Feminists in Focus: Hillary Clinton

[Disclaimer: This is not intended as a political commentary on upcoming events, merely a celebration of the achievements of one woman battling her way through what is still overwhelmingly a man’s field.]

Like her or loathe her, Hillary Clinton is one step away from becoming the first ever female president of the U.S.A., aka the most powerful person on the planet. Plenty of articles are telling me why Clinton’s candidacy is “no triumph for womanhood” (often, interestingly, penned by female writers, mirroring those published recently in response to the investiture of Britain’s new Prime Minister, Theresa May), suggesting her feminism isn’t my feminism. But whether you’re a fan or not, it would be a pretty major stride to have a feminist as the leader of the free world, just over the border from other top FIF, Canandian PM Justin Trudeau. In any case, it’s got to be better than the alternative. Nobody wants a coiffed and Tango-ed baboon anywhere near the red button. (No offence to baboons.)


Clinton graduated from women’s liberal arts college Wellesley, giving the commencement speech for the class of ‘69’s graduation.


Sixties’ sass

She spoke about translating “empathy” into “action”:

“Part of the problem with just empathy with professed goals is that empathy doesn’t do us anything. We’ve had lots of empathy; we’ve had lots of sympathy, but we feel that for too long our leaders have viewed politics as the art of the possible. And the challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible possible.”

She went on to attend Yale Law School to put her empathy into practice. Her career has always revolved around helping others – whether as legal counsel, lawyer, education reformer, or creator of health programs. In 2000, she was elected the first female senator from New York, and ran for the Democratic nomination to presidency in 2008, famously losing out to Barack Obama, who appointed her Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. Clinton beat Bernie Sanders on this year’s Democratic nominations to be the first woman ever to have been nominated for president by a major political party in the U.S.A. She’s also pushed a live human out of her own private White House, recently become a grandmother, and written a shit-ton of books. NBD.


Clinton’s “record of achievement” is pretty immense, so much so that you can read a list of all she’s done here. Women’s rights have been her forte; as she famously stated at the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights”.


Messy hair don’t care


During her terms as First Lady, Clinton supported the creation of a federal Office on Violence Against Women, and, once senator, co-sponsored the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, as well as introducing the CARE Act, which ensured rape victims access to emergency contraception in hospitals. Internationally, she has spoken out against rape as a weapon of war, and captained a U.N. Resolution to create guidelines for the response of the international community to sexual assault in conflict zones.

She has also condemnded sexual assault on university campuses, and pledged to create a safer environment for young female students, by increasing support for victims alongside increasing prevention efforts.

Clinton has been a passionate pro-choice advocate for many years, nationally and internationally. She has fought the corner of health and reproductive care organisation Planned Parenthood, which has often been a sticking point for anti-abortion campaigners. She has supported the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which blocks funding for abortion care for women from low-income backgrounds in the U.S., as well as coming out in support of the Helms Amendment, pushing for U.S. funding for abortion care for rape victims in conflict zones outside of the U.S.


Finish the slogan (answers on a postcard)


Clinton wants to work towards closing the pay gap and increasing the minimum wage (in the U.S.A., women represent nearly two-thirds of all minimum-wage workers in America.  Many of her economic policies would directly affect women with children, which leads us onto…


As well as introducing better maternity leave rights, Clinton would offer tax cuts for poorer families, aiding women from lower-income backgrounds with families to provide for. She would also introduce free pre-kindergarten acces for every four-year-old in the U.S., alleviating the economic and emotional complexities of juggling the “working mom/stay-at-home mom” roles for many women.


Clinton would work to pass the Equality Act, banning social and working discrimination against members of the LGBT community, “to clarify that sex discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of ‘gender identity’ and ‘sexual orientation.’” Moreover, she has promised to protect and promote transgender rights (a particularly relevant topic at the moment in the U.S.)


Clinton’s support reaches far and wide across the queendom of celebrated feminists: Gloria Steinem and Dolores Huerta amongst them. (You can see a full list of leading organisations and individuals that are giving Clinton their vote here). One of her most famous and most vocal supporters has been Girls creator and star, Lena Dunham (another influential feminist figure who has been unduly torn to shreds by the media time and time again), whose interview with Clinton for Dunham and friend Jenni Konner’s email newsletter Lenny Letter is well worth a read in full. Dunham asks Clinton: “Do you consider yourself a feminist?” and, heartily, Clinton replies, “Yes. Absolutely.”


Lena Dunham chomping at the bit


Let me leave you with the words of lawyer and writer, Jill Filipovic:

“A Clinton presidency wouldn’t be a magic feminist bullet, because there’s no such thing. But she is the only candidate who could take the ultimate position of executive power, a 200-year-old male-only institution, and turn it from a feminist goal into a reality. That wouldn’t be just because she’s a woman; she’s also a feminist woman who would promote feminist policies and whose experience means she may stand a better chance than her opponent of getting a progressive agenda implemented. That makes Clinton a pretty feminist pick.”


Until next month,

~ Sophie


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