualized, anorexic images of women that saturate our media to the horrible statistics about the number of women who are raped in their lifetimes, to the fact that in 2016 women still earn less than men for equal work — it is pretty horrifying to look out at this world and think about the uphill battle my daughter faces to be safe and equal. And now I look at Hillary and I see someone who never. fucking. quits. And yeah, she’s probably done things or compromised her values in ways I wouldn’t. But she’s also dedicated her life to public service in ways I haven’t.
If I could give my daughter and girls everywhere the gift of seeing that, yeah, 1/3 of us will be the victims of violence, and yeah, we earn 30 cents less on the dollar, but fuck, there is a WOMAN president… that it may be an uphill battle but it is possible to reach the peak… you can bet I’ll do whatever I can to make that a reality.
I eagerly welcome respectful discussion of the ideas I’ve raised here. I truly do. But please be warned, if your comment is sarcastic, snarky, mean-spirited or filled with hate speech, I’ll take it down. There are plenty of other places online to get into name-calling and shallow fights.