[DEBATE] : Fw: a new piece on `hillary and barack
lsifuentesore at gmail.com
Thu Dec 6 14:13:19 GMT 2007
> `New Rules' for Hillary and Barack
> Zillah Eisenstein
> Professor of Politics
> Ithaca College, Ithaca New York
> December 2007
> It is hard to speak about the complex politics of sex and gender
> race, or feminisms for that matter, in a presidential campaign. But we
> a dialogue that creates some space to really think about the way gender,
> with it race, are a part of the present campaign.
> A big disappointment of this election for some is that Hillary does
> not seem like more of an agent for/of change than she does. She is
> caught remaking the old—Bill's old-boy political networks. She seems
> into the past for many women and/or progressives looking for an end to the
> Iraq war and the arrogance of U.S. politics. Too much has changed and
> Hillary follows old gender rules. Hillary isn't compared with a Laura
> at the moment, but other women, like Michele Obama and Elizabeth Edwards
> are very much like herself, professional women with law degrees and their
> own pedigree.
> By now several countries have female presidents: Liberia, Chile,
> Germany, Argentina to name a few. India, Israel and Pakistan had women
> leaders long before the U.S. talking about it. Hillary simply expresses a
> new form of nepotism within this last enclave. We should not forget Nancy
> Pelosi, Condoleezza Rice, or Madeleine Albright who make clear that
> females can be elected and appointed to office. And we should not forget
> General Janis Karpinski who oversaw Abu Ghraib prison or private Lynndie
> England who humiliated prisoners there. But women occupying previously
> spaces do not inherently mean that sexual or racial or gender equality
> exists. As such, females like Hillary can act as sexual decoys.
> A decoy is a misrepresentation—one thinks one sees something that
> not really there. So although Hillary is definitely female, she has no
> record of advancing women's rights at home or abroad in spite of her
> rhetoric at the Beijing Conference on Women. Of course, I guess it also
> matters how one defines rights and feminism. But Hillary has never
> identified herself as a feminist, like Michele Bachelet has done as
> president, nor did she choose human rights ahead of security issues when
> asked about the choice in a recent presidential debate.
> Hillary has said yes to cluster bombs, yes to Israel's bombing of Lebanon,
> yes to curtailing abortion, yes to a constitutional amendment against
> flag-burning, no to gay marriage.
> In `92 Hillary promised herself as a co-president that was newly different
> at the time. Today she promises Bill, and a co-presidency seems old hat.
> The footing has shifted for Hillary, but she does not get it. Even if not
> enough has changed in the last decade, too much has changed to make
> Hillary's run for president remarkable. And Barack Obama is starting to
> it. So, he says that his mixed-race family and the interplay of race and
> gender especially for women of color must be part of the narrative of
> All this is not to say that Hillary is sometimes held to different
> standards because she is a woman. When she is criticized for her cleavage
> and her cackle or called a bitch this is unacceptable misogyny.
> The rub here is that Hillary will not speak honestly and forthrightly
> about this discriminatory treatment or the reality that despite her run
> the presidency we still live in a white man's world.
> The presidential candidates need to listen up. There are as many
> kinds of
> feminism(s) as there are ideas about what a woman is, can be, or should
> In part this is because one's sex, as in female, does not automatically
> clarify one's notion of gender, as in one's notion of womanhood. Or as
> Simone de Beauvoir stated years ago: one is born female and becomes a
> So the woman we choose to be is complex, and plural, and not homogeneous.
> is then no surprise that Hillary is running into problems assuming she can
> count on women—as though we are some homogenous group—to vote for her
> because she is female.
> Hillary's problem is that she is a neo-liberal individualist who
> uses her femaleness for her own gain. As such she does not have, nor has
> she ever had, a coherent feminist and anti-racist political agenda.
> her silences speak a denial of the significance of gender and race in
> everyday life. Barack has begun to challenge her on her silences and
> manipulations and her purported claim on women. He is beginning to
> articulate a progressive agenda that recognizes single women parents and
> their needs and says he is committed to making the changes necessary to
> embolden women.
