Comments on presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s malodorous feminism
Learning from others is anti-American, even if it could benefit women
Occasionally Hillary Clinton is inclined to tell the truth. One of those sparse occasions took place in the early 90’s when she reassured Larry King that “there is no Left in the Clinton White House”. Another, more recent, instance that unveils the ideological longevity of her neo-liberal values happened in February of this year when dismissing Bernie Sander’s idea that the U.S. could learn from other industrialized nations which are able to provide higher quality socialized services; she stated that although she loved Denmark, “We are not Denmark, we are the United States of America! ”
The implications of statements like this oscillate and ultimately cover all the territorial space of political arrogance, stupidity about social learning processes, and unsubstantiated delusions about the superiority of American capitalism and U.S. exceptionalism. The progressive news organization “Common Dreams” commented on Clinton’s statement by reminding us that “ America’s twenty-first century ‘exceptions’ appear as dubious distinctions: gun violence, carbon emissions, mass incarceration, wealth inequality, racial disparities, capital punishment, child poverty, and military spending.” A sobering list meant to dissipate the conceited mind of American superiority.
From a feminist perspective, Denmark, among other things, has one of the highest levels of positive indicators regarding women’s rights and gender equality. In fact, Denmark even has a Ministry of Gender Equality that oversees the implementation of progressive policies in areas such as: equal participation in political and economical decision-making; equal promotion of women and minorities to the labor market; LGBTQ issues; gender equal pay and equal retirement pensions; reconciliation of private and professional life i.e. maternity, paternity and parental leave; and eradication of gender-based violence. I believe that for American men and women, there is more than one idea worth considering and emulating from the Danish experience.
The rhetoric of American exceptionalism has had painful consequences on men and women of color around the world, particularly when wrapped around the logic of continuous expansion of American capitalism and the interests of the military industrial complex and its surveillance state. In all of these areas, as senator and Secretary of State, Clinton played a central supporting role, not to mention her openly hawkish statements trying to destabilize Russia as well as elected governments both in Latin America and the Middle East, while keeping the accomplice silence of the collaborator regarding oppressive regimes in Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait—the last three notoriously famous for their repressive treatment of women.
Feminism has been known since its beginning for fighting for gender equality and it has always leaned towards the left of the political spectrum; also, historically, it has always been able to learn from other feminist, progressive, and revolutionary experiences around the world. In other words, feminism has always placed itself on the left, and has never been parochial or culturally dismissive of others. Clinton’s self-proclaimed feminism has the function of giftwrapping the perpetuation of existing structures of power which, throughout her political career, Hillary Clinton has been unable and unwilling to challenge. It seems that for her the axis of feminism is exclusively centered in her persona.
Hoo-hah! So, what is the scent of this woman?
It is important to differentiate here between the ‘scent’ that Clinton is attracted to, and the ‘scent’ that transpires as result of her political actions and the company she keeps. I believe the late Christopher Hitchens captured the essence of Hillary Clinton when he stated that her main crime consisted in “the transmutation of public office into private interest and vice versa. ” Hillary’s good friend and soul mate Henry Kissinger would certainly approve her behavior since for both, power and money constitute the ultimate aphrodisiac.
There have been numerous articles written about the close ties between the economic ascendance of the Clintons and their political careers and associations with Wall Street. According to Forbes, Hillary and Bill Clinton are worth $45 million (this is not counting the value of blind investments handled by third party financial institutions). Robert Yoon, an analyst for CNN, reports that between 2001 to May of this year, the Clintons combined earned more than $153 million in paid speeches, averaging $210,795 for each address. The main ‘donors’ paying the fees are not of course philanthropic, humanitarian, or charitable institutions, but the usual suspects of high financial speculative organizations such as Goldman Sachs, UBS, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, and City Group among other Clinton benefactors.
