Like Kristen said in her post at Girl With Pen, “Now That the Dust Has (Sort of) Settled”,
Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for president is still fascinating to
ponder. I was recently asked to write an article on the topic for the
ILF Digest, the journal of a think tank
I’ve been a fellow of (I find this terminology amusing, but have never
come up with an acceptable alternative—can you?) for some years. It
won’t be published for a few weeks but I’d like to share an excerpt
here because takes up where Kristen’s questions were leading:

Despite many problems with sexism in the culture and media that made themselves self-evident during Hillary Clinton’s campaign,
there are even more reasons to be optimistic that Clinton’s
presidential run will be a net plus in motivating women to enter
politics. I predict a sea change in women’s participation in politics
up and down the ticket and in non-elective political roles as well, for
these reasons:

1. Seeing gives the potential for being. The
message chanted at Clinton’s rallies: “Yes she can!” has clearly been
delivered to younger generations. All young girls hereafter will grow
up knowing it is possible for a woman to be president. And Clinton’s
willingness to stay in the race despite all the challenges, despite
constant calls for her to bow out, despite what must have been intense
exhaustion and disappointment, is exactly what women of all ages with
political aspirations need to see. In her speeches, she often mentioned
“two groups who move me: women in their 80’s and 90’s who come out in
walkers and wheelchairs and say they just want to live long enough to
see a woman elected president, and families who bring their children
and lean over and whisper in their daughter’s ear, ‘Honey you can be
anything you want to be.’” Now they know they can.

2. Women were energized as never before. Rep. Carolyn Maloney said
at a recent event sponsored by Lifetime Television, which along with
three major women’s magazines has spearheaded a massive multimedia
campaign called “Every Woman Counts”,
that even though Clinton lost the primary campaign to Obama, “I think
she lifted up the self esteem of women across the country, across the
world.” Observing that Clinton raised $190 million in the primary race,
Maloney said. “I think she helped all of us..” One measure of how much
she has helped women become more engaged in politics is that in past
races, women’s financial contributions
amounted to less than 30% of the total. For the first time, fueled by
excitement over Clinton’s candidacy, half of the contributions to a
presidential candidate came from women. And, in fact, over 40% of
Obama’s contributions came from women as well, demonstrating women’s
importance to the Democratic party and women’s understanding about the
strategic importance of giving their fair share of the proverbial
mother’s milk of politics in order to get their fair share of influence
on the public policies they want. As North Carolina gubernatorial
candidate Bev Perdue pointed out, “Everybody is involved in politics
whether they realize it or not.” Since men have little motivation to
change the power structure, women have little choice but to become the
change we want to see. Clinton’s willingness to put herself out there
will motivate more of us to try.

3. Media sexism has been
called out, and that roots it out. Rep. Maloney went on to say at the
Lifetime event that there was “a big undercurrent of sexism, misogyny
and stereotyping” against Hillary Clinton during her campaign for
president. But the point here is Maloney made her claims at a public,
mainstream media-sponsored event. That would not have happened in the
past. The nonprofit Women’s Media Center mounted a campaign called “Sexism Sells, but We’re not Buying It
in collaboration with several media justice organizations They got the
attention and the responses of major media executives and producers, as
well as on-air apologies from Chris Matthews, David Schuster, and others. Even Katie Couric—too
late, sadly, to make a difference in this year’s primary reporting but
with luck influential enough to change the way women candidates are
treated in the future—finally had enough and spoke out publicly on the
subject. Change will be slow and imperfect, but it will happen.

Hillary’s post-primary awakening led her to embrace her leadership
role as a woman and on behalf of other women. Throughout the campaign,
she downplayed the importance of her gender, saying as she did at her
Beacon Theater birthday bash early in the campaign when she was still
considered the front runner, “For me it is a great honor and humbling
experience to be the first woman president. But I’m not running because
I am a woman but because I am the most qualified. “ Since the campaign,
she has been much quicker to champion women’s rights. For example, she
led the charge to challenge the Bush administration’s proposed new regulations
an-outrageous-attempt-bush-adminstration-undermine-womens-rights that
would redefine many birth control methods as abortion and allow medical
providers to refuse to provide them. She seems to have learned a lesson
about being her true self; other women will take courage from that.

At Hillary’s birthday event almost
a year ago now,Elvis Costello performed to a standing ovation. Then the
Wallflowers joined Elvis onstage; the decibel level elevated ten-fold,
whipping this audience of aging rockers into frothy enthusiasm.

comedian Billy Crystal came up to close the evening, little did he know
just how prescient he was when he said, ““Hillary is making this
campaign not so much for the old rockers but for the new ones.”





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