Hillary Clinton and Amy Poehler stand with two white TV actresses.

The feminists not invited to the Hillary party

A few different articles and sentiments have been making the rounds on my newsfeed this week about how we must acknowledge the role Hillary Clinton’s gender has played in shaping her corporate politics.

The self-described “all-caps explosion of feelings” best summarizes two of the most popular refrains:

  1. that Hillary was a warhawk hasn’t been able to be progressive because a “woman doesn’t get the fucking option ‘not to play the game'”;
  2. and that her supporters are sick “of having to apologize for liking her, for having to qualify and see your side and respect your opinion when [they] fucking don’t.”

There is certainly some value in understanding the role gender (or race or sexual orientation or class) might play in shaping how much latitude a policymaker has in taking a liberal stance before being written off as too “soft,” “emotional,” etc.  Yet while I also find it fair to ask the person assuming the most powerful position in the world to be exceptional enough to have challenged these limitations (other women policymakers have been progressive—and even said no to wars!), the problem with Hillary isn’t even that she hasn’t been progressive enough. The problem with Hillary is that on measures important for those who aren’t just capital-w-for-white “Women” (i.e., those who care about war and Walmart and prisons in addition to a Planned Parenthood endorsement), she has gone out of her way—including by joining GOP ranks—to implement violent policies against non-white women and their communities at home and abroad.

That American feminists have used the optics of so-called sexism to defend Hillary (and themselves) from any accountability is particularly disturbing. When white women say that they don’t have to apologize for liking her, or having to qualify their support of her, they are not only speaking to dudes spouting off misogyny—they are also telling women of color that they do not have to listen to or prioritize the voices of women she has locked up—or blown up—in Palestine, Iraq, Pakistan, and the United States.

When self-described feminists argue that Hillary is better for capital-w-for-white “Women,” they remind us again how narrowly women’s issues have always been defined.

So I would like to take a moment to ask folks to hear out some of these ignored experiences—and bump another think piece into this week’s round of Hillary think piece frenzy. Last year, Diana C. Sierra Becerra and Kevin Young carefully walked us through what Clinton’s form of empowerment has meant in practice for women in different communities. If you read anything about the election this week, consider making it this.

As they conclude:

A more robust vision of feminism doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t defend women like Hillary Clinton against sexist attacks: we should, just as we defend Barack Obama against racist ones. But it does mean that we must listen to the voices of the most marginalized women and gender and sexual minorities — many of whom are extremely critical of Clintonite feminism — and act in solidarity with movements that seek equity in all realms of life and for all people.

These are the feminists not invited to the Hillary Clinton party, except perhaps to serve and clean up.

Read their piece in Jacobin Mag here.

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Mahroh Jahangiri is the former Executive Director of Know Your IX, a national survivor- and youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools. She cares about the ways in which American militarization, racism, and sexual violence impact communities of color transnationally. You can say hi to her at @mahrohj.

Mahroh Jahangiri is the former Executive Director of Know Your IX, a national survivor- and youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools.

Read more about Mahroh

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