What Clinton’s campaign offers women is not ‘nothing’

Hillary Clinton during a campaign stop at Mug-N-Muffin restaurant in Stone Ridge, Va.
Hillary Clinton during a campaign stop at Mug-N-Muffin restaurant in Stone Ridge, Va.

I’m astonished when liberals say that Clinton’s campaign offers nothing to people left behind in the economy. It’s worrying how often the key issues she raises — child care, abortion access, elder care, retirement benefits for unpaid carers and widows, disability rights, and equal pay — are invisibilized by so many loud voices in the Democratic Party’s left.

These issues are at the forefront for most women, particularly women in poverty or with family obligations. They are not “nothing.”

Universal childcare hasn’t been on the national agenda since the Nixon administration. Childcare is often performed by a mother — without pay — cutting her lifetime earnings and retirement benefits along the way. Paid care can cost as much per year as college tuition, while the the sector’s almost exclusively female workforce are paid shamefully low wages. If you’re a childcare worker who needs to pay for childcare, it’s easy to find yourself in a bad situation.

If childcare were no object, the decision to have a child would be much closer to being a genuinely free and fair choice, though there will always be situations where a woman wants or needs to end a pregnancy. She may have other children to care for, she or the fetus may be unwell, it may not be the right time for her to be a mother, or she simply may not want to give birth or raise children. The Hyde amendment and other restrictions on federal funding of abortion care have to go before giving birth could ever be considered a true choice on the part of the woman — who will pay like no one else and in numerous ways, not only financial (even if gladly) — for any child she has.

Speaking of abortion, it’s worth considering the recent Supreme Court decision striking down medically unnecessary abortion restrictions. I’m reminded again that the Democratic Party itself has protected women’s access to reproductive healthcare in the U.S. for decades now almost solely through judicial appointments, while the party’s legislative achievements have mainly either held the line or sacrificed abortion rights in exchange for other policy objectives. And if you are a woman impacted by domestic abuse, unaccountable policing, or immigration, the SCOTUS has had more of an impact on the concerns of American women in the last month than Congress has in the last year. Voting for the person who appoints candidates to the federal judiciary is a decision impacting every woman in the country who has to pick up after the consequences, whether at home or in her larger community.

Elder care is also a bigger problem for women, as we tend to live longer, and need more years of it. Because we’re likely to have spent time during our working years caring for children or adult family members without pay, this decreases both our lifetime salary and our federal retirement benefits. Added to that, we’re often the ones in our own families who make tremendous personal and economic sacrifices to keep our elder family members living comfortably. Most of that elder care is unpaid, but even when the work is paid, it is still mostly done by women, who are paid very little.

Disability is another issue that impacts women more, whether it is related to our own health issues, or to someone else’s. Because we live longer, we make up a greater portion of those disabled by advanced age. And again, if a family member is disabled, they are likely being cared for by a woman. If a person with a disability has a paid carer, that person is probably also a woman, who probably also doesn’t make very much.

Are we seeing a pattern? None of this is truly free or cheap. Women pay behind the scenes with sacrifices of our time, our care, our ability, and our socioeconomic status. Much is asked of us and little is returned, if we are remembered at all.

Each of these issues by itself represents many tens of thousands of dollars in value to women and families for every year that they’re needed. They represent thousands of hours of work over a typical woman’s lifetime.

To speak to the need for society to share the costs we usually bear represents a valuing of the work that women have traditionally done, and the people we have traditionally cared for, at an ever greater price the farther you are down the economic ladder.

Women count. Women’s work counts. These issues count, and so do the women who need government to care about us. Stop saying it’s “nothing.”

Natasha Chart is an online organizer and feminist living in the United States.

Natasha Chart
Natasha Chart

Natasha Chart is an online organizer and feminist living in the United States. She does not recant her heresy.

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  • Wendy Lev

    I went a bit off topic. Everything Hillary can do and does for US women should be taken as positive. I do believe what she does for women is not ‘nothing’ and she has power to make positive changes for US women and girls. I however do think her intentions arent coming from an authentic place. Hope that was clear.

  • Alienigena

    Why aren’t male politicians (who have dealt with Saudis, including Mr. Obama) also criticized with virulence that people feel for Hilary Clinton? I am not a particular fan of hers but considering the alternative for American voters is Trump … I was shocked at some of the mainstream feminist response to Bill Clinton’s behaviour in late 1990s. If it is not OK to go after women because they are women regardless of their politics (e.g. Sarah Palin) why was it OK to go after these women who were ostensibly victims.

    “… a bizarre 30 January gathering hosted by the New York Observer at the
    restaurant Le Bernardin, where 10 Manhattan “supergals” – including
    writers Katie Roiphe, Erica Jong, Nancy Friday and Francine Prose,
    designer Nicole Miller, former Saturday Night Live contributor Patricia
    Marx, and “retired dominatrix and writer” Susan Shellogg – were invited to drink wine and analyse the scandal. … The women agreed that they liked Clinton better for having had a
    titillating affair; after all, he’s kind of a hunk. Jong, for one, wants
    a president who is “alive from the waist down …”

    I guess they were the liberal feminists of the age.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/how-bill-clinton-neutered-the-feminist-movement-1154350.html

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yeah I find it so odd. I never was a fan of Hillary, but I find the hyperbolic attacks on her have made me feel defensive of her. People seem to see the work “Hillary” and go into an spitting rage before even reading the words attached to her name. I never saw people speak that way about Obama, for example. The *two* times we’ve posted anything vaguely positive about Clinton we’ve been attacked and written off by a number of people, as though the fact that not all of our contributors and readers hate Clinton disappears our radical feminist politics.

