Rania Khalek takes a good look at the 'feminism' of the woman who says she wants to speak for 'the excluded'.
AS THE 2016 US PRESIDENTIAL election nears, Hillary Clinton, the projected frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, is painting herself as a champion of women’s rights. As a result, she is being lionized in the corporate press as a feminist crusader across the globe.
On International Women’s Day, Clinton proclaimed that “the rights of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st century.” The New York Daily News (7/3/14) summed up, “Clinton has made women’s issues a centrepiece of her agenda.”
Clinton boasts of having incorporated feminism into US foreign policy. As Time (12/6/14) reported:
"As the former US Secretary of State, Clinton discussed how feminism plays a key role in the US’s foreign policy. “Women and girls … [are] central to our foreign policy,” she said, explaining that nations that support women are more stable and “less likely to breed extremism.”
“Clinton has focused much of her career as first lady, senator and then secretary of State on issues affecting women and girls,” asserted NBCNews.com 18/9/14), citing comments she made about the “glass ceiling.” Even the progressive American Prospect (25/6/14) labeled Clinton’s tenure as secretary of State “unabashedly feminist.”
None of these outlets bothered to compare Clinton’s statements with her actual record, choosing instead to act as stenographers and at times cheerleaders for Clinton’s feminist branding campaign. This suggests a definition of feminism so shallow as to be virtually empty, attaching automatically to any woman who wields power of any kind, toward any end.
An established foreign policy hawk, Clinton has vociferously defended the US drone strikes that terrorize, maim and kill women and girls in Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan (Reuters, 6/7/12). As 9-year-old Nabila Rehman (Truthout, 11/1/13)—whose grandmother was obliterated before her eyes by a US drone strike in Pakistan’s North Waziristan—told a US congressional briefing, “Now, I am always scared.”
Following Israel’s merciless bombing campaign in the besieged Gaza Strip last summer—which killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, 70 percent of them civilians, including 287 women and 190 girls, Clinton blamed Palestinians, telling the Atlantic (10/8/14) that “Israel did what it had to do,” accusing Hamas of “stage-managing” the slaughter of children to gain international sympathy.
Apparently Clinton’s version of female empowerment doesn’t extend to Palestinian women and girls living under the fanatical rule of Israeli lawmakers like Ayelet Shaked, a senior partner in the governing coalition Clinton vehemently defends. Just before the Gaza onslaught, Shaked called for the slaughter of Palestinian mothers to prevent them from birthing “little snakes” (Electronic Intifada, 7/7/14).
Another group of women and girls unworthy of Clinton’s empowerment agenda are those escaping violence in a nation she helped destabilize. As tens of thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing Central American violence were detained while crossing the US/Mexico border, Clinton told CNN (17/6/14) that “they should be sent back” to “send a clear message” to their parents that “just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.”
The media generally fail to mention that over 13,000 of the estimated 47,000 children detained between October 2013 to May 2014 came from Honduras, more than from any other country. This was more than 13 times as many Honduran children as were detained in 2009, the year a US-backed military coup ousted democratically elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya (Pew Research Center, 6/10/14)
In her book Hard Choices, Clinton acknowledged playing a key role in solidifying the coup leadership’s grip on power by preventing Zelaya’s return to office (to “render the question of Zelaya moot,” as she put it)—a move that helped plunge Honduras in further violence, causing children to flee for their lives (Al Jazeera America, 29/9/14).
If this suggests to some that Clinton’s feminism necessarily takes a back seat to foreign policy goals, her history on the domestic front is no better.
In her memoir, she brags about working tirelessly “to round up votes” in 1996 for her husband’s welfare reform bill (New York Times, 11/4/08), legislation that saw the number of households with children living in deep poverty skyrocket (National Poverty Center, 2/12). It was especially disastrous for single mothers (New York Times, 8/4/12).
No wonder Wall Street is prepared to shower this pro-austerity feminist hawk with an endless stream of cash to get her elected in 2016 (Politico, 11/11/14). Clinton’s version of feminism is one of exclusion, serving state power and capital under the banner of gender equality. It is the kind of feminism that Wall Street, US empire and corporate media outlets can get behind precisely because of who it shuts out.
Rania Khalek in an independent journalist whose work has also been published by Common Dreams, Salon, The Nation, Alternet, Al Jazeera America and more. She is a regular contributor and member of the editorial board at The Electronic Intifada. She blogs at Dispatches from the Underclass. This article was first published by FAIR: Fairness and Accuracy in Reportng.