The sex­ism against Hil­lary Clin­ton

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents -

For­mer United States Sec­re­tary of State, Hil­lary Clin­ton, made his­tory when she be­came the first fe­male pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee of a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal party. But nu­mer­ous con­tro­ver­sies have emerged, rais­ing ques­tions about her trust­wor­thi­ness. She is dis­liked by a lot of peo­ple. The per­cep­tion about her is that she is eli­tist and out-of-touch. An­other con­spir­acy the­ory sur­round­ing her cam­paign has to do with her health. She was re­cently di­ag­nosed with pneu­mo­nia. But some Repub­li­cans say she is hid­ing a more se­ri­ous ail­ment that could make her un­fit to be pres­i­dent.

Her Repub­li­can Party ri­val, Don­ald J. Trump, con­tends that she nei­ther has "a pres­i­den­tial look," nor the "stamina" to be pres­i­dent. He re­ferred to her bath­room break dur­ing a de­bate last De­cem­ber to be “too dis­gust­ing” to talk about. Var­i­ous re­ports have shown Trump den­i­grat­ing women, ob­jec­ti­fy­ing their sex­u­al­ity and mak­ing lewd com­ments about even his own daugh­ter. Pitch­ing a man who has ex­hib­ited such de­bauch­ery against women in an elec­tion sim­ply makes Hil­lary Clin­ton fair game.

The Demo­cratic Party nom­i­nee has flaws. But the truth is that, the United States of Amer­ica, the ac­claimed bea­con of democ­racy may still not be ready for a fe­male pres­i­dency, es­pe­cially with the way her in­dis­cre­tions have been ex­ag­ger­ated to give a per­cep­tion of a dis­hon­est per­son. Ac­cord­ing to Poli­tifact, 60% of Clin­ton's state­ment that were fact-checked were "True". Fact-check­ing Trump's state­ment, only 12% were found to be "True". Clin­ton's "Pants on Fire" state­ments were 6%, com­pared to Trump's 48%. But here is a can­di­date who goes about telling bla­tant lies to the elec­torate and he might just be elected to the White House.

So why do a lot of peo­ple dis­ap­prove of Hil­lary Clin­ton? There could ac­tu­ally be a sim­ple an­swer. Men and women are not held by the same stan­dards of judgement. A hus­band is hardly ever ac­cused of be­ing com­plicit in a wife's fail­ings. But there is of­ten the im­plicit bias that some­how it is the woman's fault when the man goes out of line as it is be­ing sug­gested now by Trump re­gard­ing Bill Clin­ton's al­leged dal­liances.

Let us take the ex­am­ple of the email con­tro­versy. Clin­ton did use a pri­vate email server dur­ing her ten­ure as Sec­re­tary of State for both per­sonal and of­fi­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tions. She was re­quired to use the fed­eral gov­ern­ment email sys­tem ex­clu­sively for work emails, hence the eth­i­cal con­cerns of her con­duct. In­ves­ti­ga­tions into how she han­dled sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion have con­cluded that she was "ex­tremely care­less." How­ever, there was no ba­sis to pros­e­cute her. Un­der the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, 22 mil­lion White House emails were found to have dis­ap­peared when Congress was in­ves­ti­gat­ing the dis­missal of eight U.S. at­tor­neys by the gov­ern­ment. The emails 'dis­ap­peared' be­cause they were il­le­gally hosted on an email server run by the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee. About 22 White House staffers, in­clud­ing thenDeputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, used the pri­vate server. How­ever, the is­sue was swept un­der the rug.

It is also pub­lic knowl­edge that Clin­ton's pre­de­ces­sor, Colin Pow­ell, also ex­clu­sively used a pri­vate email ac­count. Pow­ell, who had spo­ken to Clin­ton when she se­cured the ap­point­ment in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and sought the for­mer Sec­re­tary of State's ad­vice on man­ag­ing her com­mu­ni­ca­tion, told her “to re­sist re­stric­tions that would in­hibit her abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate.” Alas, the stan­dard of judgement for the two men and Clin­ton are skewed, in favour of the men.

All U.S. pres­i­dents al­ways have their images care­fully cu­rated, and some­times it in­volves hid­ing an ill­ness. Franklin D. Roo­sevelt was stricken by po­lio. Although he re­mained par­a­lyzed, the full ex­tent of his sick­ness was never re­vealed. Pres­i­dent Woodrow Wil­son re­port­edly suf­fered a stroke 18 months be­fore the end of his ten­ure in of­fice but it was hidden from the pub­lic. Noth­ing reeks more of sex­ism than the no­tion that when Hil­lary Clin­ton coughs at a cam­paign rally, she is deemed un­fit to be pres­i­dent. Af­ter all, her op­po­nent is 70 years old, while she will turn 69 on Oc­to­ber 26. The life ex­pectancy for women in the U.S. is 81.2 years; for men it is 76.4 years. This is a vast dif­fer­ence of 4.8 years.

This does not mean Mrs. Clin­ton's record should not be scru­ti­nised as much as Mr. Trump's. Ex­cept that this scru­tiny should not be tainted by prej­u­dice. If both can­di­dates were male, the de­bate would be about who is more qual­i­fied to be Pres­i­dent. When this yard­stick is used, it is dif­fi­cult to see how Trump can hold a can­dle to Clin­ton. Nev­er­the­less, her fas­tid­i­ous in­tel­lect and con­tri­bu­tions to do­mes­tic and for­eign pol­icy have mat­tered very lit­tle. She is be­ing be­smirched be­cause she, a woman, has the au­dac­ity to seek po­lit­i­cal power. She is the real anti-es­tab­lish­ment can­di­date in this pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, not Trump who has boasted about tak­ing ad­van­tage of the hous­ing cri­sis and gam­ing the tax code.

If Trump wins the elec­tion, it would not be be­cause he ar­tic­u­lated bet­ter poli­cies for mov­ing the coun­try for­ward. It would be be­cause of sex­ism against Clin­ton in a coun­try that has per­formed re­mark­ably poorly on global mea­sures of gen­der bal­ance. For in­stance, the U.S. ranks as the worst de­vel­oped coun­try for ma­ter­nal health (placed 61st in the world) in State Of The World's Moth­ers 2015, pub­lished by Save the Chil­dren. It is also the only de­vel­oped coun­try where women do not re­ceive paid ma­ter­nity leave, even though re­search has linked paid ma­ter­nity leave to bet­ter health for moth­ers and ba­bies. The coun­try is also ranked 28th on the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum's Global Gen­der Gap In­dex (GGGI) 2015.

Sex­ism has cer­tainly fos­tered gen­der in­equal­ity around the world. A Clin­ton pres­i­dency will give her the van­tage po­si­tion to fight harder in do­ing away with that cul­ture that with­holds op­por­tu­nity from women, not only in the U.S. but also in other coun­tries like Nige­ria, which ranks 125th on the over­all GGGI 2015.

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