Last week was quite the week! I don’t know if it was just the 88th anniversary of suffrage in the air, but it was quite the week for women in politics!
As the Democratic National Convention started, the story was about how the Hillary Clinton loyalists would react and move within the party as Obama got the offical nomination. Would she sell Obama to her faithful? Would she work toward party unity and victory in November? What color would her pantsuit be? (Okay, that last one was the annoying story that came out through cable news — they just loved showing her advance people testing the colors of her different suits on stage. She decided on orange! woo hoo!) Kidding aside, I think she deftly handled the whole convention, including calling for a vote of reclamation to release all of her delegates to Obama and seal his nomination. I think the word people are looking for is CLASSY. And even though you know that behind the scenes she is probably nursing some wounds — I mean, how do you run for president without investing all your might into it? — she did a good job of rallying the troops for Obama. Nicely done!
But even as Clinton did her duty for the party, there was the nagging feminist critique in my mind — best expressed by Susan Faludi’s NYT editorial the day Hillary Clinton addressed the DNC.
How to best celebrate 88 years of suffrage? Keep waiting your turn.
Indeed, we can celebrate that Clinton’s presidential run has been the most successful of any woman seeking that office. And that is to be celebrated, no question. But even though Hillary wasn’t my candidate of choice, I was deeply disturbed by the open mysoginy of press coverage of her campaign. And I can’t deny that even though I don’t vote with my vagina, I certainly would have been happy to see the first female president of our country.
We like to think that things have gotten so much better for women since 1920, but in some ways they are the same. Just to get some perspective here, in order to get the right to vote, women faced extreme brutality and sometimes death. The 1917 Night of Terror is the most salient example of this. Leaders of the National Women’s Party, who were working toward getting women the right to vote and other equality issues, held protests of Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration to highlight the injustice in fighting a war to bring democracy to the world but not treating men and women equally at home. Initially protestors where arrested for obstructing traffic but eventually the full brutality of the police focused in on the leaders of the protests. 33 protestors where met by 44 armed guards after there were locked up in jail. The women were beaten bloody and tortured (including force-feeding one woman who had started a hunger strike). Some women were strung up by their hands and left to hang for days. One woman died. Theses are the “mothers” of suffrage who faced intense opposition, and sometimes brutality, to afford women the right to vote with the 19th Amendment signed into law on Aug. 26, 1920.
So after so much effort went into getting us the right to vote, here we are 88 years later ridiculing Hillary Clinton for her pantsuits and dropping the “Rodham” from her name to pander to societal norms. Women still make 75 cents on the dollar for every dollar a man earns. As Faludi points out, the top 20 occupations of women last year were the same as half a century ago! And the US ranks 22nd among 30 developed nations in proportion of female federal lawmakers.
So, to borrow Bill Clinton’s catch-phrase, I feel the pain of the Hillary Clinton loyal. And I am so tired of writing about all the fucked-up ways that women are being held back in our country from full equality.
And then there’s Alaska Gov. and vice-presidential-nominee Sarah Palin … but I have to hold off for now. This Alaskan’s thoughts on Palin soon.