By Baheya Malaty (FGS ’18)
At Hillary Clinton’s most-recent lavish private fundraising event in South Carolina, Black Lives Matter activist Ashley Williams interrupted the event by holding up a sign which read, “We have to bring them to heel.” The sign was a reference to a speech made by Clinton in 1994 in support of a crime bill that caused an astronomical increase in the mass incarceration of Brown and Black Americans. In support of that bill, Clinton referred to young people of color involved with gangs as “super predators.” In the aftermath of Williams’ direct action, the hashtag #WhichHillary has become a popular one for activists who seek to critique Clinton’s campaign, which has championed itself as dedicated to the fulfillment of women’s rights. Utilizing the frameworks introduced by Bushra Rehman and Daisy Hernandez in Colonize This!: Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism will illustrate the contradictions and hypocrisies of Clinton’s brand of feminism, which she has used to great effect in her campaign.
Bushra and Hernandez write, “When the media vilifies a whole race, when a woman breaks the image of a model minority…or when our neighborhoods are being gentrified, this is… where our feminism lies” (378). Thus they articulate the concerns of young feminists of color who initially felt partially liberated by white feminism, but who also felt uncomfortable with and excluded by white feminist analyses and spaces. On Twitter, @erniesfo echoed this tension: “The Hillary Clinton who says she supports Latinos or the one who supports a coup in Honduras? #WhichHillary.” Political commentator and journalist Ali Abunimah wrote, “#WhichHillary, the one who claims to be a lifelong child advocate or the one who never saw an Israeli massacre she didn’t applaud?” Rehman and Hernandez can help illuminate the tension between Clinton’s seemingly advocating progressive policies while simultaneously upholding oppressive ones:
We’ve grown up with legalized abortion, the legacy of the Civil Rights movement and gay liberation, but we still deal with sexual harassment, racist remarks from feminists and the homophobia within our communities. The difference is that now we talk about these issues in women’s studies classes, in classrooms that are multicultural but xenophobic and in a society that pretends to be racially integrated but remains racially profiled. (378)
Clinton and her supporters have thus celebrated her dedication to women’s rights without recognizing the many ways in which her policies been anti-feminist and extremely harmful to women and children.
Activists using the #WhichHillary highlight the ways in which Clinton’s pro-women agenda is not pro-all women; rather, it specifically pertains to the concerns of Western, white, middle and upper class women. In this way, they illustrate how Hillary is not much of a feminist at all, and her championing of women’s rights is more of a marketing scheme than a legitimate political platform. Along these lines, Astrid Henry examines what is lost when people attempt to market feminism:
Without its critiques of white supremacy and privilege, heterosexism, and capitalism—not to mention its continued insistence on examining the ways in which sexism and misogyny continue to operate in the world—feminism becomes nothing but a meaningless bumper sticker announcing “girl power” (390).
Clinton, who has advocated for women’s rights but has also supported legislation which contributed to the mass incarceration of Black Americans and worked with neoconservatives to derail a democratically elected government in Honduras, is emblematic of this brand of feminism. Clinton’s feminism ultimately does little to address actual feminist concerns; therefore, it operates as a “meaningless bumper sticker” through which Clinton can draw support by presenting as a “pro-woman” candidate.