The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.
March 28, 2008
Mar. 28--I do not plan to vote for Hillary Clinton in May. But I
respect her. I feel indebted to her for paving a career path that
will ease the journey of the girls and women who follow.
By running as the first serious female contender for the
Democratic presidential nomination, she is enduring more juvenile
bashing and outright sexist hate than any woman should have to.
The problem is that at least some of her detractors are
uninformed, or maybe just lazy. Instead of parsing her platform --
which is actually pretty solid -- or analyzing her less stellar
decision-making record, they resort to a type of bias that is
pervasive and polarizing but passed off as comedy.
I'm talking about people like the guy who showed up at one of her
New Hampshire rallies with a sign that read, "Iron my shirt." And
more than 40,000 people who are members of the Facebook group called
"Hillary Clinton: Stop Running for President and Make Me a
Sandwich." I'm talking about television news personalities like
Chris Matthews and Pat Buchanan, who criticize the New York
senator's voice, appearance and success as a wife.
This is why it's time for Clinton to deliver her own version of
Barack Obama's "race speech." She has a unique opportunity to
candidly tackle sexism in America.
Just as Obama carefully spoke of hope and reconciliation
while recognizing the country's ugly racial history, Hillary
must make the case that the United States can't move forward if half
of its citizens are lagging behind -- in pay, in job opportunities,
in political influence.
Without rancor or calculated attempts to garner votes, she needs
to argue that the myth that women are less valuable or capable is
perpetuated because people pretend that nature dictates it. (The
same device was used to sustain slavery.)
She should remind us that gender stereotypes handicap young
people, who face the greatest pressure to adhere to them -- whether
it's seemingly trivial expectations like boys don't cry and good
girls wait until marriage, or more incendiary stuff like a woman's
worth is in her looks, a man's is in his wallet.
Hillary must call out the hypocritical pundits who imply that
they need to understand intimate details of her marriage in order to
judge her leadership abilities, but who give male candidates a pass.
She must use her own life story as an example of the progress
that women have made since they got the right to vote in 1920.
Then she has to pull out the discouraging statistics -- about
inequalities in pay, violence against women, expectations about who
should do the housework -- and implore people to keep talking about
sexism until each and every American has equal access to the
opportunities that they deserve.
If Hillary doesn't say it, I hope someone does.
Rochelle Williams is an Observer editorial writer. She can be
reached at 486-3557 or firstname.lastname@example.org.