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The Problem With The Bourgeois Feminist Defense Of Hillary Clinton

During a Bernie Sanders rally at Morehouse College in Atlanta on Tuesday, rapper and activist Killer Mike, of Run The Jewels, quoted prominent anti-racism educator and feminist Jane Elliot, who told him that “a uterus doesn’t qualify you to be president.”

The quote, which continues to be falsely attributed to Killer Mike, set off a wave of responses—a swath of impassioned Clinton supporters, many of whom did not watch the entire speech, rushed to berate Killer Mike for what they argue is a sexist statement.

Elliot’s statement, as quoted by Killer Mike, is as follows, “Michael, a uterus doesn’t qualify you to be president of the United States. You have to be—you have to have policy that’s reflective of social justice.”

We can certainly cross swords about the framing but refusing to engage with the core premise, that many have been forcing a Clinton presidency upon women because of her gender identity is to ignore reality.

From Madeleine Albright, to Gloria Steinem, the drive to shape opposition of Clinton as being an abandonment of feminism, or even an act of self-hatred and unashamed treachery, is unbridled, and oftentimes goes unchecked.

Albright, when discussing women refusing to vote for Clinton, suggested, “People have asked me, ‘Why isn’t every woman in the United States for her?’ And I’m going to use my own experiences here…Women are very judgmental about one another.”

When examining Clinton’s policies, and how detrimental they have been for women, Clinton supporters tend to fall back on Planned Parenthood, abortion, and yes, that “it’s time” for a woman president—and even more cringe-worthy—that “it’s her turn,” specifically.

The charge against Killer Mike, and all those who argue that gender identity is not a motivating factor when choosing to invest in a politician, is that they’re dismissing Clinton’s political history, and that they’re choosing to see her as “a uterus.” This allegation seeks to eliminate genuine criticism of the Clinton dynasty, which includes the devastation she has wrought by way of hyper-militaristic foreign policy, dehumanizing immigration strategies, and her past in places like Haiti and Honduras.

Salon writer Amanda Marcotte, who never seems to tire of tabloid journalism, refers to Killer Mike’s statement—which she neglects to quote in its entirety—as “a double-edged sword of sexist cruelty.”

“You don’t have to like Hillary Clinton, but it’s simply and demonstrably untrue that she has never accomplished anything in her life but growing a uterus,” Marcotte writes. “This should seem obvious, and yet these body part-obsessed accusations of female unworthiness have become a standard issue Bernie Bro jab on social media. And now the has-a-vagina-but-nothing-else-to-offer claim has been elevated to the actual Bernie Sanders campaign, courtesy of rapper Killer Mike.”

Clinton’s list of accomplishments are lengthy, Marcotte adds. Yet, while Clinton’s political history may be “remarkable” for bourgeois feminists, her legacy has been calamitous for many ignored and destroyed communities.

It is not only appropriate to call into question every atom’s worth of this legacy, but it is necessary. Also, it is repeatedly argued that no Clinton supporter would go on to invest in Carly Fiorina or any similar conservative candidate. And yet, in a stunning example of this exact type of attachment to Clinton, Amy Siskind, a Wall Street executive and so-called “expert on helping women and girls advance and succeed”, had this to say about Killer Mike’s speech:

“Let’s face it: if you’re a Sanders’ fan, unless you’re white and male, you’re in for the leftovers that trickle down.”

Before Siskind, who calls herself “a pioneer in the distressed debt trading market”, endorsed Hillary Clinton, she supported the one and only Sarah Palin, even going as far as to make the case for Palin ‘advancing women’.

Her response to Killer Mike shows that she understands the popularity and power of tokenization and “privilege checking,” and yet seems to be unaware of her own whiteness and the magnitude of her platform as a Wall Street executive.

Next, in what can only be viewed as another desperate attempt to push back against Hillary Clinton’s critics, Jill Filipovic, former columnist for the Guardian and Cosmopolitan, recently tweeted, “…[At this point ‘Wall Street’ is basically the left’s version of ‘Radical Islamic Terror’ in all its flattening and Bogeyman-ism.” Filipovic went on to say, “Rein in the banks and prosecute white collar criminals. But so much of the political conversation is hysterical & stupid.”

