Oh my god guys, “Hillary Clinton is the Awesomest Awesome to ever Awesome” gushes Jezebel writer Katie Baker. Baker then goes on to provide an inventory of reasons why we ought to concede Clinton is pretty much the living moral incarnation of a love child between Gloria Steinem and Martin Luther King. “She cares for the little people (Like REALLY cares)”; “She understands young people/ the internet/ people who desperately need saving!” and of course, because basic capacity to use the internet isn’t the only thing that will impress the readership on a feminist blog; “she stands up for women’s rights!!”
Obviously, the US State Department and respondent media outlets have told me all about Hillary’s astoundingly altruistic diplomatic work. There was that time she went to Africa and “talked chickens with female farmers in Kenya, listened to the excruciating stories of rape victims in war-torn eastern Congo, and visited a housing project built by poor women, where she danced with a choir singing “Heel-a-ree! Heel-a-ree!””
As the purported story goes, a major part of her agenda during her time as Secretary of State was to put the spotlight on women’s issues internationally. She racked up some credentials too, she was recorded to have mentioned the words “women/woman” twice as much her predecessor Condaleeza in her first 5 months in the position; 450 times. It was more than mere semantics too we’re reminded, because Hills had met with women in nearly every foreign trip! There were female students in South Korea, Israeli entrepreneurs and even Iraqi war widows.
And how can we forget too, the formidable (and meme worthy) responses Hillary has dished out to the sexist political and media pundits. Because what
politicalwomen look like is very very very very very important (did i say VERY?), Hillary has of course been privy to a chorus of inane questions about her personal grooming, repetitive banal commentary on her outfits and continual assassinations on her suitability for politics (read:“female emotionz”). Yes, she did stand up for female reproductive rights, and she got sassy with chauvinists too.
So far she’s stacking up alright, but apologies liberal feminist Hillary fangirls, but I’m not feeling it, I’m about to piss on those “Hills for Prez 2016” posters. Why? Well I have a few reasons.
1. There are over 100,000 reasons which illustrate very clearly why Hillary is no feminist icon in Iraq alone. Hillary may have not been one of the architects of it, but she voted for the Iraq war and was and remains a hawkish proponent of the War on Terror. She said any nation lending Al Qaeda ” aid and comfort will now face the wrath of our country. I’ll stand behind Bush for a long time to come.” Super conservative estimates have put the death toll in Iraq of well over 100,000 thousand civilians. Many, many of whom were of course, women and children, the very demographic she professes to care about so much.She once said she’d “do everything (she) can to make sure that women compete at the highest levels, not only in the United States but around the world.” Apparently, going home in a body bag somehow constitutes as a ‘chance’ at competing at the “highest level of success”, THNX Hills.
2. Hillary Clinton went to Wellesley Girls College and was president of the Young Republicans, volunteering for Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign. Despite becoming a Democrat (yes, such a huuge leap, i know) and being socially liberal on some populist issues, Hillary remains, very much, economically conservative. She prescribes to a worldview and ideology that consistently attacks and devastates the poorest communities in the United States. She once served on the board of Wal-Mart, and has a long history of staunchly supporting pro-capitalist and pro free-trade initiatives, such as NAFTA which gravely deepened economic inequality in Mexico whilst destroying the lives of many of Mexico’s farming families, pushing them into poverty and or forced migration. Yes, some of these things happened before her time as SoS but remember in the 1990’s the dear First Lady was a fundamental part of Bill Clinton’s policy team and was very influential. Let’s remember too, that she would have had her hubbyz back on the Newt Gingrich (yes, the Republican Newt Gingrich) and Clinton “welfare reforms” of 1996, which radically cut the amount of financial assistance given to the poor and unemployed in the USA. No prizes for guessing who hurts the hardest when governments slash welfare; women and children of course.
