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Web Letter

The prevailing attitude of feminist organizations, as depicted by Jessica Velenti, toward the obligation of women to vote for Hillary provokes an aversion in me, as a highly educated and politically aware woman in her mid-20s, to the feminist movement in general. While I deeply respect those women who have come before me, fighting for my right to vote and to have the same educational opportunities as my male counterparts, I resent the notion that I must vote for a woman simply because she is a woman. I and others of my generation see ourselves as strong women who should be given opportunities according to our abilities, not our sex. Hillary is certainly a worthy candidate, and I understand why many Americans might see her as the best candidate. But to mandate women to vote for her simply because she is a female is not only unreasonable but a detriment to women's quest for equality. I and other women of my generation have succeeded thanks to the hard work of our forebears, but once given the chance to succeed, we wish to do so on our own merits. Strong women in my generation are individuals prefer to evaluate political candidates according to their strengths rather than their sex.

Rachel Fabian

San Diego, CA

Mar 16 2008 - 4:20am

Web Letter

Volumes are being written, spoken, and shouted by people calling themselves "feminists" in this election. A large number of these figures apparently have fallen victim to the fallacious notion that, because a candidate is a woman, the victory of her candidacy therefore is a success for women and "feminism." In these figures' minds, if one does not support the candidacy, one is opposed to the success of women and "feminism."

I'd like to make a simple point about US Presidents.

The election of a US President sounds a grim note across the world. Few if any US Presidents in modern history have created anything but a net measure of death, destruction and despair. The US is perennially invading, embargoing, sanctioning or otherwise at war with in essence the already miserable populations of the poorer nations on the planet.

This is particularly true for women and children in these impoverished lands, where fragile economic and social structures are crushed by bombs and starved by trade embargoes.

To the people arguing that Hillary Clinton's candidacy is about success for women, children, and "feminism," I direct your attention to Clintons' record in her brief and limited political career. To whit: she was the smiling first lady of a President who drove a sanctions regime against Iraq that, according to the UN, caused the unnecessary deaths of half a million women and children, and, since then, her one meaningful act in foreign policy has been her authorizing and continued unapologetic support of an invasion and occupation that has killed tens or hundreds of thousands more and that will continue to cause a cascading wave of death and suffering and chaos across the greater Middle East.

If electing such a figure is a win for "feminists," then count me out of "feminism." One is left only wishing that the people of Iraq were allowed to vote in this nomination race. The name "Clinton" to them is one of the worst names of a near-twenty-year-long national horror story they have been suffering.

Seymour Friendly

Seattle, WA

Mar 9 2008 - 8:43pm

Web Letter

I was astonished at some of the letters that seem to have no idea of what Hillary Clinton and (particularly) Barack Obama have accomplished or stand for outside of the mythologies we have been fed by the mainstream media.

One good benchmark of their character is what they each did with their brand new law degrees, Hillary's from Yale and Barack's from Harvard (where he was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review in the history of the school). While Hillary did contribute her skills as and advocate for the interests of children and families, which is highly admirable, she was also a full partner of the Rose Law Firm, specializing in patent infringement and intellectual property law, and earning a six-figure annual salary. She also sat on the corporate boards of TCBY, LaFarge (a French maker of construction materials and one of the largest consumers of fossil fuels) and Wal-Mart (the first woman to sit on Wal-Mart's board). While at Wal-Mart, she campaigned unsuccessfully for more women to be added to the company's management, but was shamefully silent on Walton's legendary anti-union practices.

Although Obama emerged from Harvard as a legal superstar and could have moved right into any top law firm, he returned to Chicago to continue his community organizing. He specialized in representing community organizers, discrimination claims and voting rights cases. He also lectured in constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for over a decade.

When he was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996, he was legendary for building bipartisan coalitions to support a wide spectrum of laws. He took the lead in reforming healthcare and ethics. He sponsored a law increasing tax credits for low-income workers and pushed for incresed childcare subsidies. He led the effort to pass bills that required videotaping all homicide interrogations, monitoring racial profiling by police and reforming the death penalty laws.

