While many American progressives swoon over Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders’ laundry list of economic reforms– like free college education, taxing the rich, and redistributing the wealth– others support the progressive woman candidate, who has been leading in the polls for months.
Baby Boomer feminists like myself have been fighting for equality and punching through the glass ceiling of sexism our entire working lives. Hillary Clinton is one of us. She is poised to punch through the thickest glass ceiling in the world– the US presidency.
In the 1960s, when I was in the eighth grade, I told my guidance counselor that I wanted to go to college. He asked why– since girls really didn’t need to go to college. He finally acquiesced and ask, “So, do you want to be a teacher or a nurse? Those are the only professions for which women need a college degree.”
In the 1970s, I sued an employer for wage discrimination and won, but…
I was blackballed in the local economy because that employer lied about my resignation. When asked for a reference, they told businesses where I had applied that I stole from the company and was fired. After that, I couldn’t find a job in my profession and was forced to be a waitress with a BA in journalism (cum laude). By the way, one of the best days of my life was when a black lawyer from the Ohio Civil Rights Commission entered the lobby, presented his card, and said, “Show me all of your personnel files.” He found that not only were the two editors who filed the suit discriminated against, but all of the women and the only two black employees were also discriminated against. The women and blacks received raises only when the minimum wage was raised, and they were blocked from positions that earned commission– even if they had prior sales experience. Some women had worked there for 20 years and still made minimum wage, which was under $2/hour back then.
In the 1980s, a major Southern Arizona employer forced me to choose between having my toddler and newborn in day care for 12 hours a day or quit. I had worked at home on the annual report during my otherwise unpaid maternity leave and asked to work at home two days a week until my son was at least six months old. They said, “no”. I said, “You’re asking me to choose between my family and my job. I quit.” Afterward, I had grounds to sue that same major Southern Arizona employer for wage discrimination, but the man they hired after me (who didn’t have the required journalism degree but was paid more to do my old job) did such a crappy job that he got canned during probation. My boss who had refused my offer had to do both my job and hers after that. (Karma can be sweet revenge.)
In the 1990s, I returned to the workforce and took a $8000/year pay cut to work for the University of Arizona in the same job title I had left years earlier. In that position, I was patted on the ass in my office by a married UA full professor. (I also was married, and he knew it.) I didn’t complain because I knew that as a lowly classified staff member, I would be canned and not the tenured professor. In the late 1990s, I became management and could make my own rules.
We are here to advance the cause of women and to advance the cause of democracy and to make it absolutely clear that the two are inseparable. There cannot be true democracy unless women’s voices are heard. There cannot be true democracy unless women are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lives. There cannot be true democracy unless all citizens are able to participate fully in the lives of their country. [Hillary Clinton]
Women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat. Women often have to flee from the only homes they have ever known. Women are often the refugees from conflict and sometimes, more frequently in today’s warfare, victims. Women are often left with the responsibility, alone, of raising the children. [Hillary Clinton]
I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life. [Hillary Clinton]
The right has been lying about and actively trying to politically damage this poised, intelligent, prepared, and highly qualified woman for decades– ever since her famous tea and cookies quote as First Lady.
If any of the ~20 male presidential candidates had been the leader in the polls for 10 months, would a milquetoast candidate like Vice President Joe Biden even consider jumping into the race at this late date? Hell no! Would the Congress be trumping up yet another bogus committee investigation against him? Hell no! People would be fawning over him and trying to gain political favor.
Instead we see attacks from the left and the right against the most qualified candidate in the field. Bring it! Feminists like Hillary have been in this fight for decades, and we’re not giving up.
It’s time for equal rights for women.
It’s time for equal pay for women.
It’s time to shut down the pink collar ghetto and allow “women’s work” to be unionized.
It’s time for women to be in control of their own bodies– instead of being oppressed by a male-dominated political system.
It’s time for women to hold 51% of the elected offices in the US and nine seats on the Supreme Court.
It’s time for women to be protected from discrimination in the US Constitution.
It’s time to end the War on Women.
It’s time for the Equal Rights Amendment.
It’s time for a WOMAN to be president of the most powerful country in the world.
Why do the right and the left attack Hillary Clinton? Because they know that 51% of the US population just might finally see equality if one of us became president.
However, the rancor I hear about Hillary from my left friends is more than disturbing. Usually couched in the mantra “She’s tied to Wall Street” or “She comes with a lot of baggage,” such complaints miss essential points.
First and foremost, the policy differences between Hillary and any Republican candidate are stark. It would not be a cakewalk for Hillary to get elected. The sexism is thick and the country is split, with only a few percentage points between Democrats and Republicans.
Second, I think such criticisms represent an underestimation of how a liberally-minded woman president like Hillary (as opposed to the reactionary Carly Fiorina) would impact the structures of gender inequality, often called patriarchy. These cultural, economic, social and political structures have prevented women from being elected president for the entire 239 years of the United States’ existence, and denied women the right to vote until 1920. Wouldn’t breaking that cycle be an important step in chipping away at such a system?
The election of Barack Obama did not bring elimination of racism or create a post-racial society, but it did provide new avenues to address and struggle against racism, and gave millions of people a deeper understanding of how racism deforms democratic society. I think the movements to save Troy Davis’ life, protest Trayvon Martin’s murder and to guarantee that Black Lives Matter all had their genesis in Obama’s election, giving especially younger activists a whole new model and political space in which to organize. Similar space could open up on struggles for women’s rights and freedom.
These thoughts were triggered during the debate when Clinton answered a question on paid family leave so strongly and beautifully:
“…it’s always the Republicans or their sympathizers who say, ‘You can’t have paid leave, you can’t provide health care.’ They don’t mind having big government to interfere with a woman’s right to choose and to try to take down Planned Parenthood. They’re fine with big government when it comes to that. I’m sick of it. … we should not be paralyzed by the Republicans and their constant refrain, ‘big government this, big government that,’ that except for what they want to impose on the American people. I know we can afford it, because we’re going to make the wealthy pay for it. That is the way to get it done.”
Sanders responded next. And frankly, I was more than a little disheartened. I was shocked when he said:
“Every other major country on Earth, every one, including some small countries, say that when a mother has a baby, she should stay home with that baby. We are the only major country. That is an international embarrassment that we do not provide family – paid family and medical leave.”
Did I hear that right? “When a mother has a baby, she should stay home with that baby…?” No father should be able to as well? No parents should be able to stay home? Just the mother? Granted that is probably the case most of the time but still hearing it like that stopped me in my tracks. For me it was a jarring throwback to a bygone era. Gender matters, I thought.
And that’s when I stopped to think that my assumptions may be missing the point of this political moment. I needed to do what mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki said regarding researchers: They need to “deactivate the thought patterns that they have installed in their brains and taken for granted for so many years.”
What if the role of a socialist is in fact to support Hillary? The left is not immune from sexism as it is not immune from racism or homophobia or anti-working-class ideas. It takes a struggle to be aware of those influences and to change, including women who may internalize sexism.
When I was growing up, I remember my Mom complaining about having to train multiple men to be her boss. Mom was valedictorian of her high school class, she was highly efficient and well organized in everything she did, but as a woman in corporate America, she never got to be the boss. After decades of working in the pink collar ghetto, she never rose above the ranks of admin assistant in the Personnel Department of a unionized factory. This is a waste of talent.
What do I expect from the first woman US President? Equality!