Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Has Hillary's Defeat Set Back Feminism?

Feminism has been dead in the water - or at least flopping feebly - for quite a few years now. But I notice an even more disturbing trend in blog comments recently: when someone raises an issue about disrimination towards women (for example), commenters poo-poo the problems of women and say that racism is more of a problem.

I'm not saying that racism isn't a problem, but it isn't the only problem. It's as if Hillary's presence in the presidential primaries has made feminism into a partisan issue: you support feminism if you support Hillary, and you deny its importance if you support Obama.

This may be a transitory phenomenon that will pass when Hillary drops out. Or will it? As Maureen Dowd famously said, "feminism lasted a nanosecond while the backlash lasted 40 years." Feminism has proved to be so threatening to the status quo that it is under constant attack. A step backward will not easily be made up.

Many, many people in the world think that feminism is either irrelevant or evil. I have argued otherwise so many times that I won't do it again here (click the feminism label at the bottom of this post to see my other takes on the subject). I made my most direct attempt at explaining it in this post: Why We Still Need Feminism.



Anonymous said...

to shut feminism up, they made sure that if one critisized a black man, they would scream racism. Remember, a black man is still a man, god forbid a woman be president...

The Mound of Sound said...

Why does opposition to Hillary always have to be framed by feminists as mysogeny? Is it just possible that there are legitimate reasons, perhaps even several, that have nothing to do with gender for not wanting Hillary as president? Are you so bereft of reason that you cannot grasp that? I don't see Clinton's loss as a setback for feminism at all and I think those that do show little faith in their own gender.

Dr.Dawg said...

Feminism isn't the same as voting for a woman because she's a woman. Otherwise the downfall of Maggie Thatcher would have prompted the same question. Feminism is a politics, not an identity.

Yappa said...

To the mound of sound:

The reason we describe Hillary's defeat as mysoginistic is because it was. I have never said that an attack on Hillary is an attack on women or anything like that. What I have seen and written about is attacks on Hillary *because* she's a woman. Particularly in the few weeks before she lost her position in first place, there was a tsunami of attacks that were related to her gender: she was criticized for her husband, her laugh, her ankles, her clothing; she was called a hypocrite for "trying" to appear feminine; she was called overly masculine. And on and on. Go to one of my posts and click on the Hillary label to see a long sad account of the misogynistic attacks against her.

Yappa said...

To Dr Dawg -

Since I never said that feminism is the same as voting for a woman, your comment doesn't make much sense.

What I said was: there seems to be an anti-feminist movement resulting from her failed candidacy.

KC said...

Anon - to shut feminism up, they made sure that if one critisized a black man, they would scream racism. Remember, a black man is still a man, god forbid a woman be president..."

Change a few words here and there and the same could be said about Obama's campaign. Here let me try:

"to shut the anti-racists up, they made sure that if one criticized a woman they would yell sexism. Remember a white woman is still white, god forbid a black person be president".

Yappa - Obama has had to take more than his fair share of flack because hes black too. Ive found it amazing that a man could have to defend himself against "accusations" (if thats the word) that he is a Muslim which simultaneously having to deflect criticism of his association with a pastor with over-the-top views on black-white relations. A white pastor who rails against the decadence and moral depravity of America wouldnt raise an eyebrow. A black pastor who rails against the latent racism of America taints everyone who listens to him as UN-American. In fact Clinton herself has over the last month or so implicity raised the unwillingness of white voters to support a black candidate as a reason to back her.

My opinion is that if Americans won't elect a woman or a black man they deserve another 4 years of disastrous Republican presidency.

The Grumpy Voter said...

There is flawed logic when we start talking about oppressed groups because it no longer is an issue of oppression and becomes one of which group is more oppressed or historically disadvantaged. When this happens, we start seeing "oppression categories" emerge: each articulating how it has been more oppressed than the other guy. We should be celebrating a victory of any oppressed group on behalf of all oppressed people, but you know, that would be too easy.

Cicely said...

Hillary's failed run may not set back feminism but her campaign strategy and tactics might. As a 40 yr old lesbian feminist, I wish I could have supported HRC. I have been active in the movement since my teens.

As inspiring as I initially found Obama's rhetoric, I was looking closely at Hillary as well. My difficulty was that Hillary didn't run according to feminist principles that I identify with. She ran as most male candidates do. She triangulated her vote on Iraq, her support was not even based on the intelligence since she didn't even read the report. She, like many dems at the time voted for the war to try and shore up what they (and she in particular) thought would be a weakness for them in the next election.

Besides the vote on Iraq, I based my decision on her campaign. From the outset her call to action was premised on "I". "I will be ready on day one". Even when her campaign co-opted Obama's more inclusive "Yes WE Can" it originally came out as "Yes she will" and only eventually morphed into "Yes WE will".

Never once have I heard Obama or his campaign or his surrogates say that Clinton shouldn't or couldn't be prez because she is a woman. I wish I could say the same was true in regards to race and HRC, Bill, her campaign and her surrogates. From South Carolina musings by Bill to West Virginia musings by Hillary they have race-baited in private and in public.

The first question about HRC for me came when choice advocates from early primary states who had supported HRC switched to Obama because of an HRC email smear campaign that tried to (mis)characterize Obama as anti-choice.

No, IMHO, Clinton doesn't get my support because she hasn't exemplified my idea of feminism in too many ways to count.

Yappa said...

To Cicely -

You really can't see how sexist your comment is? You are judging her based on her gender. It's fair game to reject her based on her Iraq vote or things like that, but it is not right to reject her because you have a double standard for female candidates.