The reaction of bourgeois liberals to any observation of Clinton, which does not offer an approving tone in respect to her policies and political history, or doesn’t—at the very least—indulge in apologetics, is immediately dismissed as shortsighted and unacceptable.

Firstly, the very idea that invoking Wall Street in order to malign a political figure is similar to the state’s invocation of “Radical Islamic Terror” is entirely absurd. The United States, specifically, has used the phantom of terrorism in order to push for global interventionism, and the consequences have been devastating for countless, overlooked communities.

Secondly, the material consequences of a capitalist economy, of which Wall Street is arguably its very heart, are palpable. Also, the impact of global capitalism on marginalized peoples is even more profound. In “Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Humanity,” author William I. Robinson writes that “about a million people in California, most of them Blacks and Latinos, were locked into isolated enclaves by virtue of being locked out elsewhere as capitalist restructuring proceeded from the 1970’s onward.” After being discarded by capital, Robinson argues that these communities then had their spaces designated as military zones—residents were portrayed as being “super-predators” who pose a threat to both white elites and the middle class.

Ruth Wilson Gilmore, author of “Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California,” writes that “the movement of ‘capital rather than people’ is a leading indicator whose sociopolitical symptoms include both gentrification and official racial class war carried out through criminalization and policing.” The intersection of race and class is most evident when examining the disproportionality of the US justice system, but the scope of economic wealth is also an overwhelming element of inequity, and affects the discriminatory practices being applied by this system.

In 2014, Rebecca Burns, assistant editor at In These Times, emphasized Wall Street’s development of new, prejudicial methods which target and profit off of communities of color.

“Just as not all communities suffered the same level of devastation as the result of foreclosures, not everyone is equally likely to be swept into this new ‘rentership society,'” according to Burns. “Thus far, it appears people of color make up the majority of those at the mercy of the new Wall Street landlords.”

The dismissal of the influence of capital in the destruction of welfare, the predatory lending practices, or even the expansion of the for-profit prison industry, has become increasingly standardized.

Wall Street apologetics have allowed for the dehumanization of the poor, specifically poor people of color, to flourish. The maximization of wealth for financial institutions, including banks, corporations, and lending companies, has led to deregulation and systematic abuse of the working class. Filipovic’s mocking of anti-Wall Street smears speaks to not how detached establishment personalities remain, but to their cheerful willingness to ignore the devastating power of financial imperialism.

Hillary Clinton’s reaction to developing apprehension with her Wall Street associations has been unashamedly contemptuous. To a crowd of enthusiastic supporters, she recently asked, “If we broke up the big banks tomorrow…would that end racism? Would that end sexism?” The crowd yelled “no!” in response.

Marcotte, who foolishly labeled Wall Street “too narrow a target”, has called the Clinton campaign’s response to Sanders’ “economic populism” encouraging—contending that Clinton’s best option in this case is to divert attention to other issues, thereby misleading the public in terms of how anti-capitalism converges with race, gender, and class.

She joins an expanding number of white, bourgeois feminists, satisfied with existing conditions, who either refuse to see this convergence, or are willing to ignore it. POLITICO’s “Hillary’s Woman Problem” feature, which managed to cite an astonishingly few number of women of color, quotes author Gail Sheehy, who calls Clinton “a long distance runner in this race” whose mission, in all of its remarkable “breadth,” is being misunderstood by young women. Sheehy echoes Clinton’s rebuttal—that Wall Street does have too much influence, but opposition won’t solve everything. And so, it is clear dispossession of intersectionality is not purely Clintonian. Divorcing the racialized element of capitalist exploitation has become a hallmark of white liberal feminism.

There are those who can simply afford to be lackadaisical when confronted with the depth of Wall Street influence. They can afford a shrugged approach, which paints economic imperialism as an imaginative spook, posing little to no concern. After all, how distressing can the financial establishment be to those unaffected by its destruction?

When politicians like Clinton and figures like Jill Filipovic mercilessly taunt those, who choose to aggressively respond to the so-called financial “bogeyman,” keep in mind which communities are targeted and who benefits from such derision.

DarkMater, a.k.a. Alok Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramanian, at a Q&A session after a performance. (YouTube Screenshot)
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Roqayah Chamseddine

Roqayah Chamseddine

Roqayah Chamseddine is a Lebanese-American writer, published poet, and journalist, whose work can be found at Roqchams.com.