Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy today, and what is the trailer on the PM news hour this evening but ‘We’ll debate if a Hillary Clinton presidency would be a victory for feminism’. And my reaction to that is ‘Really? Why? Why is that the first thing you think of when Hillary Clinton announces that she wants to run for President of the United States?’ Feminism? Yeah, I’m down with that, I’m a feminist. But you know, we’ve been having this conversation for such a long, long time: whenever a woman does anything in politics, her first and foremost characteristic is ‘being a woman’ and what that means for everybody else.
I’ve been around a while, and for heaven’s sake I remember when Shirley Chisholm talked about running for President in 1972. (And in the context of this post, I shouldn’t say this, but she is really rocking that dress in the Wikipedia photo.) That was in 1972! There have been a lot of women who have done a lot of amazing things in politics: Margaret Thatcher –boo! — and Bella Abzug — yay, hero of my youth! — to name but two, and also way back when in the dark days of the Seventies. And since then, well, even in the true Blue constituency of Abingdon and West Oxford where I live, we have a woman Tory MP, and the other two main party candidates in the upcoming election are also women. That makes me hope that maybe, just maybe, ‘issues’ like age, children, clothes, shrillness, marriage, cleavage, menopause — all the squares on the @everydaysexism bingo card — won’t come into it when the Oxford Mail and Abingdon Herald cover the race. One can only hope.
It’s the oh-so-tired feeling that a woman in the public eye is always defined primarily as a woman and not as just a plain old person that gets me down. Women politicians are just like men in many respects — some of them are competent, some of them are total bumblers; some of them are striving meglomaniacs, some of them are selfless workers for the public good. I just wish it was about ability, record and judgement not gender.