Time to call out Clinton — and face down the liberal feminists: a reply to Van Badham

November 5, 2016
Berta Caceres, the indigenous environmentalist among many activists murdered under the reign of the Honduran coup regime Hillary Clinton helped install.

Guardian journalist and self-proclaimed “socialist feminist” Van Badham’s latest article is entitled “Time to hail Hilary — and face down the testosterone left”.

The article was posted on Facebook with the following comment from Badham “I have had enough of the political trivialisation of women. I have had enough of having to express political beliefs in private to avoid abuse. I am beyond tolerance for mansplaining, condescension or the habitual dismissal of feminism as a radical ideology for change. And I goddamn endorse Hillary Clinton for President.”

As a young woman involved in activist politics and trade unionism I absolutely concur with Badham’s first point. Trivialisation of women, whether in the political sphere or not, is one of many aspects of the oppression women face.

But it is something that middle-class feminists perpetuate by asking questions or running campaigns around minor issues that affect women rather than challenging the more pressing life and death concerns of family violence, rape culture etc. Badham seems to swing wildly from one view to the other and in the face of criticism discounts the views of left wing intersectional feminists by claiming that any criticism of her or her opinions is sexist bullying.

I would also agree with Badham, that feminism is a radical ideology for change and that the dismissal of it is frustrating, but she completely lost me with her endorsement of Hilary Clinton.

In her article Badham says she endorses Hilary Clinton “not as a least-worst option, not even due to the nature of her opponent, but on her own terms as a leader pledged to the material improvement of women’s economic and social reality.” She claims that Clinton’s platform is “a structurally radical framework for broad-based American change” and that her “activist leadership is wilfully dismissed.”

Kelly Hayes, a US Indigenous woman and activist wrote in an article entitled “For little girls inspired by Hilary Clinton”: “To all the little (white) girls who may now believe that they too could grow up to drone Brown people one day: may you find better role models and aspirations. Your country is anti-Black, anti-Indigenous and wages endless wars. A rich, cut throat woman who has committed countless crimes against marginalized people should not be the stuff your dreams are made of.”

American author, feminist and social activist Gloria Jean Watkins, better known by her pen name “bell hooks” gave a talk in New York City, explaining why she can no longer be a Hilary Clinton supporter. “I can no longer be a Hilary Clinton supporter in the name of feminism. There are certain things that I don’t want to co-sign in the name of feminism that I think are militarist, imperialist, white supremacist, whether they are conducted by women or men.”

Hooks went on to speak about the challenges of identity politics versus the question of “who am I and what do I stand for?”.

Perhaps we should ask Honduran Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres what she thinks of Hilary Clinton’s feminist activist platform? Unfortunately, we can’t, because Berta Cáceres is dead. She was murdered on March 2 this year by the Honduran government that Clinton backed during a coup. This is the same government that banned emergency contraception and is responsible for killing 168 LGBTIQA people between the coup in 2009 and 2014. Clinton wrote a book, Hard Choices, where she defends her part in the Honduran coup and holds it up as an example of a practical foreign policy approach.

Black feminist writer Kirstin West Savali said if she were a middle class white woman she would probably love Hilary Clinton; but she’s not, so she wrote an article explaining why black feminists don’t owe Clinton their support.

Savali wrote: “Hillary Clinton has some relatively progressive ideas, including equal pay for women. Still, she claims to believe that health care is ‘a basic human right’, while not fighting for true universal health care. She whole-heartedly supported welfare reform, also known as TANF, which not only proved to be harmful for many working-class, black and Latino families, but also trafficked in lazy stereotypes about black and brown mothers.”

Sarah Jones also responded to Badham in an article entitled “Stop ignoring Clinton’s left-wing female critics”. Jones sums it up well: “Sexism is everywhere, even in the left. But men are not immediately guilty of sexism for criticising a female candidate’s economic and foreign policies. And it is particularly disingenuous for Badham to attribute those concerns to a ‘testosterone left’ when women have criticised Clinton since she announced her candidacy. Many are women of colour. They’ve written articles. Books, even!”.

Are Hayes, Watkins, Savali and Jones brocialists and manarchists? Or have they internalised misogynistic attitudes? Is it so easy for the likes of Badham to ignore the murder of a female Indigenous leader in Honduras as she rewrites history and celebrates Clinton’s “activist leadership”? This brand of middle-class feminist identity politics is not new, but what is baffling is someone with those politics, in this case Badham, wanting to insist how radical and socialist she is at the same time.

Actor and vocal Bernie Sanders supporter Susan Sarandon recently wrote a letter to Jill Stein, the presidential candidate for the Green Party, in which she said: “Fear of Donald Trump is not enough for me to support Clinton, with her record of corruption.”

With the right wing mobilising and using tactics of fear and racism to gain power, now is not the time to give in to politics of lesser evilism. Now is the time to reject corrupt two-party politics and support real alternatives to the business as usual approach of neo-liberalism, imperialism and war.

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