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."