Notorious HRC and Women in Politics // Kendall Betts, MA
Image from ilovehalfmoon.com
As the presidential race heats up, candidates are plastered all over our media outlets, for better or worse. Granted, I am no political expert. In fact, I am constantly googling terms while watching House of Cards just to keep up. However, I have made a gallant (feeble) attempt to educate myself on politics because this country’s political apathy and ignorance is truly shocking.
I am a Hillary Clinton fan. And, I mean I love me some Hillary Rodham Clinton. I understand, however, that many folks do not share my adoration and that is perfectly okay. We do not have to all love the same presidential candidate. This is American man, democracy! However, the tremendous wave of sexism that I have seen crash over this woman is horrendous. If you question whether social sexism still exists, then take an educated and powerful woman who sports a personality that is not dependent on Southern charm and warmth, put her in the media spotlight, and notice the onslaught of sexist degradation that follows. We have all heard the adage that a powerful woman in the workplace is called “bossy” or “a bitch,” whereas her male counterpart would be called “strong” or “enduring.” I could not fathom a better example than a female presidential candidate being constantly written off for not being “warm enough.”
Months ago, I was driving on the 10 freeway in Los Angeles, which we all know is a lovely, communal place to spend an afternoon. I noticed a truck pass me with huge hand painted letters on the rear windshield spelling out, “IF SHE COULDN’T KEEP HER HUSBAND HAPPY, HOW CAN SHE RUN A NATION?” I was overwhelmed by a surge of anger. First of all, why would you decorate your car with hate? That makes no sense to me. Second of all, how does her husband’s extramarital affair relate to her competence as a politician? Third, that’s called victim blaming. Finally, it begs the question: ‘if Hillary had cheated while Bill was in office, would his competence as a leader have been called into question?’ I am going to go with no.
You may have guessed by now that I am a Democrat (surprise!) However, I was thrilled when Carly Fiorina became a front-running Republican candidate. Smart, confident, knowledgeable, aggressive, and can effectively dismiss Donald Trump like a pro. What a day to be a feminist, when there are strong male and female candidates for both parties! What saddens me is that Carly’s defining move is to disparage Hillary Clinton. I have absolutely no issue with Fiorina calling into question valid issues with Clinton’s policy, but Fiorina’s entire foundation is a Clinton smear campaign. We have two strong candidates here who both strive to empower the women of the country and when the spotlight in on them the reflex is to attack your fellow woman! I understand that, sadly, this has become the basis of campaigning. But I also understand and deplore the longstanding lineage of women undermining other women as our primary source of power.
As a feminist I am called to uplift other women as well as called to critically question insidious gender norms. Ask yourself whether you would disapprove of Hillary’s platform if the genders were reversed. Ask yourself whether it is fair for the legitimacy of a campaign to be questioned based upon social requirements of a “charming, feminine personality.” Ask yourself if you want to live in a society where women vie for power by ripping down other women. Personally, I value all political parties and all genders, and I do not believe that a candidate’s gender should shield them from scrutiny. However, such scrutiny should be gender-free and properly focused on the candidate. My hope is to live in a country where our progressive nature allows us to raise critical questions about what it means to be a feminist voter. Only by shedding light on the gender differences that exist in all of our sociopolitical structures can we truly live in a liberated democracy.
Written by Kendall Betts, M.A.