Diana Sroka Rickert: Clinton’s campaign message is sexist
Wed., Aug. 10, 2016
If you’re going to vote for Hillary Clinton for president, don’t do it because she’s a woman. In fact, ask yourself: If a man had the same policy platform, track record and resume as Clinton, would you vote for him?
There. I said it.
Cue the onslaught of outrage from actress Lena Dunham, homemaking guru Martha Stewart and the rest of Clinton’s plank of prominent campaign surrogates urging women everywhere to rally behind the first female presidential nominee.
But hear me out: I’m a woman, a wife and a mom. And I’m not excited about Clinton’s candidacy.
Clinton isn’t a political outsider, breaking through some thick swamp of corrupt men to stand up for women like me. I don’t think she represents the issues women care about, and I won’t be voting for her.
Yet women like me are being told what a historic moment this is. That Clinton is about to break the proverbial glass ceiling, and we can help her do it by casting a vote this November. Some are even trying to make us feel guilty for not joining the #imwithher fad.
At a speech in Brooklyn, New York, this summer, Clinton said: “This campaign is about making sure there are no ceilings, no limits on any of us, and this is our moment to come together.”
Martha Stewart said in the Wall Street Journal: “We as women should be so proud that there is a strong and viable candidate, yet there are women who are not even thinking about her as a woman. They are just listening to criticisms of her that she is a liar.”
Sorry. I guess I’m not feeling the sisterhood.
Choosing a presidential candidate based on his or her gender is like voting for someone because you like the candidate’s hair color. It has nothing to do with a person’s leadership abilities.
In fact, voting for Hillary solely or in large part because she’s a woman isn’t an exercise in open-mindedness at all. It’s sexist, and it’s divisive. Worse, it ignores the progress women have made over the past few decades.
Today, women graduate college at a higher rate than men. There are more female managers today than at any point in history. And with the rise of telecommuting and virtual offices, it’s becoming increasingly easier for many women to balance careers and motherhood.
The Pew Research Center recently studied Americans’ attitudes toward the sexes in political and business leadership. Only 9 percent of Americans think men are better at forging compromise in those roles, while most Americans thought women and men had equal ability.
On many fronts, Americans think women have an edge over men. For example, Pew found that female leaders are perceived as more honest and ethical. (Fortunately for Clinton, the poll did not ask specifically about her.)
So it’s perplexing why Clinton has made her gender a centerpiece of her campaign this time around.
“Obviously there was discrimination against women once upon a time, but the feminist movement has kind of clung to that,” said Carrie Lukas, managing director at the conservative Independent Women’s Forum. “They’ve been allowed to get away with this idea that the sexes are interchangeable, but at the same time claim it’s a legitimate idea that we need a woman to change things.”
The Clinton campaign seems to want things both ways. Either women should be treated the same, and we are just as good – if not better – than men, or we are in need of special consideration to reach the same milestones as our male counterparts. But we can’t be both.
I’d argue there’s also a moral hazard in pushing gender. This sends the message that as women, we cannot succeed on the merit of our ideas alone.
Other supporters, such as historian Nancy L. Cohen, have said women shouldn’t vote for Clinton because of her gender – but because she best represents the interests of her gender.
But even that argument is narrow-minded because it assumes women all have the same needs, interests and political positions. News flash: Not every woman wants the government to be more hands-on in their health care, child care or employee-employer relationship.
What it comes down to is this: Those who still see a glass ceiling today always will because that’s how they view the world: black versus white, women versus men. Unfortunately, these people will never see – or enjoy – all the progress that’s been made and how diverse and intelligent women really are.
Diana Sroka Rickert is a writer with the Illinois Policy Institute. The opinions in this essay, written for the Chicago Tribune, are her own.
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