In the Senate, Obama, even as a lowly freshman, continued to take the lead in putting together bipartisan coalitions on many issues. He and John McCain (R-AZ) cosponsored an immigration reform act. He partnered with Dick Lugar (R-IN) to create the "Lugar-Obama" initiative which expands Nunn-Lugar" to include reduction of weapons (including anti-personnel mines). Along with Tom Coburn (R-OK), he was responsible for the "Coburn-Obama Transparency Act.

He was the primary sponsor of a bill to provide relief, security and promotion of democracy in the Congo. He and Russ Feingold (D-WI) worked to eliminate use of lobbyists' corporate jets and require full disclosure of the sources of bundled campaign cotributions. He joined with Chuck Shumer (D-NY) to sponsor a bill criminalizing deceptive practices in federal elections. He and John McCain (R-AZ) cosponsored a bill calling for major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. He also introduced the "Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007," which would have capped troop levels in Iraq, begun phased redeployments and removed all combat troops from Iraq by the end of this monthy.

He cosponsored with Kit Bond (R-MO) an amendment to the defense authorization bill to add safeguards to prevent the military from using "personality disorder" discharges that were being widely used to strip wounded veterans of their medical benefits. The Obama-Hegel (R-NE) bill was aimed at reducing dangers from nuclear terrorism. Obama also sponsored a Senate amendment to the SCHIP bill to protect the jobs of family members taking care of veterans with combat-related injuries. The bill and Obama's amendment passed both houses of Congress only to be vetoed by President Bush.

As a member of the Fireign Relations Committee, Obama has made official diplomatic trips to many countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Palestinian territories, South Africa, Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Chad. He negotiated issues like control of conventional, biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, the Israel/Palestine conflict, the destructive forces of ethic rivalries and corruption throughout Africa.

So Obama has a lifelong record of being able to take a leadership role and to enlist people of opposing ideologies to work for the public good. Instead of Clintonian triangulation and trying to pander to various groups' beliefs, he has brought people together to share his own vision.

Now, lets look at Hillary Clinton's political experience. As First Lady, her only real policy responsibility was the Clinton healthcare intitiative. Her political, judgemental, and managerial failures resulted in the healthcare bill losing in a Congress where fellow Democrats had majorities in both houses. It was also cited as one of the major contributing factors to the success of the Gingrich Revolution in 1994, costing Democrats control of both houses. In the White House, she had no security clearance, did not attend meetings of Cabinet officials or advisors where the important decisions were made and had no imput into them, except for possible "pillow talk" with her husband. Her claim that this gives her "experience" is like saying that being married to a comedian makes you funny.

While in the Senate, Clinton voted for the USA Patriot Act 2001 and again for its renewal in 2005. She voted in favor of the 2002 Iraq War Resolution, also voting against the Levin amendment that would have required Bush to conduct intense diplomacy at the UN and then require a second Congressional authorization for a military invasion.

She voted for the 2001 Bankruptcy Bill, proposed legislation to ban flag-burning and voted against an amendment to prohibit the use of cluster bombs against civilian targets. She also voted for the recent law declaring Iranian Republican Guard a terrorist organization (which some conservatives are claiming is sufficient to authorize Bush to invade Iran).

Most recently, she conspicuously skipped the vote on the renewal of the Protect America Act, even though she was in the neighborhood. Both John McCain (aye) and Barack Obama (nay) took time out of their campaigns for this critical vote.

She did vote against many Bush appointments, for example, John Bolton, John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, Samual Alito, and John Roberts. However, she took no leadership role in rallying opposition to any of these nominations. In fact, she voted for cloture against Democratic filibuster attempts to block the nominations of Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, William H. Pryor and John Roberts.

