Jon Wiener: Anti-Hillary Sentiment On The Rise Among Leading Feminists

Roundup: Historians' Take

More than 1,000 feminists have signed a statement criticizing Hillary Clinton and supporting Obama for president - evidence that Clinton's support among women activists continues to decline. The group,"Feminists for Peace", started out with 100 signers before the super-Tuesday primaries, and has 1,200 signers two weeks later.

Clinton's support for the war in Iraq was the leading reason she lost the support of the feminists, along with the fact that"until quite recently [she] opposed all legislative efforts to bring the war and occupation to an end." The group added,"We urgently need a presidential candidate whose first priority is to address domestic needs."

Those endorsing Obama include writer Barbara Ehrenreich; longtime peace activist Cora Weiss; Katha Pollitt, columnist for The Nation; Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times writer Margo Jefferson; women's rights historians Alice Kessler Harris and Linda Gordon; political scientist Frances Fox Piven and actor/activist Susan Sarandon.

"Choosing to support Senator Obama was not an easy decision for us," the group stated,"because electing a woman president would be a cause for celebration in itself." They"deplored" the"sexist attacks against Senator Clinton that have circulated in the media." But, they stated, they nevertheless supported Obama because his election"would be another historic achievement" and because"his support for gender equality has been unwavering."

This group joins other prominent feminists who have turned against Hillary and endorsed Obama, including Kate Michelman, president for 20 years of NARAL Pro-Choice America, the country's leading reproductive rights group, and Ellen Bravo, former director of 9to5, the National Association of Working Women.

Meanwhile an opposing group of 250 feminists has responded with a statement supporting Clinton. Led by historians Ellen Carol DuBois from UCLA and Christine Stansell from the University of Chicago, the group includes writers Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan, CUNY Women's Studies professor Michele Wallace, Blanche Wiesen Cook, biographer of Eleanor Roosevelt, and Peg Yorkin of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Their statement says that, in supporting the war, Clinton"made a major mistake." While acknowledging that Obama opposed the war from the start, the group declared that his opposition" carried no risks and indeed, promised to pay big dividends in his liberal Democratic district."

Obama, they wrote,"has no monopoly on inspiration." They praised Clinton's"brains, grace under pressure, ideas, and the skill to make them real: we call that inspiring," they said.

A third feminist statement blasted the Clinton supporters as"'either/or' feminists determined to see to it that a woman occupies the Oval Office." Eve Ensler, author of"The Vagina Monologues," and Kimberlé Crenshaw, professor of law at UCLA and Columbia, declared that the pro-Clinton feminists"interrogate, chastise, second-guess and even denounce those who escape their encampment and find themselves on Obama terrain. In their hands feminism, like patriotism, is the all-encompassing prism that eliminates discussion, doubt and difference about whom to vote for and why."

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Lisa Kazmier - 2/23/2008

I understand your point but I had no problem signing the petition. Hillary has never justified her vote. She has tried to appear more masculine to attract voters. That's not feminism nor a victory for feminism. That's a victory for one particular female who's downplaying her gender.

Second, I don't get how "feminists" supporters her fail to see that she wouldn't be a serious candidate if it wasn't for her husband. I TEACH gender/women's history and this seems most like Hillary is a "relative creature" who's getting ahead based on a class entitlement or relationship with an important male. What the heck are we teaching here? That's women cannot gain power or prestige on their own merits and industry; they need to be married to an important guy?

I've gotten the impression that some women are enthusiastically supporting HRC because she's a woman. Would they do so for Margaret Thatcher or Condoleeza Rice, who have the virtue of obtaining national prominence on their own?

I'm proud to support Obama as the right candidate for right now. I don't want some elective monarchy. This republic is teetering on extinction enough as it is.

Vicki Eaklor - 2/23/2008

As a feminist, a strong supporter of Senator Clinton, and a fan of HNN, I was disappointed to see that HNN is contributing to the extremely slanted media "spin" against Clinton and for Obama. Could the headline have read "Leading Feminists Divided in This Campaign Year" or something? I have much admiration for Ehrenreich, Pollitt, et al., but I'd argue that they have nothing on Steinem, Morgan, etc., as "leading feminists." Yes, the latter are mentioned, buried in the story, but it would be nice to hear more from those of us who have good reasons for supporting Hillary and who will gladly match our feminist credentials with anyone (and thank you Robin Morgan for your wonderful "Goodbye to All That #2").