Hillary Clinton officially announced her candidacy for the 2016 presidential election on April 12. While this has been expected for a long time now, it was greeted with much applause by liberals and, more specifically, advocates for LGBT rights and feminists.
It is no secret that Clinton is lined up to be the pro-LGBT/feminist candidate for this coming presidential election. The National Organization for Women (NOW), her previous campaign support, advocated her “long history of support for women’s empowerment,” as well as Clinton’s changing opinion on the matter of gay marriage and clamoring for the Supreme Court to abolish all state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage.
She certainly does not espouse the outdated view most Republican politicians share on these matters and she does speak about these issues quite frequently, but does she deserve to be granted the title of ‘champion’ for these causes? Hardly.
With politicians, their actions speak louder than their words — and Clinton’s actions tell a very different tale.
Let’s start with her advocacy for women’s rights. In regards to her record, there are quite a few troublesome elements. One of these is the support she has received from Walmart. Clinton recounted in her 2003 book “Living History” that Walmart CEO Sam Walton “taught [her] a great deal about corporate integrity and success.” In fact, they continue to be in good relations, with Alice Walton donating the maximum amount, $25,000, to the “Ready for Hillary” Super PAC in 2013. Walmart has also been praised recently by the Clinton Foundation for its “efforts to empower girls and women” who make up about two-thirds of the company, as reported by the independent news organization motherjones.com.
The wrinkle in this relationship is that Walmart has often been accused of discriminating against female employees. In 2011, a class action lawsuit was brought to the U.S. Supreme Court, the largest in U.S. history, made up of 1.5 million current and former employees of Walmart accusing the company of gender discrimination in the areas of pay and promotion, as reported by The New York Times.
Whilst the case was dismissed due to lack of commonality amongst the plaintiffs to constitute a “class,” the proceedings never addressed gender discrimination. In fact, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her minority opinion, wrote that the “plaintiffs’ evidence, including class members’ tales of their own experiences, suggests that gender bias suffused Wal-Mart’s company culture.”
Outside of relations with gender discriminatory companies like Walmart, Clinton has also had a direct negative effect in the area of women’s rights. Her previous support of the 1996 welfare reform, along with other austerity measures, have negatively impacted the lives of women – who, according to the U.S. Bureau of Census, make up 44.3 percent of welfare recipients along with their children – via restricted access to food stamps to three-months-worth for a three-year period, implementation of workfare policies and lack of a job creation program to make up for gutting the economic safety net.
Her advocacy for increased militarization of the Mexican border and arrest of undocumented immigrants has also undermined the reproductive rights of women immigrants as, according to the Huffington Post, state correctional facilities are still free to shackle inmates before, during and after child delivery as they see fit, as well as deny the mother the right to have a family member in the delivery room, or to hold their newborns for longer than 24 hours. This was the case with Miriam Mendiola-Martinez, a Hispanic women who was subjected to giving birth in chains after she was arrested for driving without a valid driver’s license, a violation normally responded to with a mere citation.
Let’s not forget her less than admirable record in regards to LGBT rights. While she has indeed become quite vocal about her support for gay marriage as of late, she has remained silent, or even antagonistic, in other areas. For example, she supported the 2009 coup of Honduras and, as Secretary of State, lauded praise at the post-coup government. The rub, however, is that hate crimes against LGBT individuals have skyrocketed since the coup. As reported by leading LGBT activist Nelson Arambu, murders of LGBT individuals have skyrocketed by around 3,500 percent compared to levels between 1994 and 2009.
Clinton and her administration have actively supported this via “shutting down government institutions charged with promoting and protecting the human rights of vulnerable sectors of the population — such as women, children, indigenous communities and Afro-Hondurans,” as stated by Arambu.
To highlight this harm, take a look at the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) who have equally opposed the Taliban, U.S.-backed fundamentalist forces and the U.S. occupation. Unlike groups like the Feminist Majority, who have supported Clinton, and who paint this war as a noble crusade to protect Afghan women, RAWA has stated that the U.S. “has empowered and equipped the most traitorous, anti-democratic, misogynist and corrupt fundamentalist gangs in Afghanistan,” according to RAWA.org.
To quote Dr. Stephen Zunes of the University of San Francisco:
“…her advocacy of women’s rights overseas … may have actually set back indigenous feminist movements in the same way that the Bush administration’s ‘democracy-promotion’ agenda was a serious setback to popular struggles for freedom and democracy … Hillary Clinton’s call for greater respect for women’s rights in Muslim countries never had much credibility while US-manufactured ordinances is blowing up women in Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Refocusing now on the domestic front, Clinton, while vocal on gay marriage, has yet to comment heavily on other issues affecting LGBT individuals, such as workplace discrimination in the U.S., which is still legal in 29 states for perceived or known sexual orientation and 37 states for gender identity or expression, as reported by CNN.
Simply put, Clinton’s support of feminism and LGBT rights is more rhetoric than reality, as I have demonstrated. However, liberals are likely to lament that these are merely exceptions to an overall record that is much more illustrious than anything the Republicans could present. And while I certainly sympathize with such a sentiment, I think it misses a point as Clinton’s actions, Secretary of State and beyond, have actively hindered feminist and pro-LGBT movements across the globe in both action and expression.
Clinton is no champion of feminism or the LGBT community. Her record overall has hindered such advocacy for positive social change, with her rhetoric concealing her complacency for the hierarchies of oppression that keep disempowered groups down. She may be the lesser of two evils, but the keyword, the noun of that phrase, is still evil.
We must not let our guard down and expect Clinton, presuming she is elected as president, to wipe away these sins – these social inequities in our society. In this struggle it is we who must lead the charge: the people. To expect salvation from above, in this author’s opinion, is a dogmatic delusion. It is up to me, you, feminists and pro-LGBT advocates to change society, to make women and LGBT individuals free and equal. We, together, are the champion of these causes – not Clinton.