> Hillary's problem is not that she is a female running for president but
> rather that she is a female running for president who does not make enough
> of a difference. She is still Bill's wife and that is not just good
> for many of us. Yes, it is true that it is an unfair gender hierarchy of
> our society that makes being a wife in this circumstance a deficit. And
> women remain overworked in our secondary positions in the labor force
> alongside our lesser pay and greater responsibilities for domestic and
> consumer realms. But Hillary speaks of none of this. She even pretends
> we all have forgotten about Monica Lewinsky et al and Hillary's public
> humiliation by Bill. One need not be a feminist to resent the way she
> her back on women and their rights in Afghanistan and Iraq, or young women
> needing an abortion without parental consent here at home, or the un- and
> under insured needing health care, or day care by rejecting a single payer
> Hillary acts as though gender is and is not at issue. She says she is not
> running because she is a woman, or as a woman, but because she is the best
> qualified. And yet her best qualification that she offers as her
> experience as first lady. She no longer even tries to appear as though
> is her own person. She has dropped the Rodham, and promises black voters
> South Carolina, that if they vote for her it will be like the Clinton
> Hillary, you should stop saying that any individual can be president and
> then also say that you are glad to be the first female to run for
> Stop saying that your opponents criticize you not because you are a woman,
> but because you are ahead, and then go to Wellesley to mobilize young
> voters. Stop using your life as first lady as putting you in the know.
> talking about "my husband, Bill". Stop courting women with all the above
> while acting tough in your pantsuits.
> I do not understand why people, especially the right wing think that
> Hillary is a feminist other than she once said she was "no stand by your
> woman", and that she doesn't bake cookies. But she does stand by her man,
> and she tells us she now likes the heat of the kitchen. She says she can
> win. She says that "sometimes the best man for the job is a woman" while
> promising to win in the "all-boys club of presidential politics".
> Hillary keeps bringing up the woman thing and then closes it down. She is
> clearly female, but has not come out as a feminist, nor does her record as
> first lady bespeak feminism. As first lady she stood by and said nothing
> about the crisis of day care in this country, or the misuse of immigrant
> women as nanny's, as two women lost their nods at attorney general, and
> turned her back on Lani Guinier who was nominated and then dropped, to
> in the civil rights division of the justice department when wrongly
> a quota queen. As first lady there was no loyalty to the issues or the
> people related to women's and civil rights.
> Barack seems to be gaining against Hillary as he exposes her
> so-called experience as too much a part of `politics as usual'. She has
> mobilized the formidable Clinton machine, but she still takes second place
> to Bill, even though she may be as consequential as he is. No male
> candidate for president has the `wife' status to deal with like Hillary
> does, but she won't talk about it anyhow. She does not talk straight
> her life as a woman, or a wife because this exists outside the realm of
> neo-liberal politics. Chelsea is nowhere to be seen in the campaign and I
> assume that this is because Hillary needs to seem manly, rather than
> motherly, at least for now.
> What is with the pantsuits? We have yet to see Hillary in a skirt.
> I don't have a problem with pants, but why all the time, as though they
> glued to her? When image is everything, why have her handlers chosen this
> one? It is as though female bodies are too troublesome in the world of
> politics. Instead of bringing her body with her, Hillary seems to be
> to hide hers, like a decoy might do. Hillary is and is not female in this
> campaign. This duality is her greatest liability. She has chosen to
> compromise about the one thing that has no room for compromise:
> being honest about the complexity of one's sex and its relationship to
> gender and race in this country.
> When Hillary was asked in a recent presidential debate about whether she
> would appoint only pro-abortion judges when president she refused to
> the question and instead said that she supported the right to privacy.
> only spoke within the vague rubric of privacy rights with no mention of
> women or their bodies. Without this clarification, privacy is simply a
> universal right, and has no connection to reproductive rights for women.
> v. Wade was decided using privacy rights to defend a woman's right to her
> own body. Barack, listen up.