3. Hillary Clinton is unabashedly pro-Israel. She stood before AIPAC in 2008 (The US’s largest pro-Israel lobby) to declare “The United States stands with Israel, now and forever.” Not exactly a unique declaration in the context of US politcs, but Hillary is particularly insistent that Israel needs to maintain its ‘military edge’ , the very same ‘military edge’ that is funded by billions of dollars of US aid every year. The same ‘military edge’ which has been used to lawlessly and indiscriminately bomb the tiny coastal enclave of Gaza, where most of the population are children. The same ‘military edge’ that has helped to bomb UN schools and hospitals without reprieve. Make no mistakes about it, without the tacit approval and financial assistance of the US, and particularly militantly pro-Israel figures such as Hillary, Israel would not be able to continue to commit crimes against humanity with such impunity.
4. This is not just about Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. Hillary’s “humanitarian” ethos is totally undermined by a downright universal commitment to war in general. In 2005 she was one of only a handful of Democrats to opposed to blocking the deployment of untested missile defence systems- these are first strike weapons. She was against banning land mines and ardently endorsed the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas and refugee camps. Now there is a group of women I’d love to see her have a coffee date with; a group of women who had experienced the excruciating pain, deformities and suffering as a result of a cluster bomb on their refugee camp or a land-mine on their route to work.
As victims of the policies and wars Hillary has supported can attest, her commitment to imperialism and capitalism certainly supersede any real desire to make life better, easier and more equitable for most of the women in the world.
While some might argue that having women more visible and audible in the political or corporate spheres is at least a facet of burgeoning gender equality, and many even said it about Thatcher’s reign, I’m not buying-in. My concern for women in Palestine, Iraq and New Zealand is not placated by the knowledge that there are women too, alongside the men, who are approving the very policies and and military actions that will kill many of my fellow sisters. Although there are some visible differences between two women such as Margaret Thatcher and Hillary Clinton, peel away the “humanitarian” veneer of Hillary and we can see they represent many of the same interests. Hillary’s legacy will be similarly charcterised by the suffering of poor families and women. I like what Russel Brand said recently in response to testimonies commemorating Thatcher’s “feminism” when she died, “Barack Obama, interestingly, said in his statement that she had “broken the glass ceiling for other women”. Only in the sense that all the women beneath her were blinded by falling shards. She is an icon of individualism, not of feminism.”
And herein lies my point, powerful women who support capitalism, imperial adventures and the status quo should not be lauded as symbols of feminism. They may face the kind of chauvinism, sexism and misogyny we all do on a more public scale, but we need to eradicate those cultures as a whole, not just in politics. Experiencing bullshit sexism when in power doesn’t mean you’re automatically a beacon for all women. They are successful as individual women, but they often do little to make life more livable for the women beneath them. Making symbolic commitments to women’s rights whilst simultaneously disregarding the human rights of “collateral damage” (in the form of thousands of women) who fall into the firing lines of your wars is not feminism.
The culture of militarism, embedded in US war and occupation, is also a culture of rape and violence against women. If Hillary really wanted to demonstrate her commitment to the safety of women, she would cease supporting the bloated military budgets which keep killing and dismembering them.
I’m so over the notion that we, as feminists, should be pleased to see women like Hillary Clinton in the annals of power, and that she somehow represents us as a collective. Women like Hillary Clinton represent and serve a very small, select and elite set of women. We need to stop listening to the diplomatic press releases about her dancing around Africa like she gives a shit, and start recognising the physical scars and suffering of her legacy on women.
Laurie Penny sums it up better than I ever could, “I have no interest in equality with men within a system of class and power that slowly squeezes the spirit out of most people unfortunate enough not to be born into wealth. I have no interest in settling for a few more places for women on the boards of big banks. I believe the world would be better served if we had no women in those boardrooms – and no men, either; not if they intend to continue to foist the debts run up by their recklessness on to the backs of poor women across the world. If that seems unrealistic, it is no less so than the idea that we will achieve gender equality within the present system in our lifetime.”
SO LIKE LET’S GET SOME TENNANT UP IN HERE CAN YOU SAY 50TH ANNIVERSARY?!?! OMFG ALL MY FEELS
suddenly overhearing people talking about a thing you like