Monday, July 09, 2007

Hillary Clinton: Girls Respond!

Over a week ago, we asked blog readers to weigh in on the current debate over Senator Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency. We wanted to know what girls think about the huge spotlight the media is shining on her gender. We had also heard from many girls who weren’t sure what it means to have a woman running—As girls and women, do we automatically support Hillary, because she’s a woman? As Courtney E. Martin, the author who we interviewed last week, wrote in a great article for AlterNet, “Does Being a Feminist Mean Voting for Hillary?

According to the responses we got, yes and no. Most of you said something along the lines of these comments: “I am quite happy that there is a women running for president—but really, I'm not going to go all nutso for her just because she is female” and the more plainly stated “I think a persons’ gender shouldn't matter at all when it comes to politics.” Others celebrated just having a serious woman candidate for the first time in many years. “To tell you the truth,” one girl said, “I feel so great that a woman is running for president. It makes me so proud.”

Here’s what we asked readers:
If you support Hillary, is it because she’s a woman, or do you support her regardless of her gender? What role does gender play in your political decisions?

When New Moon surveyed girls on politics earlier this year, we found that 73% said you’d definitely vote for a woman for president. Would you vote for Hillary?

If you could vote for ANY woman for President (not necessarily a politician), who would you choose?

We never anticipated that we’d receive over twenty thoughtful, animated responses from girls across the U.S. (and even from other countries!) Many girls had really interesting comments to share on the role gender plays in politics, but most of them also told us whether they support Hillary (if you’re curious, many girls hadn’t yet decided, but of those that did, girls were split half-and-half between supporting and opposing Hillary).

You can read some of the comments we got on the blog, but we also wanted to share some of the longer responses we received by email.

Some of the most interesting responses we received related to gender. Like the anonymous comments we shared above, many girls said that gender isn’t a huge factor in their decisions.

Ada, 11, said, “I am a big supporter of women's rights, and I really want a female president. But I want a female president that is also great in politics, and I wouldn't vote for a politician that I didn't think was. You have to have a balance.” Karinn, also 11, stated, “Gender only plays a 5% role in my views; the rest is based on the politician’s issues, opinions and plans.”

Fourteen-year-old Candace, who supports Hillary, says that gender shouldn’t matter at all: “I believe a woman can run this country. Any person can if they are smart, know what to do, and are willing to learn.”

Oh, and about that ‘do we support her just because she’s a woman’ question? It’s a pretty hot topic right now, especially among feminist thinkers. Lisa Jervis, founder of Bitch magazine, has written about the idea she calls "femmenism,” which she describes as “the mistaken belief ... that female leadership is inherently different from male; that having more women in positions of power, authority, or visibility will automatically lead to, or can be equated with, feminist social change; that women are uniquely equipped as a force for action on a given issue; and that isolating feminist work as solely pertaining to women is necessary or even useful.”

In other words, being a woman doesn’t mean a politician will be supportive of women’s issues. Lisa mentions certain women like Condoleezza Rice, who stood by the Bush Administration during Abu Ghraib and countless other scandals, and Ann Coulter, who is fond of using homophobic insults to describe certain Democrats.

On the other hand, The White House Project, an organization devoted to bringing women into politics, all the way up to the Presidency, argues that a significant number of women in leadership positions—no matter which issues they support—will make the world a better place. The more women in power, the better the world will be, they believe.

Many girls responded to the ‘do we support Hillary just because she’s a woman’ question. Eleven-year-old Lillian told us no: “Just because she is a woman doesn't mean she automatically should have support.” Other girls called for gender equality in politics. Dagny, 13, wrote, “I am totally into having a woman president. I think that would be so cool! But I think the voters should treat Hillary as any possible president-to-be, regardless whether she's male or female.”

Hannah, also 13, added: “I do not think that it is fair that Hillary receives extra publicity because of her sex, although I know that this will be a deciding factor in many U.S. citizens’ votes. People tend to vote for people like them, and current women voters have only had one female candidate before, Shirley Chisholm, in 1972.”

If gender doesn’t (or shouldn’t) matter, then what does? Most girls told us the issues a politician supports or opposes matter most, echoing a recent poll that found that 63% of young women voters say the most important factor is in choosing which candidate they support is the candidate’s support of the issues she cares about.

