What Happened: Part 6

In this chapter, Clinton moves from the personal to the political sphere.

Clinton discusses the importance of the personal narrative in a political campaign. Clinton’s narrative is probably defined by her proximity to the American Feminist movement. She embraced the movement as she grew up, and wanted to work to empower women. But still, she says that she wants to avoid being the “woman candidate”. It has an air of tokenism. It has the air of her putting her gender over her credentials. And it’s true that diversity and representation should be valued, I do respect the difficulty that finding that balance can be. Yes, it’s important for diverse people to be in politics. These people have unique viewpoints and firsthand experiences that the traditional upper class, ivy league, white man may be able to sympathize with, but lacks that firsthand experience. But on the other hand, there’s always the question of tokenization. A common criticism I see is playing whatever “card” a politician might have. An African American politician plays the race card. A woman plays the gender card. That sort of stuff. I did see this sort of criticism about Clinton’s campaign.

I think that the emphasis on Clinton as potentially the first woman to be president came more from her supporters than from Clinton herself. It’s true, she talked about that particular point, but how could she not? The first woman to be president of the United States is a huge deal. But there were some comments that I understand how they could rub people the wrong way. Some of them rubbed me the wrong way, and full disclosure: I voted for Clinton in the general election. One glaring example is Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright’s comments at one of Clinton’s rallies. The infamous “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

The implication that not only are women obligated to vote for women, or even worse, that there’s something wrong with women who don’t vote for the woman candidate. That’s something that many people were disappointing to hear that from feminist leaders. And honestly, it’s so minimizing. Are the great women that are role models for growing girls only great because other women were obligated to hold them up, or did people want to support them because of their capabilities? This whole snafu has been analyzed and picked apart ad nauseum.

Still, that’s not to say that sexism isn’t an enormous problem. And what Clinton really goes into in this chapter is the less overt forms that it can take. Even without trying or noticing, everyone has bought into sexist or other prejudiced ideas. Really, it’s so pervasive that it’s hard to notice. And I think that’s why the idea disturbs so many people. So many people have a knee jerk reaction to the idea that they might have bought into some of the less savory ideals that we have. And that knee jerk reaction is to insist that they would never do that, that they’re not that type of person. That to suggest that someone like them would do that is ludicrous. But that doesn’t consider the difference between covert and overt prejudice.

Now, Clinton goes into  the difference between actively participating in behavior that harm women and simply not thinking to question the problematic views that our society as a whole has. There’s a difference between smacking a woman’s rear as she passes your desk at work, and being a little weirded out by her keeping her name after she got married. I think that Clinton understands this and explains it succinctly. There’s a difference between treating a woman as a spectacle as she just tries to do her job as a lawyer and a tenancy to use the words “screaming” or “screeching” to describe a passionate or emotional speech. It’s hard to accept this truth about ourselves and the society that we live in. Internalizing views that we have been exposed to our entire lives doesn’t make someone a bad person. But it’s still important to question and be critical and strive for self improvement.

Clinton describes the sexism that she has faced, both overtly and covertly, in her career in both law and politics. She discusses the way that the sexism she has faced and witnessed shaped her policies. She talks about how in some ways, modern feminism is moving faster than she can keep up, but she still tries to do the best she can to learn. She has a nice section on the new terminology that people use to describe the experiences that she lacked words to describe before. Mansplaining, intersectionality, revenge porn, emotional labor. Clinton makes great points about how her involvement with feminism has changed over the seventy years that she’s been alive.

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