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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Why I Love Hillary Clinton

posted by bitchphd
Can a man represent women's interests as well as a woman? So asked the New York Times a couple of days ago, in an article about Obama's campaign for women's votes. It's the question at the center of all the arguments that come up any time someone says that women should support Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign--plenty of folks are quite happy to transform that claim into one that the *only* reason to support Clinton is because of her sex, or that the *only* women can represent women's interests. Plenty of folks are prepared to argue that it's just as sexist to support Clinton because she's a woman as it is to oppose her for that reason.

Those claims are obviously false.

So then, why should women support Clinton?

Here's why:
even as he pursues a first of his own — a black president — Mr. Obama, like the rest of the field, has little choice but to compete for women’s votes.

The reason Obama has to court women--in particular, feminist women--isn't just because women are 54% of the electorate, as the NYT explains. It's because for the first time in American history there's a candidate whose presence in the race makes women's issues and feminist issues a primary focus of the campaign. Women voters don't have to choose between two men who may (or may not) give a shit about women's issues based on their positions on everything else; we get a real choice between a candidate who, not coincidentally, is herself a woman and for whom women's issues are central, rather than peripheral, and male candidates who have not, to date, made women's issues central to their political careers.

The question, then, is this: does Clinton's candidacy make enough of a difference? If Clinton isn't the nominee, will Obama or Edwards or Dodd or Richardson continue to focus on women voters and women's issues? Or are they doing so now only in order to win the nomination, and will they, if they win, then go back to the old boy business as usual, in which women's issues don't matter as much as everything else?

Will they explicitly reject "absinence only" provisions in AIDS funding? Will they see an interview with the authors of Our Bodies, Ourselves as an important platform for their presidential aspirations? Will they insist that FDA nominations be held up until decisions are made about approving contraceptives? Will they introduce legislation to help caregivers access support services?

Clinton has a page on her Senate web site devoted to women's issues. Obama doesn't, nor is there one on his campaign website. Edwards has one on his presidential campaign site; his senate page no longer exists, so I don't know if he had one when he was a senator rather than a presidential candidate.

Yes, there are other issues. Yes, those issues matter to women as well as to men. But it also matters--a lot--that women stop being taken for granted because we don't have a real choice. Whether or not you ultimately decide to vote for her, you should know that Clinton's candidacy does give us that choice.

I'm still not planning to vote for Clinton in the primary. But by god, I'm glad she's running.

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