Among the other areas where she failed to step up and be a leadership voice in the party, saying little or nothing, were the confirmation of Michael Mukasey, the Iraq War Supplemental bills, the extension of FISA, the Walter Reid scandal (though she sits on the Armed Services Committee), the 2005 Bankruptcy Bill and telecom immunity.

About the only thing she did that was positive was that she joined with Senator Lieberman (for whom she campaigned when he ran against Ned Lamont) and Senator Bayh (both former DLC chairs) to introduce the Family Entertainment Protection Act, intended to protect children from excessive violence and sex in video games.

Hillary has never really shown any leadership in her political career, and, except for her interest in women's and children's issues, seems to have little in the way of substantive core values and ideals. Even in her campaign, she seems unable to manage her own senior staff, and her top advisors are at each other's throats at the moment (and they all agree on their goals). I don't think she would stand a chance trying to manage Congress.

There are many on both sides of the political fence who would characterize her more as a "Rockefeller Republican" than a liberal or progressive Democrat.

I think she'd make a great social worker or chairperson of a childrens' defense fund--but a President? She simply hasn't shown the leadership or vision that Obama has.

John Novack

New Hope, PA

Mar 8 2008 - 4:09pm

Web Letter

I read with great sadness, and no surprise, Ms. Valenti's take on why some women feel no shame in voting for Mr. Obama, instead of Mrs. Clinton.

The problem with the fight for gender equality is that the "isms" have always been at odds, and women have always given in and sat at the back of the bus. While Ms. Valenti may not have been here way back when, in the beginning there was always a tension between color and gender and, most unfortunately for the women's movement, color won.

I left the feminist movement over ten years ago because as a movement goes, it was moving nowhere. We were too inclusive, and you cannot win a battle, much less the war, if everyone's issues have to come into the picture. Feminism is about achieving equality between men and women, and this will never happen until the feminist movement becomes just this.

I also left the movement because I decided that the women were worse than the men. I was one of those radical types that demanded the world--equal pay, full funding of womens' sports programs, full prosecution of crimes against women and harsher penalties etc., etc., etc. Each time we would come close to achieving something, the weakest link was always a woman selling out. I am strong, and I am brave, but my heart could only take so much.

Hillary Clinton has spent her life helping the middle and lower classes in this country, most of them made up of women and children. She has withstood pressures that many could not, and when it would have been easier to walk away she stayed and fought. She has raised a strong, smart and confident daughter in a world that makes this an almost impossible feat. She brings to the White House a lifetime of hard work, hard-won battles and experience that small countries could not muster up if they had to. For any woman not to vote for her would be a travesty to themselves, this country and to Mrs. Clinton because her being a women is just a bonus we get by choosing the best candidate by far. I should not have to point this out, as it is obvious and it is breaking my heart.

I will not give credence to the novice Senator Obama's bid for the White House other than to state for the record that once I confirmed that his church gave Louis Farrakhan a "humanitarian" award and Mr. Obama did not speak out or step down from this church, he became a non-issue as far as having even the minimum requirements for President of this country.

To all women everywhere I issue this challenge. It is time to walk to the front of the bus and become the driver. It is time.

Jennifer Beegle

Houston, TX

Mar 7 2008 - 10:21pm

Web Letter

The clash between classic and baroque feminists has been well-documented, but this article highlights a seemingly obvious yet seldom touched-upon reason for it: the old school, girls-against-boys mentality. The most tiresome feminist stereotype is that we are "man-hating"--and scornful of women who like men. The cohort of feminists Jessica Valenti mentions in her piece are ensuring that this stereotype stays alive. If feminism is ever going to work, men must be involved, seen as potential allies and evaluated on an individual basis, just like women want to be.

A smart, informed feminist voting for Obama (like me, for instance) is hopefully doing so because she truly believes Obama has women's best interests in mind. And not only women, but those of young women, women of color, working-class people--the majority of whom are, yes, you guessed it, women. She is not sitting in the voting booth and thinking, "Hmmm... feminism or Obama?" Men and feminism are not, and have never been, mutually exclusive.

