Hemming & Hawing - Feminist Style

The last week has been a whirlwind in politics. The ups and downs of Hillary Rodham Clinton & Barak Obama remind of Cubs baseball (minor leagues one day, majors the next, back to the minors). As a loud & proud feminist activist, I get asked a lot what I've been thinking, who I am supporting, and WTF is going on. To tell you the truth, I think a revolution is going on.

The women of New Hampshire and perhaps the entire USA are having a collective "click moment." You know, that moment when a woman puts all the pieces of sexism in her life together and they just "click" and she thinks, "I'm a feminist!" The women of NH didn't take pity on HRC for her teary moment, rather they looked at what the media was doing, what campaigns were doing, and relating it back to their own lives. They "were sick of the corrosive hostility and naked slant of the mainstream media against her." Someone on a listserv I'm on said it best when she likened what is happening to when you're the lone woman in a meeting and you say some great idea, it goes ignored, and then Bob repeats it 5 minutes later (cause he hasn't had an original thought since kindergarten) and the room cheers. It's not a perfect parallel, but I think it best sums up what women are feeling.

And honestly, I think all women are feeling that. Some of us are then being swayed to vote for her in an upcoming primary. Then there are others like Frances Kissling, whom I adore as much as Gloria Steinem, who fees for HRC, but isn't swayed:

The decision about whom to support is also based on more subtle issues of character, a sense of where the candidates will lead us and how much of a socially transformative vision for America they have. Being a feminist means not only supporting policies that improve women's lives, but that lead to a new understanding of women's and men's nature, identity and role in the world. It means an unrelenting attention to the questions of exclusion and marginalization, and to leveling the playing field. Asking whether Clinton is that person is not just a fair question, it is the feminist question. In answering that question, the history of centrist Democrats and Clintonism must be confronted.

Now, I've never been a centrist Democrat and everything I have seen of Clintonism and the Democratic Leadership Council confirms that women are far down their priority lists. But there must be some small space in the political world in which women are important. It is also not to say that Clinton doesn't care about women -- of course she does, and she has supported and will support many policies that improve women's health, employment and education. Perhaps one hears so little of that commitment on the campaign trail because it is assumed that the woman candidate does not have to talk about those issues. But whatever the reason, there is no evidence that Clinton's feminist history currently influences her thinking about women, or that it is any further advanced than Obama's and Edwards' thinking.

The sad fact is that Clinton has felt compelled to run as a stereotypical male. In her own mind it is only a certain kind of man who is qualified to be president and she will be that man: tough on everything from war, flag burning, kids' access to video games, illegal immigrants and Palestinians. She has missed the opportunity to talk about what it really means for women to be equal in this country. (emphasis mine)
This campaign tears are the heart of my feminism. As a Latina I understand the critiques of Steinem's op-ed. As a Chicagoan I feel the pull of being loyal to both Clinton & Obama. As a woman I feel the need to support HRC. As a feminist I want who will protect my rights and my daughter's rights to the death.

And lastly, as an active NOW member, this tears at the very idea of organizational loyalty. The pressure is intense to follow without question, yet my feminism is all about questioning. As a lover of women's history, I understand the need for some to see a woman president before they die or as a pay off for them blazing so many trails.

Yet I also met Obama before Newsweek and Time magazine did.

The first time was while lobbying in Springfield, Illinois on a woman's lobby day. He bought the delegation from Planned Parenthood & NOW lunch. Yup, I can honestly say he bought me a turkey sandwich. He came over to say thanks for coming down in the rain. Sure he was prepping for his Senate run, but hey, that's what politicians do. For a brief moment we stood together in the hallway awaiting his introduction. He was a quiet and well-spoken. He freakin' engaged us with a simple thank you!

The next time I can say I was truly in his presence was at THE anti-war rally where he spoke. It was awesome. He was awesome. Chills still go down my spine when I think about that day. That's when I fell in love with Obama.

The last time was during an interview during an endorsement session. My husband likes to recall that I came out of it thinking he was the best candidate, but that there was something about him I didn't like. All true. He gave great answers when he wanted, but dodged like the best of them when he didn't. The crush was over, but I still dug him.

For me, the decision on who to vote for is so very hard. I consider myself a feminist and I want to make the best vote as a feminist. But what kind of feminist votes for HRC and which kind votes for Obama?

That's what I need to figure out.

Technorati tags: feminist, politics, Clinton, Obama, Campaign 2008