Eleven-year-old Nathalie said, “I think most people are voting for Hillary because she is a woman. I like the fact that she is a woman running for president, but I don't like her political opinions. I don't think I would vote for her if I could vote.” Some of the strongest responses we received cited Hillary’s stance on the war. Here’s what girls said:

The biggest reason I do not think that Hillary should deserve the title of President is her view on the War in Iraq. First, she voted that we should go to war in Iraq, which was completely wrong in the first place. Now, she is campaigning against the war. As President, when you make a decision, you should stick with it. Hillary's cover-up story is that we have done our job in Iraq, and we need to get out. In my opinion, we never had a job to do in Iraq.
—Lillian, age 11

[I don’t support Hillary.] Why not? Though strong, Hillary is not as strong a candidate as Nancy Pelosi. The main reason that I wouldn't vote for her is that she supports the Iraq War. I don't want another president who supports that inhumane crime.
—Hannah, age 12

I do support Hillary, mainly because I like her line of thinking, her views, and her anti-quitting attitude. I would vote for Hillary because I am very fond of her plans to bring our troops back from Iraq on a January First [2008] basis. I also appreciate her caring, sympathy and sincerity to those without healthcare. If I could choose any woman to be President, I would still choose Hillary Clinton. She is a strong person, an awesome politician and a wonderfully kind person!
—Karinn, age 11

We also asked girls who they would vote for if they could vote for any woman, politician or not. Twelve-year-old Katie said, “If I could choose a celebrity to be president I would choose Oprah. A politician, and I would choose Hillary.” Hannah, also 12, responded: “Woman I want for president? Easy—Nancy Pelosi. Never have I seen such a strong woman politician with such honest views and above all, amazing decisions. As a girl from the VERY far left, I think that Nancy Pelosi would be a great candidate for president. She would lead the country to peace, and that’s [the issue at] the top of my list.”

Thanks, girls, for your great responses! We loved reading them, and we’re so happy to have the opportunity to get this important conversation started. Keep writing!


Want to hear what more girls told us about Hillary? Read on.

I believe that Hillary Clinton is an amazing woman, but more importantly, I think she should be President because of her spirit and beliefs. Clinton knows politics, and she knows what it is like to be President; after all, her husband was. She knows and understands people, and she is right on. Senator Clinton supports gay rights, abortion for rape victims, wants to withdraw from Iraq, and would put a better focus on Global Warming and schools—all issues that affect us.
—Ada, age 11

Hilary Rodham Clinton is a debate. She gets much attention just because she's a woman, but there is also a group of people that listen (gender barriers aside) to what she has to say. She is a Democrat and against the war in Iraq, and has a Democratic view on most things. As for me, I support her as a woman and appreciate the gender barriers she's trying to break. But, politically, I think that she could be a little bit stronger in her views and not count on the people who she thinks will vote for her just because she's a woman.
—Gabrielle, age 11

I think that she is a good woman and would make a good president. Women may get in fights but most often resolve it themselves. Why can't men do that? The War on Terror has been going on for at least four years so it makes me wonder why President Bush can’t do that. Still, many other people think that someone else should be President, but is it not a good time for change.
—Elisabeth, age 11

Yes, I would vote for Hillary Clinton regardless of her gender. I think she is intelligent and well-informed. The only reason I wouldn’t vote for her is because I wanted to be the first women president. ; )
—Katie, age 12

As we mentioned, our blog’s readers were pretty split over their support of Hillary. Curious about what adults think? The most recent poll numbers we could obtain (a July 3 Newsweek poll) say that support for Hillary is higher than ever: Fifty-six percent of people said they would support Hillary when asked, “Suppose the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination next year comes down to a choice between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Who would you most like to see nominated?” Thirty-three percent said they supported Barack Obama, and eleven percent reported that they were still undecided.

Interestingly enough, more adult Americans say they would vote for a woman president than girls we polled. Earlier this year, we conducted an online survey of over 1,000 girls, and found that 73% said you'd definitely vote for a woman for president, and another 25% said “maybe.” [LINK] But according to the Times Union/Siena College First Woman President poll, 66% percent of Americans think the U.S. is ready for a woman president and 81% would vote for one.