    • Morag999

      ‘Why aren’t male politicians (who have dealt with Saudis, including Mr. Obama) also criticized with virulence that people feel for Hilary Clinton?’

      Yes. We know that sexism and misogyny can cause people to “see,” misinterpret or exaggerate negative qualities/behaviours that aren’t there.

      But what’s also fascinating is how sexism and misogyny can allow one to see, very clearly, those negative things that ARE there. I’m talking about manipulations and lies, self-interest, and all kinds of bad and unethical behaviour which are unfortunately par for the course in politics. And Hillary Clinton, if I am to believe only a fraction of the many accusations and moral judgements against her, is no exception.

      It’s kind of great that people are becoming more and more sickened by corruption and illegitimate power. Now if only they could turn their suddenly sharpened eyesight away from the rare woman who would never make it as far as Hillary has without playing by male-created rules, and take a good hard look at the MEN who, as individuals and as a class, actually rule the world.

      They rule it. Everywhere we look, murderers, rapists, liars, greedy capitalists, sociopaths — under various banners, some definitely worse than others –are in charge of us.

      There’s such a feeling of mass unreality when what’s unforgivable in a woman is regarded as neutral in a man that the term “double standard” just doesn’t cover it. It’s a hypocrisy so big, all-encompassing, and always on the verge of another human/ecological disaster, that it seems almost hopeless, you know?

      And the point is not to let Hillary off the hook for being a tiny part of that, but to take the same lens that’s been applied to her and really look at the male leaders/candidates with it. How would they survive even two minutes of honest scrutiny if it came with the same energy and enthusiasm brought to Hillary-criticism?

      • lagattamontral

        Yes, I heartily agree. The most egregious case of unfair scrutiny and accusations against a female political figure aren’t in the US but in another huge American country to its south, Brazil. Dilma Rousseff has only been accused of some slight irregularities, and many of the (male) accusers are guilty of serious corruption and other crimes.
        But I hope nobody will shout victory if the new Thatcher wannabe winds up as the PM of the UK. There are plenty of patriarchy enablers with female parts.

    • Tangelo

      The Marjorie Williams piece in The Independent is good reading, thanks for the link. The full text of her essay, published in Vanity Fair around the same time (May 1998) is even better.

      http://www.vanityfair.com/magazine/1998/05/williams199805

    • lagattamontral

      I’m not a mainstream bourgeois feminist and have never had anything good to say about Bill, a false progressive who pretty much destroyed welfare. Not that I like the humiliating welfare system, but it is better than absolutely nothing for poor people, especially mums finding themselves raising a family alone.

      Not that it matters; I’m not a US American, but I detest those people. And of course I detest Bill even more because of his track record of predatory, misogynist behaviour.

  • Lucia Lola

    It’d be great if a same sized stick be used to beat politicians, regardless of their sex. This whacking of Hillary with an entire forest is tiresome and disappointing.

    Great article.

    • Karla Gjini

      I agree! I don’t follow American politics, but even so, it seems crystal clear to me that she is the most qualified candidate. The way and amount of people just shitting on her seems so disproportionate to how Donald Trump is hardly being shit on at all considering he is an absolute misogynistic idiot.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I certainly want people to be critical of her — I’m just frustrated by the responses that completely dismiss any comment surrounding Hillary that isn’t, “She’s evil!”

  • Meghan Murphy

    I don’t ‘like a mainstream politician’. And no, choosing to support a mainstream politician does not make one not a radical feminist. Women make choices, based on the options available to them. I have voted, in the past, for leftist candidates who supported policies I did not because they also supported, say, social housing and raising the welfare rates. Our federal leftist party here, in Canada, is much closer to the middle than ever before.

    All that said, I think it’s perfectly fine and good to hate mainstream politicians and politics, generally. But writing off women who support Hillary — many of whom are our sisters — as not leftist, not radical, not feminist, propagandists, etc. is not an appropriate response.

    • lagattamontral

      Well, a lot of us who voted for the NDP (the social-democratic party) thoroughly dislike Tom Mulcair, who has kept leftwing NDP MPs on a very short leash. Meghan, perhaps you are referring to Libby Davies, very progressive in many ways, though I thoroughly disagree with her approach to the sex trade.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Yes, sorry, I am talking about Mulcair and the NDP… Although I was lucky to have a good one in my own riding during the federal election…

        • lagattamontral

          Yes, so did I. I campaigned for Alexandre Boulerice and Anne Lagacé-Dowson (she had a significant lead over Trudeau for a while), although I don’t belong to the NDP and can’t stand Mulcair. I belong only to Québec solidaire, which is feminist and socialist.