According to the Center for Responsible Politics (Open Secrets), since the beginning of her search for her party Presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been the recipient of over $289 million dollars, most of it a result of the agency of Super PACs and hybrids of the same nature. As Senator Sanders put it, “ Clinton is funded by Wall Street! ” It would be utterly naïve to assume that these contributions are simple acts of generosity and not part of the rules of a game meant to perpetuate power and articulate the codependence between power and money, between politics and economics.
Hillary Clinton’s close ties with American corporations—past and present, from Wal-Mart to Goldman Sachs—are hard to reconcile with true feminist values, as Liza Featherstone suggests in her book False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton. “If feminism only concerns itself with the women at the very top of our society, it is not feminism at all. It’s just elitism.” In her book, Featherstone points out the following events of Clinton’s career that indicate the true character of her politics, and the negative impact on women, among others:
Clinton’s presence on the Wal-Mart in the board of directors never reflected any measures on her part to address Wal-Mart systemic sexism. In 2002 Betty Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores is the largest sex-discrimination action class suit in American history;
Clinton explicitly stated during the campaign that $12 per hour should be fine enough as a federal minimum (compare this to the amount the banks paid on average for each of her speeches before the members of her privileged class);
Clinton disavowed the single-payer care system, which would lower costs and ensure that everyone could have access to health care. In other words, she opposed socialized medicine, which would insured care independent from employment or marriage;
The well documented, active campaign on her part to repress and silence the various women who have accused her husband Bill Clinton of sexual abuse and rape, in spite of having stated once that “Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believe and supported.”
- Clinton’s Simplistic Essentialism
A key point of Clinton’s campaign has been her self-declared feminism. Nonetheless, lacking a political platform able to link her claims against the multiple oppressions that women endure or the truly social emancipatory goals of socialist feminism as in Bernie Sander’s case, her feminist argumentation has been reduced to ask women and men to immolate themselves upon her identity as a woman, as if this condition was the central classifier of feminist theory and practice for the American people. In other words, if you are in favor of gender equality you must vote for me, I am your model! I am your muse!
Not everybody agrees with Clinton’s sense of entitlement. This is particularly evident among young women and men, a demographic group that in overwhelming numbers tends to favor Sanders; however, she does have some feminist followers on her new pilgrimage to the White House; they are mostly socially prosperous, upper-class, white baby boomers, plus a small group of disoriented liberal intellectuals like Katha Pollit, who in an article for the Nation, “Why I’m ready—and Excited—for Hillary”, after reminding us in the first line that she attended Radcliffe College, presents as her main argument for why we should support Clinton what amounts to a simple knee-jerk case of gender solidarity. Pollit tells her readers that “racial and ethnic minorities can be extremely loyal to their own, but women are hard on other women” and appeals to this group to overcome their resistance because “Hillary will be the first woman president—and that is important”, and “Hillary is a feminist and is running as one”. Those are literally her arguments. Given the previous paragraphs in this article, it seems clear that the gender identity of the president bears little weight if such an individual is an engaged and active participant in favor of capitalism as a system of social relations and specific political power. Ironically, in the current election, it has been a man, Bernie Sanders, who is the candidate with the most advanced feminist platform. Granted, it would be great to elect a true progressive feminist woman to the Presidency, but Hillary Clinton is clearly not socially progressive and her feminism is at its best opportunistic and shallow. So, to parody a line of the famous Hollywood movie with name similar to this article’s title, Hoo-hah! Feminism is not the sent of this woman!
If we are to take the faulty logic of gender and minority essentialism to its last consequences, people like me, a man, of Latin-American origin and cultural background, should be first and foremost loyal to my assigned minority condition and support the likes of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both of whom happen to be not only men, but also men of Latin American ancestry. After all, to paraphrase Pollit’s arguments, one of them could become the first Latino president, and “that is important.”
On the other hand, feminism is very important and it matters. We must not allow it to be manipulated in the hands of self-serving women, or men.
Enrique Quintero was a political activist in Latin America during the 70’s, then taught ESL and Second Language Acquisition in the Anchorage School District, and Spanish at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He currently lives and writes in Olympia.