A Clinton win by gendered support, no win

Feminist calls to support Clinton because she is a woman betray movement

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Melissa Haussman, a political science professor at Carleton University, said she could not wrap her head around why young women would vote for Barack Obama in a recent Globe and Mail article about the presidential primaries.

“It disappoints me greatly. Your grandmothers chained themselves to the White House fence so that you could vote.”

As a young woman, I was taken aback by her statement. Doesn’t the premise: “You must vote for Clinton because she is a woman who has a real chance at becoming President,” go against the equality our grandmothers fought for?

Consider the famous Persons Case of 1929. The “Famous Five” Alberta women " Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards " fought to have women constitutionally declared “persons” and therefore eligible to sit in the Canadian Senate.

These women fought for equality: they simply wanted to be counted equally as persons and offered the opportunity to sit in the Senate. They wanted to be able to participate in the political process on the basis they could do it just as well as men.

For me the women’s movement has always been about equality: equal pay for equal work, equal representation and equal treatment.

Those women who want us to rally around Clinton forget the most basic goal of the feminist movement. They betray what our grandmothers fought for: for gender to be removed from the equation. Our grandmothers fought for an equal right to vote, which includes the inherent right to make an educated choice about whom to vote for. To nearly beg for young women to support Clinton is divisive and implies she depends entirely on gendered support.

I believe the demand women vote for Clinton arises from desperation. North America " the self-declared bastion of democracy and progress " has yet to have a female head of state.

We look at countries like Liberia, that only recently emerged from civil war and fixed basic services like water and electricity, and we wonder how they elected a woman before we did " the first female head of state in Africa no less. I count myself among the impatient.

However, would Clinton’s victory be as sweet if her victory were on the basis of gendered support? That would be no victory at all.

I believe a woman should be President if she can unite men and women with a vision for the country’s future " if she is truly the superior candidate.

We should treat the Democratic candidates equally; Clinton and Obama should be judged on their merits. Clinton would not want women to vote for her solely on the basis of her gender, but rather because they prefer her policy and leadership style.

Some would say I am abandoning my sisters by supporting Obama. No. I am using the right my grandmothers fought for: to support whomever I choose.

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