Walking the Walk of Feminism

While not a celebrity, when it comes to feminist credentials I take a back seat to no one. As a teenager in the 1970s, I was on a road crew and drove a truck for the public works department in the village of Paw Paw, Michigan. We took black electricians' tape to the classic orange, diamond-shaped Men Working signs and added a 'W' and an 'O' so they read 'Women Working.' As a young lawyer I specialized in sexual harassment law and traveled with my colleagues around the country, giving the first series of now mandatory sexual harassment lectures to executives at newspapers, radio and television stations owned by Capital Cities/ABC. For the past ten years I have been an advocate for children and recently left my law practice to work on their behalf full time.

The celebrity feminists who have made gender a factor in this election offend me. Their posture is about as ironic as you can get. Let me join Hillary Clinton in her finger wagging and say: "Shame on you! You know better than to play on voters' emotions with a rash oversimplification of equal employment opportunity." These women have done a grave disservice to the feminist movement to which many have devoted their lives.

Feminism is not a badge but a way of life. Being a woman does not make you a feminist nor is it a prerequisite to being one. A feminist lives his or her life in a way that supports and encourages a shift from the elitist and machismo sensibility of traditional backroom politics to a sensibility based on reason and fairness. Both men and women propagate the fear based tactics of power politics, as Clinton has so aptly proven by diving headfirst into the muck and brawl of a negative campaign.

There is a lot of talk about Clinton's judgment with respect to her vote to authorize the war in Iraq. But in my view the most critical test of Clinton's judgment is not what she did in 2002, but what she is doing right now. The Ohio and Texas primaries were the place where Clinton's judgment was tested as to whether or not she could win an election without resorting to the raunchy, negative tactics of party machine politics. What did Clinton do when she came to this fork in the road? She huffed, puffed, cried, and attacked her way back into this primary by using the tried and true tricks of negative campaigning successfully used by the Republican political machine, not just against the Democratic candidates, but also against their own party's primary candidate John McCain when he threatened George Bush's nomination in 2000. Ho-hum. These tactics may have worked in Ohio, but ultimately they are utterly unimaginative and do not bode well for Clinton's ability to think outside the box.

A feminist candidate is by definition the candidate that walks the walk of change. Up until recently I was proud to say that this time around, the Democratic Party had two strong feminist candidates. But when the going got tough Clinton chose the tired and ultimately boring path of negative campaigning. As a result, we are down to one feminist candidate in this presidential election and his name is Barack Obama.