More promising news: A poll of adults conducted by GfKRoper Public Affairs found Americans believe that a woman president would be as good as or better than a man at leading on the issues of foreign policy (78%), homeland security (77%) and the economy (88%).

And still more good news: A CosmoGIRL!/White House Project poll from just a few weeks ago found that young voters today are ‘very’ to ‘somewhat comfortable’ with a woman being president (88%), and 73% say they are ready for a woman president. Interestingly, 69% would be more likely to vote on Election Day if a woman is on the presidential ballot, yet 69% would vote for who they find to be the best candidate, regardless of gender. Sounds like good news all around!

Facts from The White House Project and American Women Presidents on Women and the Presidency:

Out of over 180 countries, only 11 have elected women heads of state.

In every election since 1980, US women have voted in higher rates than men.

16% of members of national parliaments worldwide are women.

Victoria Claflin Woodhull became the first woman to run for the US Presidency when she announced her bid in 1872. A decade later, Belva Ann Lockwood ran twice with the Equal Rights Party.

In 1964, Margaret Chase Smith became the first US woman nominated by a major political party for President.

On the one-hundredth anniversary of Woodhull’s historic 1872 campaign, Congresswomen Shirley Chisholm (New York), Patsy Mink (Hawaii), and Abzug (New York) simultaneously became the first Democratic women to run for U.S. president in 1972. Chisholm’s strong primary showing won her 152 delegate votes or five percent of the delegate votes cast at the Democratic National Convention—an unprecedented historic victory for women on the 100th anniversary of the campaign to elect women to the US Presidency.

Since 1972, several other women have thrown their hats in the ring, including Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro (D-NY), Republican Elizabeth Dole, and Democrat Carol Moseley Braun. Feminist activist and environmentalist Winona LaDuke is also worth noting—she ran for Vice President twice, in 1996 and again in 2000!


Anonymous said...

I love how you showed different views on Hillary Clinton! What's your opinion? (natalia) I'm very curious since you're running the blog =)

-Ann Onymous

New Moon said...

Dear Ann,

Thanks for the comment! We enjoyed putting this piece together :)

New Moon features women; our job is to showcase their life, work, and accomplishments. This goes for women politicians (and candidates) as well--we feature their work, but we don't endorse them. New Moon enjoys sparking conversations about Hillary and the Presidential Race, as well as wider dialogues about gender in politics, but that doesn't mean we endorse her.

As for a blogger who wishes to remain anonymous, she's excited to have a woman running for the Presidency, but she's not a big fan of Hillary herself. She wishes a more honest woman truly committed to social justice and women's rights were running--not someone who served on the board of Wal-Mart for six years, voted for the Iraq War, and has flip-flopped on the issue of women's reproductive freedoms too many times to count. She feels that Hillary is still too much part of the 'old boys' club' of politics. She would much rather see other women politicians running, like Senator Barbara Mikulski, or Congresswomen Hilda Solis and Tammy Baldwin.


Anonymous said...

I would vote Hillary Clinton for president because of her views. On of the things that bugs me is that people will just vote for her because she is a woman. I think that a good way of voting would be to just list peoples stances on things on the ballot, and find out who they are later.

I would not vote a woman president simply because she is a woman, gender should not matter, what they believe in should.

I don't know who I would vote for one worthwhile seems to be out there right now...I would say it should be someone who is a mother, an activist, a vegetarian, and NOT a politician.

MOTHER- Because then they would know what it's like to have a child, and may be more caring.

ACTIVIST- Because they would have that rebellious twinge in them that wouldn't let them just do what everyone else is.

VEGETARIAN- Because that shows they have real compassion (I'm not saying people who aren't Vegetarians don't, I'm not, but I do) to humans and animals alike.

NOT A POLITICIAN- People think politicians are corrupt, and a lot of them are. With someone who is not a politician, they would have a fresh outlook, instead of one muddled with everyone elses.

Anonymous said...

I'm on the fence about Ms. Clinton. I wouldn't vote for a woman just because she's awoman if I didn't agree with her views. Love, Sexy Sadie

Melinda said...

I refuse to support her because I have little respect for anyone, male or female, who cannot accept the fact that humanity and human rights should be there from the beginning, not given when a person is born. I think there were times when she talked about helping children, but it's hypocritcal to think that only born children are worth saving.