On Hillary Clinton, Trailblazer

Last Monday, I mentioned that I'd been interviewed for a piece about Hillary Clinton and promised to link it once it was published. The piece, "Farewell to Our Feminist-in-Chief," which was authored by TigerBeatdown's Sady Doyle, is here. You should read it! And pretty much everything else in In These Times!

Although Clinton did indeed announce on Jan. 26 that she will "step down from her position as the Secretary of State when the president's terms ends," I don't know that we're really saying farewell to her. In fact, I suspect we are not. Clinton has hinted that she will continue her work on behalf of the world's women and girls in a different capacity, and she may well become even more influential in the private sector than she's been in the public sector. Having the length of your reach unimpinged by bureaucracy is an idea about which her husband has spoken many times since launching the Clinton Global Initiative, and it's conceivable that Hillary Clinton still has ahead of her a path along which she will open all sorts of new avenues of influence and opportunity for women and feminists, all over the world.

But she will, as Sady notes, be leaving a huge void. With no disrespect to women like Senator Patty Murray or Representative Nancy Pelosi, who are awesome, neither has quite the same profile as Hillary Clinton—and the void of a passionately feminist woman with that sort of recognizability is going to be profound.

To me, it's terribly concerning and disheartening that she is leaving an obvious vacancy—that there is still only room, or so it seems, for one woman among the men, that US politics is still doing the Star Wars thing: If you're a boy, you can see if maybe you're more like Luke or Han or Chewie or Yoda or Obi-Wan or Lando Calrissian, or maybe a little like each of them, but, if you're a girl, you're sort of measuring yourself against Leia. Like her or not like her—check one box.

A continued dearth of multiple types of women inhabiting that rarefied air means any woman who comes after her will still suffer the same fate of being passionately loved and passionately loathed, like her or not like her, because there aren't alternative models of what being a woman in the upper echelons looks like.

And additionally, anyone who comes after will be compared to her.

As if it's not hard enough being a woman who has to fight the pressures of tokenism. Now you've got to live up to the bar set by Hillary Clinton. Yikes.

We've let her down by allowing that to happen, you know? She has borne the burden of standing in for "women" for her entire career, with the tacit promise that it would all be worthwhile because she'd be blazing a trail on which many women could follow. But after decades of carrying that imposed status of standard-bearer for the monolith, after it was used to try to discredit her over and over and over, still she walks away from a landscape fundamentally unchanged to the sound of dismissive shrugs: She hasn't proven that women are competent; she was just exceptional.

Check out this fucking irony: The credit for being exceptional which eluded her for much of her career is now being used to wave away the obvious call for gender inclusion that her legacy should rightly inspire.

How truly disappointing.

At the end of the Beltway celebrations lauding her accomplishments at the end of her term, once the crowds have dispersed and the music has faded, we will hear in the silence a collective sigh of relief from the Powers That Be: "Well, we weathered that extraordinary career without being forced into institutional change! Phew!"

We've still got so much work to do.

Which reminds me of a dream I had about Hillary Clinton once upon a time: I asked her, "What can I do?" And she told me, "Everything you can."

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