Former First Lady, Senator Secretary of State, and presidential candidate: Hillary Clinton sounds like a feminist’s dream come true. Right? Think again: during the 2008 election, feminist author, critic, Salon columnist, and author Camille Paglia attacked Hillary Clinton for her lack of feminist ideals and announced her support of Barack Obama. Following her lead, other feminists stepped forward to criticize Hillary on her popularity being “not because of her individual achievements but because of the person she is married to,” reinforcing ideals that leaders must be “ruthless and macho,” and even on her handling of Benghazi.
Given such heavy resistance by feminists, we have to ask: is Hillary Clinton really a feminist nightmare?
Ever since Hillary Clinton first announced her candidacy prior to the 2008 election, feminists have spoken out against her. One of these feminists is Susan Douglas, a self-described “progressive feminist” in her 60s. Her issue with Hillary is that she believes Hillary is conforming to images of leaders the patriarchy has created. She explains that Baby Boomer feminists sought to create a fusional compromise between femininity and feminism. She claims that for many Baby Boomer feminists, feminism didn’t mean conforming to be more like men, but challenging the patriarchy. In her opinion, Hillary tries to be more like men in demeanor and politics. Douglas described Hillary as “patriarchy in sheep’s clothing.”
Other feminists came out to criticize that the many political offices and spotlights have been because of her husband Former President Bill Clinton. During the 2008 Presidential Race, a New York Times/CBS poll found that “nearly as many of Mrs Clinton’s backers say they are supporting her because of her husband as say they are supporting her because of her own experience” (emphasis mine). Feminists compared Hillary using her husband to climb the political ladder as “no more productive a career goal than marrying rich.”
Hillary has also made statements that are against classical feminist ideals. During her husband Bill’s 1992 presidential campaign, she took a shot at stay-at-home moms, saying “I suppose I could have stayed at home and baked cookies.” Other feminists point out her anti-woman victim-blaming campaigns during the 1990s. They point out her defense of her husband against accusations of rape and sexual assault, and standing by him after he admitted to cheating with White House intern Monica Lewinsky as grossly against feminist values.
Feminists have also argued that Hillary’s entire career is the result of her husband’s success rather than her own efforts. During the 70s and 80s, Hillary made a name for herself in the law world, and even taught criminal law at the University of Arkansas. However, many claim that her political career didn’t take off until her husband’s did. Only after Bill was elected as attorney general was she able to secure a job at a prestigious law firm with political influence. After Bill was elected governor, Hillary was appointed a position in an influential committee and made a partner at her law firm. After Bill’s White House term was up, the couple moved to New York solely for Hillary to pursue a senate run. While many feminists agree that Hillary had the ability to achieve these things on her own, they point out that in reality most of her achievements were only accomplished because of her marriage to Bill, which is the opposite of the “empowered feminist” way.
After Hillary’s failed 2008 presidential run, Hillary continued to make a name for herself in politics, as Secretary of State to President Obama. However, her time as Secretary of State was riddled with scandals. In fact, Camille Paglia claims that Hillary has “more sooty baggage than a 90-car freight train.” She continues saying the Benghazi scandal “disqualified” Hillary from presidency. Paglia states that when Hillary took responsibility for the death of the American Ambassador during the Benghazi attack on September 11, 2012, she should have resigned immediately. This was especially the case after her fist-pounding declaration of “What difference does it make?” during the congressional hearings following an investigation of the attack.
So is Hillary Clinton a feminist’s worst nightmare? Do her pantsuits, instead of traditionally more feminine clothing, suggests she conforms to patriarchal norms? Is her strong, stubborn, macho, callous approach to politics and her career not only conforming to the patriarchy, but further advancing it? Finally, is using her famous husband to advance your career and popularity, rather than your achievements “feminist”? And a few brave feminists admit this is the furthest thing from feministic. However, it remains to be seen how many of those feminists ignore their values to vote for Hillary solely because she’s a woman, even if she goes against everything feminism believes.