  • Tangelo

    Anyone who has traveled between the USA and Canada can not help but see the stark discrepancies in the way each country treats their senior citizens, working class, and lower income demographics. Anyone who has spent time living in the USA on a lower income will understand the harsh reality of scrambling to survive with very little margin of safety. And what little margin of safety is afforded you is one that comes with conditions that are often so restrictive that many can not take advantage of the benefits offered.

    Bernie Sanders was the first USA candidate for president in a long time who was running on a clearly articulated social democratic platform of workable proposals aimed at helping the working class, seniors, women, students, and those from the lower middle and lowest economic classes. Hilary’s program does not come close to offering what Bernie’s did in terms of economic and structural changes to lift up those below the middle class.

    Many of Bernie Sanders supporters were looking forward to a step in the right direction toward economic democracy in the USA. They do not expect that either Hilary or Trump will get anywhere close to this. Just four more years of those with political and economic power taking care of those with political and economic power, with maybe a bone or two thrown to rest of the people to keep them quiet.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I agree with you. But I also think the way Hillary is treated is unfair and deeply misogynistic. If I lived in the states, I may have supported Bernie (or this Jill Stein people keep talking about). But at this point, Hillary is really the only option and the fact is that she actually has done a lot for women, despite the fact that she is a liberal, and therefore not wholly aligned with my political ideology.

      • Tangelo

        I agree that with you that with the realistic choice now between Trump or Hillary, Hillary is the clear winner. I’m less convinced that she has done a lot to benefit women, domestically and globally, but the same could be said of most of the Presidential candidates to date. While both Trump and Hillary have their media detractors and supporters, it is also clear that many of the attacks on Hillary have a misogynist bent. I’m also pretty sure that if Hillary, or perhaps any other woman, had run on the same platform as Bernie, she would not have seen her proposals gain the same acceptance. Can’t be both female and run on a social democrat platform and expect to win nationally, in the USA.

        Not yet.

        • Bleeps

          Jill Stein does not get nearly the same media attention as the Libertarian running (Gary someone) despite being well-known for many years.

          • Tangelo

            Nod, I like Jill Stein and her platform, but the first I heard of her was from someone commenting on Feminist Current (out of Canada ha!). It would be good to have a really viable third party option in the US.

      • lagattamontral

        Meghan, please read Dr Jill Stein’s agenda. She is left wing, a feminist and a woman with very serious credentials. I’d much prefer a serious leftist woman to an old white guy. But not a warmonger of any race or gender.

    • radwonka

      Im talking about how people treat Hillary compard to liberals men. I get it, Bernie is the Messiah, our savior and all, but that wasnt my point ffs.

      • lagattamontral

        I wouldn’t call Bernie a liberal. He is no revolutionary, but like Corbyn, he is at least a social democrat. I don’t know enough about Diane Abbott to know whether she would be a credible alternative, but admit I’d love to see a leftist woman of colour in office!

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diane_Abbott

  • Neighbor

    Not explained? What about her accomplishments, her decades of service, including two terms as a senator and serving as secretary of state? Her many contributions especially to womens causes? Her universal high marks from co-workers who describe her as smart, considerate to employees, incredible work ethic? What exactly are you looking for?

    • Césarion

      What about her anti-black policies? The way she treated the victims of her husband? What about her being financed by the vilest and most sexist countries?
      You are not saying anything, really, you’re just saying “she once was in the government so she’s great”. Again, Meghan’s right, we shouldn’t jump in the “she’s evil” bandwagon, but the other side is not that bright and interesting either really.

    • lagattamontral

      I don’t think anyone doubts Ms Rodham’s intelligence, or her work ethic. On the other hand as secretary of state, she was a particularly enthusiastic hawk, contributing to destroying the already fragile lives of women and girls in poor and unstable countries.

  • Neighbor

    why would she go through all the trouble to accomplish what she has and put up with non-stop attacks for it if she cared nothing for what she was doing?

    and from the previous similar comment below by Wendy Lev: “I however do think her intentions arent coming from an authentic place.” what is this with mind-reading of Hillary? Very strange…

  • radwonka

    Whether people like it it or not, conservatives ARE worse than liberals. Claiming that they are the same is dishonest. Liberals aint no socialists but they aint no right wing either. Liberals arent anti war nor are they anti prisons. This isnt ***just*** Hillary, this is how all liberals are. Including all the people who vote for them. Thinking that Hillary is the only one responsible when it is all liberals that are problematic is useless.

    Can Bernie stans understand that Im talking about unfair treatment (ie focusing on female liberals only) or not?
    The article mentioned that Hillary politics for women, in the US, are better than Trumps politics. Which is true. Thats all. Stop with the straw man, no where did I or the article excuse imperialism ffs. Like idk, chill.

  • Césarion

    I’m not racist or misogynist, I won’t vote for Trump. You are the perfect exemple of what I was talking about earlier. I guess politician activists are the worst.

  • lagattamontral

    I highly doubt that anyone taking part in this discussion would contemplate a vote for a disgusting misogynistic and racist piece of sh*t like Trump.

    Remember that several of us are citizens of other countries.