If Bill Clinton wasn’t a former president of the United States, his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) the possible Democratic Party presidential nominee will be like the millions of women who came before and after her, and that is she has the misfortune of having a husband who is both feckless and unreliable. Bill Clinton is unreliable in the two departments which matter the most: you can’t rely on him to keep his pants up and firmly zipped and for most of his political career until he became the President of the United States, his income was abysmal. His salary as the governor of Arkansas was $35,000 a year plus another $19,000 public relations fund appropriated for the governor, which brings it to a grand total of $54,000. Hillary Clinton on the other hand consistently earned over $150,000 as an attorney while her husband was governor of Arkansas – and she was also a mother to a very young Chelsea. This is the story of many women in America. The details may be different, not all have high powered careers as corporate attorneys or are Ivy League educated, but the story is the same. Women have to shoulder the burden of family alongside a husband who is less-than-helpful on a good day. This is where many women personally connect with Hillary Rodham Clinton.
While Bill Clinton may have been a devoted father to Chelsea, the fact that he spent so much of his free time chasing other women for sex shows that his priority is not his family. If he prioritized his family first (regardless of what’s going on personally with his wife), he will have no time for Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones and countless others we don’t know about.
Women are not damsels in distress. We don’t all want a knight in a shining armor riding in on a white horse to save the day. He doesn’t exist. To expect that of a man is not only being misogynistic and sexist to ourselves, but it’s also unfair to men. It’s unfair pressure for them to attain something which almost no man except in fairytale stories have achieved. It would be the same as men wishing they have wives who are always understanding, loving, never nags, never complains, love them as they are at all times, and finds them to be faultless. Oh and don’t forget the beer and blowjobs too. No. Women just want a man who is reliable. Reliable to not embarrass her and if he’s not able to bring home enough bacon due to circumstances out of his control, then show up for the marriage in other ways. It’s not too much to ask.
HRC became the First Lady when I was thirteen years old. I was just becoming aware of myself and who I wanted to become. What kind of woman I wanted to become. My parents were already divorced by then and my mother raised me as a single mother with very minimal contribution (financial and otherwise) from my father. Long stretches would pass before I would see my father, it was only when I became an adult I resumed frequent contact with my father. During my teenage years, he was no help in the parenting department either. My mother could not call him and discuss any problem she was having with me (and there were many) and expect him to step in and help, even if from another state or country. What I saw as my mother’s emotional coldness and aloofness was actually emotional strain. Keep our heads above water, keeping us firmly in the middle-class so that I’d have a chance at succeeding. So that I don’t end up getting pregnant, doing drugs or falling in with the wrong crowd where the trajectory of my life will totally change for the worse with very little chance to reverse. I saw in HRC what I could be: a woman who hustles, regardless of what her husband is doing or not doing, regardless if she has a husband or not. It’s irrelevant.
I liked that HRC was no bullshit and unapologetic about wanting to “fulfill her profession”. She didn’t stay home and bake cookies and that was liberating. I am glad she said it out loud. In the 1990s, women who worked did so guiltily, because they felt that they should be at home baking cookies and hosting afternoon tea. Even if they loved working out of the home and pulling in a paycheck bigger than their husbands, they feigned guilt so that the patriarchy will get off their backs. If a woman’s place isn’t in the home anymore, then her heart should be firmly planted in the kitchen. Though I never articulated it out loud, being raised by a single mother (with the help of extended family) made me realize that men are ultimately unreliable. And that one day, no matter what, it will be up to me to keep the ship going. I am not wide off the mark either, divorce rate in this country is still hovering at 50% so the chances of being divorced with children to support is well within the range of possibility. Most women don’t wish to be divorced and raise children on their own, they don’t desire it, but to not plan for this very possible eventuality is foolhardy. The economy in developed nations have changed as well. Very few families can survive on just one income unless they are the 1% or shill for the 1% (i.e. corporate lawyers, consultants, financial advisors etc.).
When Bill Clinton became president, HRC, for reasons which are obvious could no longer work as a corporate lawyer. She had to move to the White House, settle in with Chelsea and her role as the nation’s First Lady. Their finances should be better by this stage, but no, the shady dealings of the Clintons’ pre-White House days followed them to the White House. They became targets of right, which is in part a witch-hunt and in part their own doing. They had to fend off investigation after investigation, which means astronomical amount of attorney’s fees, something even the much higher salary of the US Presidency can’t cover. And who could forget the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the mother of all embarrassments. Besides being humiliated by her husband on the international stage, more legal bills mounted as a result of the impeachment hearings.
HRC was heavily criticized when she said: “We came out of the White House not only dead broke but in debt.” It’s the truth and I don’t understand why everyone got their panties all in a wad over it. She made this comment in defense of her accepting large speaker’s for her speaking engagements. And since Bill Clinton was still shaking off the Monica Lewinsky scandal when he left the White House, Hillary was the more popular of the two. So, like a grown woman, she put her big girl pants on and got to work. Chelsea was still in college when they left the White House and she was attending Stanford University, not a cheap school. What’s more, her husband will have Secret Service protection for the rest of his life should he choose to (as do HRC), he will also have a very comfortable pension and health benefits afforded to a former president. So, even if he never made another dime in his life again and live frugally, he’ll be just fine. Besides, no one will let a former president, especially a popular one, live below the dignity which should be afforded him. So someone will come to his rescue should it ever come to that. What about his wife? What has she gotten out of their eight years in the White House? Embarrassment, public humiliation, heartache and the icing on top, no money and in debt. Worse than nothing.
