Could A Woman Really Serve as Commander-in-Chief?

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(Picture from Flickr)

I hope everyone is having a good weekend.  Hillary Clinton just delivered her concession speech, and I thought I'd throw aside politics for a bit, and acknowledge the barriers she has courageously worked against in her run for the Presidency. 

Since the beginning of the campaign for the Democrat nomination, I tended to see Clinton as the establishment candidate.  But as the inevitability of Obama locking up the nomination grew more and more pronounced, and Clinton fought on, the discrimination she was working against really came into focus for me.  Despite the political connections she had as a Clinton, we all should have stood, and should continue to stand against the horrific sexism she was a victim of.
It all really clicked for me when I read Judith Warner's post, "Women in Charge, Women Who Charge", in her New York Times blog, Domestic Disturbances.  I'll start off by saying, Warner is wrong to make this assertion:

[Andrew] Stephen is not the first commentator to note that if similarly hateful racial remarks had been made about Obama, our nation would have turned itself inside out in a paroxysm of soul-searching and shame. Had mainstream commentators in 2000 speculated, say, that Joe Lieberman had a nose for dough, or made funny Shylock references, heads would have rolled – and rightfully so.
Judith Warner - Domestic Disturbances (5 June 2008)
It could be my subconscious male lens that leads me to say this, but there is no hierarchy of oppressions.  To even suggest that Obama did not strive against equal or greater odds than Clinton did, does a disservice to entire tradition of struggle in the U.S.  With the rest of her argument, though, Warner has a point.  Warner contrasts the horrific sexism Clinton has had to endure, with the recent enthusiasm for "Sex in the City", the movie. 

A moment in which things like the formation of a Hillary-bashing political action group, “Citizens United Not Timid,” a “South Park” episode featuring a nuclear weapon hidden in Clinton’s vagina, and Internet sales of a Hillary Clinton nutcracker with shark-like teeth between her legs, passed largely without mainstream media notice, largely, perhaps, because some of the key gatekeepers of mainstream opinion were so busy coming up with various iterations of the nutcracker theme themselves. (Tucker Carlson on Hillary: “When she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs.” For a good cry, watch this incredible montage from the Women’s Media Center.)

[...]

Which brings me back to “Sex and the City.”

How antithetical Hillary’s earnest, electric blue pants-suited whole being is to the frothy cheer of that film, which has women now turning out in droves, a song in their hearts, unified in popcorn-clutching sisterhood to a degree I haven’t seen since the ugly, angry days of Anita Hill and … the first incarnation of Hillary Clinton. How times have changed. How yucky, how baby boomerish, how frowningly pre-Botox were the early 1990s. How brilliantly does “Sex” – however atrocious it may be – surf our current zeitgeist, sugar-coating it all in Blahniks and Westwood, and yummy men and yummier real estate, and squeakingly desperate girl cheer.

Judith Warner - Domestic Disturbances (5 June 2008)
For further evidence of my male lens, I happened to be watching the new Indiana Jones movie on the opening night of "Sex in the City", and I have to say I've never seen so many women in a movie theater before.  That says nothing about their support for Hillary, their feminism, or their stance on sexism, of course.  But I just contrast that experience with the sexism that Clinton has endured, and it's not to hard to come to the conclusion that there's something wrong with our society and the way women are treated. 

There are other voices in the blogosphere that better describe that sexism, but the purpose of this post is to answer the question: Could a woman really serve as Commander-In-Chief?  I'll let Clinton answer it for you in the speech she just delivered:

Thank you so much. Thank you all.

Well, this isn’t exactly the party I’d planned, but I sure like the company.

I want to start today by saying how grateful I am to all of you

[...]

To the young people like 13 year-old Ann Riddle from Mayfield, Ohio who had been saving for two years to go to Disney World, and decided to use her savings instead to travel to Pennsylvania with her Mom and volunteer there as well. To the veterans and the childhood friends, to New Yorkers and Arkansans who traveled across the country and telling anyone who would listen why you supported me.