> Hillary voted with Rick Santorum and co-sponsored the Workplace Religious
> Freedom Act that will allow workers to refuse to perform key aspects of
> their jobs—pharmacists could refuse to fill birth control prescriptions or
> police officers refuse to guard abortion clinics. Really?
> And on the Iraq war? Hillary has been for the war at its start. It took
> her a long time to stand critically against the deployment of the war, and
> Bush's mistakes and missteps. She refuses to apologize for her initial
> support. But this initial vote to authorize the war is less significant
> than her continued support, and her unwillingness to speak about fully
> ending it. It is clear that the war will continue, even if downsized, if
> she is elected. She has stood with Joe Lieberman in singling out Iran
> for careful surveillance. Her stance is tough and manly masculinist and
> Hillary is a cautious follower. She says if she knew then what she
> knows now she would have voted differently. But Barbara Lee, voted
> the war's initiation with the same info that Hillary had. How come Lee
> it right? And then later Lee sponsored H.R. 2929 to prevent permanent
> military bases in Iraq and also denied funding in 2008 for anything other
> than costs related to the safe deployment of our troops home. Hillary
> continues to play it safe.
> Hillary continues to bet on Bill and wrongly identifies this
> strategy as though her life with Bill means that she has experience. But,
> Hillary is often compared to Michelle rather than Barack; and Barack is
> pitted against Bill who is now out there stomping for Hillary. This is
> really quite fair because Hillary has been senator for six years and lived
> in the White house for eight. But masculinist and misogynist policies are
> not fair. Hillary lives in Bill's shadow despite all else.
> She has depended on Bill's donors, and network of advisors. She is managed
> by her leading strategist Mark Penn and PR agencies. Advisors in her
> entourage have close ties to union busting and telecom and healthcare
> industries and pharmaceutical companies.
> Hillary wants the woman's vote and yet does not want to risk being
> identified as a feminist, or too feminine, or too soft, or too whatever.
> So she says too little and does too little to mobilize women. But she
> not get it. She is a female body in men's clothing. She is a sexual
> who allows her husband to philander and to use other women for sex.
> It is unfair that gender—even in its changed and modernized
> form--continues to matter in unfair and unjust ways. So Hillary cannot
> gender irrelevant because it counts too much in the way that political
> culture is structured. She can pretend she is running on her own
> record and try to cleanse herself of feminist rhetoric and symbolism, and
> yet she can't do this successfully because gender politics is bigger than
> any one of us. Hillary should trust most women and men to be able to get
> this right instead of silencing the very issues that need exposure.
> Gender is changing, and Hillary running for president bespeaks that
> it is changing, but not necessarily in progressive ways for most women.
> as more women must labor in their homes, and on the job, and in the
> store, and on the battlefield, etc. they need a presidential candidate
> recognizes these changes and speaks to the new needs these changes
> create: day care, environmental protections, global peace, good schools,
> affordable health care. Men and women share these needs even if
> differently. So gender is not just about women.
> Hillary is similar and different to her male opponents, much like gender
> itself. Gender is never simply an either/or option. A November CBS poll
> found that Hillary is thought to be the best person for overseeing war as
> commander in chief and Barack is found to be more likeable and more likely
> to create change. People think Hillary can win the presidency and might
> vote for her because of this, but would choose to spend an evening with
> Barack, rather than her, if given the choice. So does Hillary act tough so
> she isn't seen as too nice, and does she do this because of her fear of
> being engendered as too womanly in the campaign? So she de-genders
> in order that she not be gendered and the public re-genders her by viewing
> her within the man/woman divide. Obama as a black man becomes the
> non-threatening male and Hillary as the white woman becomes the
> female. So are men the new women? and women the new men?
> Lots of the anti-Hillary foment is misogynist and this makes it tricky to
> oppose her. But, by being a female man—her love of power—also makes it
> necessary to make clear that vaginas and penises are not what define
> They instead allow for an easy misreading--that the biological sex of any
> person supposedly defines and determines their gender and their politics.
