Hillary, a Lifelong Champion for Women and Families
06 Feb 2016
Having published an article reminding mainstream media of Hillary Clinton’s historic win at the Iowa caucus, I hit a nerve as many women and fair minded men shared the piece, fighting back against an elite punditry who attempted to spin away her accomplishment. I was shocked to also get responses from young women who had no idea of Hillary’s lifetime of work on their behalf.
Recently, Hillary Clinton won the endorsement of Lilly Ledbetter, namesake of the 2009 federal legislation that Clinton helped sponsor which makes “it easier for women to challenge their employers over unequal pay.” Per the Washington Post, Ms. Ledbetter said “Clinton is a “fierce and uncompromising champion for women, for basic fairness, and for opportunity for everyone”:
“Under this law, no one else will ever have to accept the gender discrimination I faced without the chance to challenge it in court,” Ledbetter wrote.
“Hillary understands that these issues can’t be dismissed or pushed to the sidelines. They’re not just ‘social issues’ — they’re fundamental to our country’s economic future, and they are at the heart of everything she’s fighting for on this campaign. For Hillary, this is about more than politics — it’s personal. She just gets it, plain and simple.”
This week in Huffington Post, Rep. Rosa DeLauro vented frustration with those who pretend Clinton needs to prove her progressive or feminist bona fides. DeLauro detailed Hillary’s groundbreaking work with HIPPY:
“…Originally designed in Israel, it’s an amazing approach to helping parents prepare their children for school, and for life. And it was first brought to Arkansas by Hillary Clinton….
Today, it’s in 23 states, helping the most vulnerable kids in over 15,000 families nationwide.
HIPPY is just one of many meaningful social programs that Hillary has championed, and early childhood education is only one of her many passions. From criminal justice reform, to improving access to credit, to pursuing universal health care – she has always worked to even out the odds for the most vulnerable Americans.”
Moreover, Hillary has made the “unfinished business” of women’s and girls’ empowerment one of the centerpieces of her presidential campaign, linking women’s economic participation and parity with the health of families and our economy overall. Hillary stressed that women hold two thirds of today’s minimum wage jobs: “We talk about a glass ceiling, but these women don’t even have a secure floor under them.”
Hillary earned Planned Parenthood’s first ever endorsement, as a longtime advocate protecting women’s health and reproductive rights. She’s now discussing the importance of repealing the Hyde Amendment, which Slate’s Christina Cauterucci states is “a long-overdue step toward addressing the intersection between economic insecurity and reproductive health.”
In addition to her seven years with the Children’s Defense Fund right out of law school, she did groundbreaking research on early childhood brain development, took on cases of child abuse, offered free legal services to the poor, and was instrumental in rebuilding the Arkansas education system.
As First Lady, she worked to successfully lower the rates of teen pregnancy, initiated and shepherded the Adoption and Safe Families Act, helped to create SCHIP, providing insurance for 8 million children, helped to create the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice, and played a key role in bringing the issue of human trafficking to the forefront of United States policy.
Editor Tina Brown called Hillary an example of “what real female power looks like” and a “dedicated policy wonk who worked on behalf of oppressed women in unpronounceable places long before it was fashionable.”
Isobel Coleman, a senior fellow on the Council of Foreign Relations, reported that as Secretary of State, Clinton “persistently connected the dots between women’s rights and major foreign policy concerns such as global economic development, food security, extremism and political stability,” even while facing criticism for “degrading the office” by meeting with so many women farmers, small business owners and grassroots activists.
Who else is going to take up these battles? The fact is we get women-friendly laws when women are in office. 1992 was remembered as the first “year of the woman” in Congress for just that reason. Yet, no matter Hillary’s qualifications, getting the former Secretary of State elected as our first woman Commander in Chief still represents our toughest challenge as her lifetime of work is obfuscated by opponents and pundits playing games to score points and ratings.
Not unlike Lilly Ledbetter, Hillary’s career has demonstrated that women often have to be better in order to be considered equal.
Look no further than a recent Democratic Town Hall – unlike Hillary, neither Bernie Sanders nor Martin O’Malley (who has since dropped out) even got a foreign policy question. She stated that foreign policy will occupy 50% of any president’s time, whether they like it or not: “You can’t just pick the issue you want to work on.” Her response to a question on our foreign policy prescriptions going forward was a tour de force in itself. Does she always have to be twice as good to get half the respect?
Likewise, women in the workplace still receive more critical reviews on their performance than men. It is telling that we are instructed not to be “abrasive” or “aggressive.” Men get no such feedback. What kind of seismic shift will it take until our society drops the requirement that women be pleasing in all respects? And win equal praise, and reward for doing the same job.
In that vein, the American people must once again do the media’s job for them, looking to Hillary Clinton’s achievements and lifetime of work on behalf of women, education, the poor, kids with disabilities, first responders and veterans, even while pundits push tired double standards – like “respected” journalist Bob Woodward who complained that Hillary is “shouting” when she passionately shares the causes she believes in.
Hillary Clinton is a powerful touchstone in an environment where 73% of U.S. women are in the workforce and 40% of women are now head of household or sole breadwinners.
The odds of Hillary being elected increase in direct proportion to our willingness to see past media click bait and research her efforts on our behalf, to allow her to have the “warts” we would allow any man and see her as less of an inkblot representing the things we dislike about ourselves and then project onto her. If we have at last come to the place where we can judge a woman solely for her accomplishments instead of demanding she hold up the banner for all womanhood, then the bumpy journey Hillary – and all women – took to get here will not have been for naught.
In the fight for equal pay, paid family leave, affordable childcare and reproductive health care, women would have no better champion than Hillary Clinton as President.
Anita Finlay is the bestselling author of Dirty Words on Clean Skin. Sharing the untold story of Hillary’s 2008 campaign, Dirty Words exposes media sexism in a society not as evolved as advertised. “The book tells it like it is for women aspiring to power.” #1 on Amazon’s Women in Politics books for 16 weeks.
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