To all those women in their 80s and their 90s born before women could vote who cast their votes for our campaign. I’ve told you before about Florence Steen of South Dakota, who was 88 years old, and insisted that her daughter bring an absentee ballot to her hospice bedside. Her daughter and a friend put an American flag behind her bed and helped her fill out the ballot. She passed away soon after, and under state law, her ballot didn’t count. But her daughter later told a reporter, “My dad’s an ornery old cowboy, and he didn’t like it when he heard mom’s vote wouldn’t be counted. I don’t think he had voted in 20 years. But he voted in place of my mom.”

[...]

Remember - we fought for the single mom with a young daughter, juggling work and school, who told me, “I’m doing it all to better myself for her.” We fought for the woman who grabbed my hand, and asked me, “What are you going to do to make sure I have health care?” and began to cry because even though she works three jobs, she can’t afford insurance.

[...]

When we first started, people everywhere asked the same questions:

Could a woman really serve as Commander-in-Chief? Well, I think we answered that one.

And could an African American really be our President? Senator Obama has answered that one.

Together Senator Obama and I achieved milestones essential to our progress as a nation, part of our perpetual duty to form a more perfect union.

Now, on a personal note – when I was asked what it means to be a woman running for President, I always gave the same answer: that I was proud to be running as a woman but I was running because I thought I’d be the best President. But I am a woman, and like millions of women, I know there are still barriers and biases out there, often unconscious.

I want to build an America that respects and embraces the potential of every last one of us.

I ran as a daughter who benefited from opportunities my mother never dreamed of. I ran as a mother who worries about my daughter’s future and a mother who wants to lead all children to brighter tomorrows. To build that future I see, we must make sure that women and men alike understand the struggles of their grandmothers and mothers, and that women enjoy equal opportunities, equal pay, and equal respect. Let us resolve and work toward achieving some very simple propositions: There are no acceptable limits and there are no acceptable prejudices in the twenty-first century.

You can be so proud that, from now on, it will be unremarkable for a woman to win primary state victories, unremarkable to have a woman in a close race to be our nominee, unremarkable to think that a woman can be the President of the United States. And that is truly remarkable.

To those who are disappointed that we couldn’t go all the way – especially the young people who put so much into this campaign – it would break my heart if, in falling short of my goal, I in any way discouraged any of you from pursuing yours. Always aim high, work hard, and care deeply about what you believe in. When you stumble, keep faith. When you’re knocked down, get right back up. And never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on.

As we gather here today in this historic magnificent building, the 50th woman to leave this Earth is orbiting overhead. If we can blast 50 women into space, we will someday launch a woman into the White House.

Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it. And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time. That has always been the history of progress in America.

Think of the suffragists who gathered at Seneca Falls in 1848 and those who kept fighting until women could cast their votes. Think of the abolitionists who struggled and died to see the end of slavery. Think of the civil rights heroes and foot-soldiers who marched, protested and risked their lives to bring about the end to segregation and Jim Crow.

Because of them, I grew up taking for granted that women could vote. Because of them, my daughter grew up taking for granted that children of all colors could go to school together. Because of them, Barack Obama and I could wage a hard fought campaign for the Democratic nomination. Because of them, and because of you, children today will grow up taking for granted that an African American or a woman can yes, become President of the United States.

When that day arrives and a woman takes the oath of office as our President, we will all stand taller, proud of the values of our nation, proud that every little girl can dream and that her dreams can come true in America. And all of you will know that because of your passion and hard work you helped pave the way for that day.

So I want to say to my supporters, when you hear people saying – or think to yourself – “if only” or “what if,” I say, “please don’t go there.” Every moment wasted looking back keeps us from moving forward.

Life is too short, time is too precious, and the stakes are too high to dwell on what might have been. We have to work together for what still can be. And that is why I will work my heart out to make sure that Senator Obama is our next President and I hope and pray that all of you will join me in that effort.
Hillary Clinton (7 June 2008)

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This page contains a single entry by kyledeb published on June 7, 2008 6:07 PM.

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