> But gender is both ossified, as in the way people think about biological
> and very fluid and changing as in women are the new men. If Hillary really
> ran on the change that Barack speaks of maybe she could win. But she
> and can't, because she is stuck in centrist neo-liberal politics that is
> already structurally gendered and raced. So her individualism—as in any
> can win the presidency in the U.S.—is not working for her because she is
> enough of a feminist who recognizes the changing terrain of gender and
> Hillary hopefully will be unsuccessful in using her female body and
> rights rhetoric to camouflage her presidential campaign. Although she
> does not show respect or compassion for ordinary women like Paula Jones or
> young females like Monica Lewinsky she should know that she cannot win
> without females of all sorts. Barack, take notice. If you are to be the
> change you claim to be you will need to say more about how you are the new
> man, without ossifying gender or race. Explain how males, of all colors,
> be womanly and good for our country.
> Barack and Hillary both went to Selma, Alabama near the beginning of this
> campaign to connect with the important and difficult civil rights history
> this country. Barack says he is black enough to know that his roots are
> Selma; Hillary says that she embraces the struggles that started here.
> are each supposedly courting the black vote; he as a black man that some
> is not black enough, she as a (white) woman who is married to Bill who
> sometimes has been called our first black president. Whether this
> makes any sense at all will be saved for another day There is gender
> switching and that also means racial confusion. Hillary is running as a
> white man—experienced and tough-- and Barack is depicted by Hillary as
> inexperienced, and by default as a black woman? Yet she is courting the
> black woman's vote. But who gets to say what the experience is and what
> counts for? And Bill is said to be black and Obama is pitted against him
> not black enough. Meanwhile some black women are said to favor Bill and
> worry that Barack would be killed before he would be elected anyway.
> Hillary meanwhile promises black women that if they vote for her she will
> deliver Bill.
> Black women are neither simply black (men) nor (white) women but
> simultaneously both black and female. Obama is neither simply black or a
> (white) man. Hillary is neither simply white nor a woman. They are each
> always both and never simply one or the other. In this sense gender and
> race are always being defined and changing. Barack should address this
> changing reality as he speaks to the need for change. He need not silence
> gender in the fear of giving it to Hillary; nor silence race because he
> fears being regendered black.
> Much of the election rhetoric aligns Barack with his race; mixed as
> it is, but also black given the surround. And Hillary is aligned with her
> sex (she is female), and her gender (she is a woman). The usual
> race/gender, either/or split is in play: Barack is black and Hillary is a
> woman. But actually one could as easily say, that Barack is black and
> Hillary is white. Or, that Barack is a man, and Hillary is a woman.
> Each one has both a race and gender. He is a black man and she is a white
> woman. Each one represents both race and gender. When pundits speak about
> either one of these candidates mobilizing the black vote, it needs to be
> said that black women are in a really tough spot here. Some of them
> both parts of themselves. They are black women and feel close to Barack
> because he is one of them; and Hillary because she too is female. So
> asks black women's groups to break barriers with her.
> She silences the race issue and asks them to identify with her as female.
> She says this is an election for breaking barriers and she wants them to
> break the gender barrier with her, not Barack. She wants them to be
> and not black.
> Barack needs to speak while embracing race and gender and then he may
> mobilize both white women and women of color on behalf of creating racial
> and gender equity in this society. Take the real risk here and speak truth
> to power. Say you will work for all of us while recognizing that misogyny
> and racism make this very hard to do. This is both good politics—white
> are a minority in comparison to men and women of color and white women—and
> politics of social justice. As a white female who is an anti-racist
> feminist, speak as you say you will, for us all.
> For a much fuller accounting of Hillary Clinton's record as well as
> discussions of feminisms, race and gender see my books: The Color of
> (University of California Press, 1994); Hatreds: Racialized and Sexualized
> Conflicts in the 21st Century (Routledge, 1996); Global
> Obscenities: Patriarchy, Capitalism, and the Lure of Cyberfantasy (NYU
> Press, 1998); Against Empire; Feminisms, Race and the West (Zed Press,
> 2004); and Sexual Decoys; Gender, Race and War in Imperial Democracy ,
> press, 2007).
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