Nona Willis Aronowitz

New York, NY

Mar 7 2008 - 8:18pm

Web Letter

" Let's use this moment to push for the feminism we've all been fighting for." Except...Jessica Valenti spends her time smearing "mainstream feminists," older feminists, and supporters of Clinton. She's all about building her career on the talking points of "older feminism bad/younger feminists good." This is not the feminism we've all been fighting for.

This is not the feminism we've all been fighting for, and putting together some sort of clever Fox-news like slanted article against Clinton supporters for her own glory and Ann Coulter-like fame is irresponsible. The article inspired a letter-writer here to comment that all Clinton cares about is her vagina. This is the level of inspiration that is brought out by the article.

Michelle Trevor

Dallas, TX

Mar 7 2008 - 6:44pm

Web Letter

I'm sure that it's an exciting thing to get published, but when Jessica Valenti decided to be sensational by criticizing and polarizing feminists for Clinton, it's not a proud moment.

Then she makes the suggestion (because we're all about her wisdom) that feminists concentrate on building young leaders and leaving older feminists and what they stand for behind. See? She not only knows best about Obama vs. Clinton but she gives all those nasty older feminists that are excited about Clinton something better to do with their time. Ya see, she's thoughtful. Tone deaf, but thoughtful...

Really? An article about how polarizing feminists are that are supporting Clinton? How bad the conflict is, yet she kicks any other feminist in the teeth for supporting older feminists or supporting a feminist woman for President. How disruptive it is to the lives of the likes of this writer, who is for Obama! How disruptive for her career, since she is young and it is far better to concentrate on building her up. Really, now...

I think it is a shame that this writer will look at this article years from now and maybe the self-centeredness will sink in.

Jill Stockham

Chicago, Il

Mar 7 2008 - 5:30pm

Web Letter

I suppose this article explains the following: When former President Bill Clinton recently made a campaign appearance at my University, I sent an e-mail to my colleagues on the faculty and the president of the University asking if antiwar demonstrators would be able to have a peaceful protest. As it turned out, there was not even time to organize a protest. In my e-mail to my colleagues I discussed Hillary Clinton's prowar record and also pointed out how the First Amendment had died a sad death for a day when George Bush visited our campus for a campaign visit.

Much to my surprise, a "feminist" colleague of mine (the scare quotes are deliberate) publicly accused me of "hateful ranting" and demanded I stop expressing my opinion.

Does this make me one of those "liberal males" who support Obama and are "bullying" feminists? Or is it the case that rather than deal with the issue, some--and I do stress some--"feminists" decide to use gender as an occasion to attack Obama supporters?

Clifford "Chip" Poirot

Portsmouth, Ohio

Mar 7 2008 - 3:23pm

Web Letter

Somewhere down the line, feminists have completely forgotten the entire point of their movement and being: gender equality. We do not ask for special privileges, superiority or exceptions--we simply ask for equality. I cannot think of a more despicable, sexist act then to vote based on nothing but gender. Women who vote for Hillary simply because of her gender betray their own movement, their own being. This feminist voted for Obama not because of his race, his gender, his age, his appearance but because of his policies, actions in office and vision.

Jenna Rosetto

Boston, MA

Mar 7 2008 - 12:40pm

Web Letter

Except when it came to Bill Clinton's exploitation of women and Hillary's all-too-willing trashing of the women who spoke out, the feminist ladies shot their credibility and exposed their hypocrisy.

Doesn't matter if the woman views success by alternating between embracing the boys' club to her own selfish advantage and playing the victim card for political cover--instead of charting an alternative course for a shift in worldview--all that matters is her vagina.

Where is the advancement in supporting a woman because she is a woman but she still betrays other women?

Raphaelle del Vecchio

Trenton, NJ

Mar 6 2008 - 4:40pm