Written for the Boxy Blog
Okay, hate is a strong word and a little click-bait-y but the title "Why I Am Deeply Uncomfortable With Hillary Clinton" didn't have the same ring. First, let me tell you that I wanted to like Hillary, for years, I tried to get behind her as a public and political figure but it always felt disingenuous. Also, I strongly believe that she is constantly punished for her gender. Everything that people think they don't like her for they would probably find palatable from a man (I mean, the government just gave a lifetime Supreme Court position to a man that threw a temper tantrum in a Senate Committee hearing so if you are still unsure about double standards get in touch with me and I will see if I can break it down further for you). This post isn't about how Hillary has suffered from sexism- that would be a whole different topic.
I was in middle school when the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal broke and just becoming aware of and educated in current events. Bill Clinton was a president whose "progressive" policies were liked by women. My mother and my father both had nice things to say about him so I thought he was a "good" president. Of course, as an adult I recognize that humans aren't as simple to be either "good" or "bad".
When the scandal broke I saw it as a cheap shot from "evil Republicans". My 12 year old brain figured that he had the most difficult job in the world, who cares if he got a blowjob in the Oval Office? Then my teacher asked if it would be okay if the woman wasn't willing. Monica Lewinsky maintained that the relationship was consensual but there were other women (before I paid attention to the news) that were not. Was that okay stress relief for the president?
That gave me serious pause and was the first chink in my Democratic identity armor. If you are unsure what I am talking about there is a Wikipedia page dedicated to Bill Clinton's sexual misconduct allegations. That was not right. BUT it was in the past and the situation of 1998 was consensual I quickly rationalized. I want to be clear that I do not blame Hillary Clinton for her husband's actions or think that she should answer for them. As the story unfolded I followed what the media was saying about the intern with whom he had the affair with. It was not pretty.
Monica Lewinsky was basically doxxed by the Drudge Report. At 23 years old she had to contend with an repulsive amount of criticism from mainstream media. They took her picture from her passport (who looks good in those???) and called her "chunky", "ditzy", a "bimbo" and more. No one stood up for her. Feminists stood by President Clinton. At 12 I thought that 21 (the age that the affair began) was an adult. Now that I am in my 30s I can see that 21 is oh, so young.
What, you may ask, does this have to do with my feelings for Hillary? I think that in the true spirit of feminism Hillary should have defended Monica. Instead she played the victim. Hillary parades Gloria Steinem around with quotes like "There is a special place in hell for women who don't support other women" when it is convenient for her. The rest of the time she is just making sure that she has a spot in the boys club. It is the hypocrisy that bothers me.
The way that high profile feminists treated Lewinsky altered my view of feminism entirely. I still have mixed feelings about that term as a result of the catty behavior from the 90s. These news stories, what was did and said was very powerful for me, and the lessons that my young mind learned from them was that “feminists” will rationalize wrong actions if it suits their agenda (ironically, in this case to pass sexual harassment legislation). I am still grappling with the meaning of the term “feminist”. I have become even more aware of the struggle that became Monica Lewinsky's life as a result of the scandal. She is writing thoughtful and insightful pieces for Vanity Fair now, including one that addresses Hillary Clinton's actions and legacy regarding the event.
I am sure that it was a stressful time for Clinton and perhaps she looks back and wishes she did something differently. Except I think that it's safe to say that she doesn't because she still won't admit that there was a power imbalance at play between a 21 year old intern and 49 year old president of the United States of America. According to her, 21 is an adult and that is the end of the story. The reality is, though, that you can't capitalize on #metoo while continuing to excuse and apologize for your sexual predator husband. Clinton wants to have her cake and eat it too.
I wish that I could like Hillary. Even if our politics were the same (which they aren't) I still find her highly problematic. In her I see everything that is wrong with 2nd wave feminism: elitism and exclusion. Yet, I do recognize her accomplishments- hence the uncomfortable rather than hate. This is what would make me feel better: if she apologized to Lewinsky (her husband should also apologize but for completely different reasons). If Clinton reached out to Lewinsky and simply said sorry for the way that Lewinsky was treated, Clinton's lack of support war wrong, and publicly forgave Lewinsky for the adultery. These two women are incredibly strong and repairing that rift would be so powerful.
While the catty and apologist behavior of well known feminists in the 90s put a bad taste in my mouth regarding "feminism" when I was younger it continues today. Let me be clear on something: I don't believe that anyone is perfect, (myself strongly included) but when misconduct does occur it is important to learn from it. I don't believe that women are not capable of sexism or sexual harassment just because they are frequently the target of it.
You may or may not have heard about a currently going on where a (male) graduate student has accused his (female) faculty adviser of sexual harassment. If not, here is a great podcast from Stuff Your Mom Never Told You about it, here is an NY Times article about it, and an op ed from someone who worked with the professor. The e-mails that she wrote are beyond "cringe-worthy" and are in no way appropriate between a professor and student. Professor Ronell may or may not be a feminist herself (that is not what her scholarship is in), but well known feminists came to her defense (looking at you Judith Butler).
This is my problem with "feminism" (notably 2nd wave feminists) the idea that people who are part of a marginalized group can't also be bad actors and need to apologize, learn, change. They cry "believe victims" but don't do it themselves when it doesn't fit their narrative. To be fair, Butler has written a letter to the editor apologizing but still benefits from and participates in the patriarchal and toxic structure of academia.
I want to identify with these women, with the idea of “feminism”, but mostly I just don't.
Kelsey enjoys researching and discussing. These posts are based on her research and are open for discussion! Enjoy! (For the record the credit for the title goes to one of Kelsey's favorite authors: Douglas Adams).