Since her husband got elected to public office, HRC’s career in the public eye has been skewered and excoriated. In the more sexist days of the ’90s, she was accused of being unfeminine. No one felt sorry for her when her husband stepped out on her, some even went so far to say she deserved it. Some mused if she was really a lesbian. Maybe if she stayed home and and cooked, baked cookies and hosted tea parties her husband just might behave better. People must have forgotten the story about the leopard and its spots. She got shit from everybody. Even feminists, the group of women she’s most identified with. When the Monica Lewinsky scandal hit the headlines, people expected HRC to walk away from her husband and her marriage, like a good feminist should. I felt the same at the time, though I was just 17 and knew absolutely nothing about what being married is like, yet I made a judgement about her.
When she didn’t leave her husband, the narrative changed. She suddenly became this calculating bitch. A modern day Lady Macbeth. The ONLY possible reason left for her to remain with that love cheat is for political reasons. She wants to be the president herself one day and she needs him. That’s what this whole unholy union is about, she wants the top prize for herself. Some speculated that it’s payback for poor old Slick Willy, she will make the rest of his life miserable and he will for the first time in all their years together, put on the good husband act and go out there and stump for her. It’s her turn and he better fall in line or else.
I am not an expert on their relationship nor do I want to know anymore than the public has already been subjected to. But for the public to blindly assume that she remained with her husband only for her political career is about the worst kind of sexism I’ve ever seen. It assumes that she cannot forge a political career or a career of any kind without him. She must be Hillary Rodham Clinton in order for her to get her foot in the door anywhere. Hillary Rodham isn’t good enough. It assumes that all the years she spent as the family’s breadwinner was not of her own merit but because she was Mrs. Clinton, even when the name Clinton had no cache attached to it yet, when they were back in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was Hillary Rodham who got into Wellesley on her own merit. It was Hillary Rodham who got into Yale Law School on her own merit. It was also Hillary Rodham who hustled and earned the bacon while her husband pursued a career in politics. She didn’t need Bill Clinton to help her achieve any of these things for her.
What about shared history? How about the shared pain of being persecuted by the Washington right wing? How about Chelsea, their only child? Of wanting to keep their family in tact for her? How about *gasp* love? Or even if she wanted him around for her future political career, what is so wrong with that? She supported him unconditionally. She didn’t embarrass him with her own peccadilloes, why can’t the favor be returned? A lot goes into a long term relationship. Sometimes the easiest thing is to run to the courthouse and file papers and get this whole sorry saga over with. The easiest thing is not always the best thing or the right thing. The Clintons are grown ups, they know what’s best for them and their marriage. One worthy irony to point out though, the Clintons’ marriage was depicted as the dysfunctional one, the Gores’ on the other hand was the paragon of what a healthy and loving marriage looked like. The Gores’ were loving and tactile in public, there were no scandals in their marriage and they had 4 children which are the product of this loving marriage. Imagine everyone’s shock when the Gores’ announced their separation a few years ago? The Clintons’, ironically, are still very much together.
Many women are still defined by their marriage, or more specifically, who they are married to. Everything she does or doesn’t do is related to her marriage in one way or another. And it’s not a bad thing or good thing, it’s just how life worked out for some women. Hillary Clinton is obviously her own woman. I do not get the notion that if she weren’t married to Bill Clinton she wouldn’t have achieved what she has.
After the Clintons’ left the White House, they spent a lot of time refilling the Clinton coffers. And they went about it pretty ruthlessly. They took on high paying speaking gigs and got offered huge advances for writing their memoirs. HRC did so without shame. She worked with anyone who would pay what she asked and good for her. I would have done the same. The pressure of having no money while a woman has children cannot be underestimated. It’s the worst kind of stress a mother can experience. So I can appreciate her aggression in the pursuit of financial security. But, and this is a big but – if HRC wants to fill her family coffers by any means necessary, then she should give up running for public office, especially the nomination for the presidency of the United States.
I’ve withdrawn my political support for HRC, as I find her to be tainted politically. She’s too entangled with the monied elite in this country for her to govern objectively and I no longer trust her political judgements. I dislike her hawkish stance in foreign policy matters. She’s become as trigger happy as her fellow Republicans. She will always be a woman I admire greatly. She was my first feminist role model in which I could see myself modeling my life after. I could be married and not be defined by my marriage, or by being a Mrs. Somebody. I could be married, be a mother and still operate as my own entity or operate as a joint entity if I choose. The writings of Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and Simone de Beauvoir informed my feminist consciousness, but they weren’t exactly women I could emulate my life after. They were too far removed from my generation. HRC has taken many blows in the form of public opinion about everything. How she speaks, her tone of voice, the volume of her voice, her emotions, her lack of emotions, her style (or lack of one), her looks, her age everything but the issues. And if I am totally honest, I don’t know how Bill Clinton is still with the living, I wouldn’t be able to exercise so much self control, but I suppose there are worse fates than death when you’ve humiliated your wife over and over.
She can be a good role model to women, but I don’t think she’s good as my president. As much as I want a woman to ascend to the highest office in the land, I cannot support Hillary Rodham Clinton in that endeavor.