When Hilary Clinton secured the democratic presidential nomination in July this year, commentators declared it to be a ground breaking moment for feminism. Clinton was heralded as a trailblazer for women.
As the race to the White House enters it’s final week, Clinton is showing a slight lead. The ever-increasing prospect of a female President continues to be met with enthusiasm by liberal feminists.
Throughout the presidential campaign, Clinton has sought to ensure her message hits common ground with female voters. Last week she told a rapturous female crowd at Cedar Rapids, Iowa; “You know, maybe it’s a woman thing, we love making lists, right?” .
Yet drill beneath this scripted rhetoric that resonates so wonderfully with women, and Clinton’s damning political record should in fact distinguish her as one of the most harmful candidates to women in recent history.
Clinton represents a carefully crafted brand of liberal, corporate feminism. This is a brand of feminism that views the ascendancy of a woman to the White House as the moment that the glass ceiling will be symbolically shattered. The moment that our daughters will see that there really are no limits to their potential. To “feminist” proponents of the Clinton brand, it does not matter that the woman to shatter the glass ceiling arguably represents the worst and most corrupt aspects of the privileged, white wealthy 1%. Nor does it matter that Clinton has shown a lust for aggressive foreign policy and military action in Libya, Iraq and Syria.
Because this is a brand of feminism that does not seek to acknowledge the lived experiences of women who are not part of the liberal American elite. It does not concern itself with inconvenient realities like foreign policy.
Amongst Clinton supporters there is a profound, almost myopic refusal to acknowledge the unpalatable political realities of the Clinton’s.
Take for example the impact of Bill Clinton’s welfare policies, endorsed by Hilary, upon low-income and ethnic minority women and their families. In 1996, Bill Clinton joined with the Republican US Congress to implement dramatic and sweeping changes to welfare with the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act.
The Act has continued to be heavily criticised for driving up the numbers of American children living in deep poverty. In Living History Hilary recalled that; “By the time Bill and I left the White House, welfare rolls had dropped 60 percent”. State authorities came under pressure to severely curtail numbers of welfare payments to parent’s in need of assistance. Drug testing, finger printing and a surveillance style approach were all adopted towards mother’s applying for welfare. This criminalization of poor single mothers has resulted in Black and minority ethnic women disproportionately having their children removed. Furthermore, it is now widely considered that Bill Clinton’s Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, fuelled an upsurge in racist mass incaceration.
Hilary Clinton famously sat on the board of Wal-Mart between 1986 and 1992. Fellow board member, John Tate famously said; “Labour unions are nothing but blood sucking parasites”. Clinton was implicit in ensuring that Wal-Mart employee’s wages were continually suppressed to maximise profits.
The focus of an authentic feminism should be affording every citizen protection from economic hardship. Yet the neo liberal economic policies that Hilary Clinton is so ingratiated towards, hit women and children the hardest. It is working class and minority mother’s and their children who are the prinary victims of welfare cuts, insecure housing and suppresed wage growth. These policies come cynically packaged with the Hilary Clinton public rhetoric that promoting the rights of women “has been the cause of her life”.
An authentic brand of feminism should also consider the rights of women in Syria, Libya and Iraq. Do these women’s lives not matter when they are subjected to aggressive military bombing campaigns?
Beneath the well crafted speeches and emotive appeals to women, the Hilary Clinton brand of “feminism” lacks depth, accountability and integrity. To Clinton’s followers, her disregard for normal rules and an outstanding FBI investigation are conveniently downplayed. The millions of dollars donated to the Clinton foundation from Saudi Arabia; a nation with a disturbing human rights record, go unmentioned.
When faced with these charges and the Wikileaks spectacle, the default position of Clinton’s supporters is typically a deflection to the shortcomings of Trump. Trump we are told is a groping, misogynistic throwback to a bygone era. Trump wants to take women’s rights away. What’s more, to fail to endorse Hilary is to favour “hate”.
It is a narrative that seeks to shut down any challenge to the accepted political status quo.
If this is all liberal feminism has to offer, it is in existential crisis.
Hilary Clinton as the first female president, will not represent a momentous moment for feminism. That moment will come when we have a politics of substance that advances the rights of women from all backgrounds.