A presidential candidate running by feminist principles wouldn't even get out the front door. By demanding such a thing you're dooming women to powerlessness.

The media greatly overplayed negativity in the Clinton camp and underplayed negativity from the Obama camp, but in any event impartial experts have repeatedly said that this was not a particularly nasty or even negative race. I don't agree that the Clintons engaged in any race baiting.

If you are who you say you are, I find it hard to believe that you didn't notice the sexist attacks on Hillary during this campaign - not from Obama, but from media and Obama supporters. She was attacked for her ankles, her cleavage, her laugh, her husband; for being "overly masculine" and "hypocritically feminine." And on and on - I've been writing about it for months.

It's telling that your summation is "Clinton doesn't get my support because she hasn't exemplified my idea of feminism". No mention of who would be the better president. IMHO, Hillary would.

Cicely said...


You can't have it both ways. You can't argue that her defeat hurts feminism and than criticize me because I argue she isn't enough (or even) a feminist.

And no, I don't think that it is sexist for me to question whether she ran her campaign, her senate career or her life as a feminist particularly given that HRC is playing the gender card in the dying throws of her campaign.

HRC is at best a fair weather feminist. She uses it when it is to her advantage and she ignores it when it isn't (and no I haven't seen a corollary with Obama and his relationship to race. I have found him to be pretty consistent)

I do think that Obama would make the best president for a slew of reasons but your post was about why not HRC not why Obama.

I don't expect perfection from any political candidate but I do expect that they have some core values that they live by and the only core value I have seen in HRC and WJC is an unquenchable desire for power. That is why I support the NDP over the LPC. Principle means something to me.

Cicely said...

BTW - Yes there was sexism from media and from some Obama supporters. There has also been truck load of racism from media and Clinton supporters.

I don't support a candidate based on their supporters but based on them.

That is why to me it is salient that the Obama, his campaign and his surrogates did not engage in sexist behaviour or language and why it is equally salient that the HRC team (all of them from candidate to surrogate) said racist things.

And finally - I am definitely who I say I am. Fought for equal marriage rights for queers, walked in countless take back the nights. Was at two queer Washington Marches and the 25 Anniversary of Stonewall in NY. Been to Toronto Pride every year since 1987. I will hold my feminist, queer, activist bona fides up with anyones.

Yappa said...

To Cicely (again) -

It is not "having it both ways" to say that she should be judged as a person rather than as a woman and to say that her defeat hurts feminism. They are two different things.

I agree completely that the character and principles of the candidates is very important, and I think it is outrageous for you to say that "the only core value I have seen in HRC and WJC is an unquenchable desire for power". That's demonization. You appear to have become so partisan that you're being ridiculous.

Hillary is most definitely a feminist. As I have described in previous posts, she has done an enormous amount for women over the years. Perhaps after she drops out of the race you might stop hating her so much and can do a little research on her life.

Cicely said...


In terms of her unquenchable desire for power - this isn't just my opinion this is the analysis of legions of progressives including people who supported the Clinton's during their term in the White House. Ever wondered why Al Gore didn't endorse HRC. I assure you it has nothing to do with sexism.

Just as you suggest that I am blinded by partisanship - right back at ya sista.

Perhaps while I am adding to my knowledge of HRC's history you might want to consider that this is a woman who is not worthy of the mantle of feminist heroine. Was she the first woman candidate with a real shot at the presidency absolutely. Will she be the last, absolutely not.

I hope that the next woman to run will be someone I feel comfortable supporting but I know that my first criteria for any political candidate will not be their gender but their policies and abilities, their principles and their ethics. To me that is what feminism is about. Because if it weren't than I could vote for Thatcher or Marcos or Peron or or or

Yappa said...

Hi Cicely again -

Had you started your first comment by saying "my first criteria for any political candidate will not be their gender but their policies and abilities, their principles and their ethics" I wouldn't have got so riled up. But you said the opposite: "My difficulty was that Hillary didn't run according to feminist principles that I identify with. She ran as most male candidates do."

Yes, I'm partisan, but I respect differing opinions - except when they're based in sexism. Fair attacks on Hillary are fine, but this sexist demonization that has been rampant is just wrong, wrong, wrong, and I feel that I must stand up against it.

I apologize that our exchange was contentious... it sounds from your last comment that we're not so far off in our viewpoint after all. Thanks for the discussion.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but not supporting Hillary is not something that can be labeled as misogynistic across the board. If you aren't voting for Hillary because she's a woman, than yes I can agree with you. If you don't vote for her because her platform isn't something you support(a platform is more than A WOMAN IN THE WHITE HOUSE) then no I can't agree with you.
Living in a bible belt county, racism and sexism both have had an effect on the primaries. A lot of people aren't even voting. Making her sex a big deal doesn't even seem that feminist to me...but that may be coming from an egalitarian view point so..yeah

Anonymous said...

Feminism has gotten to where it wanted to go... Women can go as far as men nowadays. Its funny how women want it equal, but still have no problem accepting alimony not to mention the one sided system to mothers in our courts. You can't say you want equality and then turn down 50/50 parenting time??? Not to mention a women can choose the life and death of her child. Why then can a father not have the choice to opt out all together with the child in the beginning and not have to worry about child support. If women want equality then it must be through and through. As for Hillary and Obama its plain and simple: It just was't Hillary's time if ever it will. Its not about color, race and gender to use those cards is lame.. Its about who will do the best job... Obama has proven that. Hillary shouldn't have flipped flopped on Universal Health care maybe things would be different. The truth is she is a career politician and not a fresh face anymore. Obama could possibly be the jfk of our era, someone who will finally lead rather than follow..