First, a confession. I am not a Hillary Clinton supporter. Statistically, I should be.
I fall into the right age group (50+), I was weaned on the great 60’s & 70’s feminists’ writings, I consider myself to possess a hyper-awareness of sexism in all its manifestations, and, yes, I’m a product of too many women’s studies courses to mention.
I claim a good deal of feminist cred – in fact, a lifetime of it – but I refuse to march lock-step behind a candidate primarily because she is a woman. And, when feminist icons like Gloria Steinem voice support for her candidacy it makes me, well, defensive. Why don’t I support Hillary Clinton?
My shortest answer is that I fear a Clinton candidacy could lose the bid for the White House in 2008, and that’s not necessarily Hillary Clinton’s fault. During the Whitewater investigations, people laughed at her conspiracy charges, but the deep-seated hatred of the Clintons is not something to be dismissed as trivial or imaginary. It’s real and it’s still very much alive. The right wing is obsessed with Clinton. The mainstream media is obsessed with her, and both factions seize on every misstep, every unflattering photo, every tear, every inflection of her voice in a way that makes a “swift boating” group extraneous to the cause of rooting out every asshat voter in the country to keep her from office.
Is that sexism? You bet it is. It’s also Hillary Clinton and the Clinton legacy. She can’t help but drag that legacy with every political step she takes.
So much of who Hillary Clinton is has been shaped by her husband that it seems odd to put her on a feminist pedestal. For better or worse, Hillary hitched her star to a man, a powerful, charming, deeply flawed man. That’s the way ambitious, smart women gathered power for themselves for centuries. It was, and maybe it still is the only way.
My feminist dream is different. I want a woman candidate who will break that mold and rise to power without her husband’s political cronies stoking the machinery in the background. Maybe the candidate I’m waiting for is Hillary Rodham.