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How Secretary Clinton Undermined Feminism Last Night

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 14/10/2015 Hareem Mannan
HILLARY CLINTON © ASSOCIATED PRESS HILLARY CLINTON

*settles into couch with apple turnover in one hand and remote in the other, turns on Democratic Debate, tuning in right in the middle of Secretary Clinton's introduction*

During the course of the evening tonight, I'll have a chance to lay out all of my plans and the work that I've done behind them. But for me, this is about bringing our country together again. And I will do everything I can to heal the divides -- the divides economically, because there's too much inequality; the racial divides; the continuing discrimination against the LGBT community -- so that we work together and, yes, finally, fathers will be able to say to their daughters, you, too, can grow up to be president.

Wait, what? After listing all the policies she hopes to implement one day, Secretary Clinton closes her opening statement with that? What on earth does that have to do with anything? I decide I'll let this superficial attempt to appeal to women slide. After all, anyone just looking at the stage (four men and one woman, front and center) can tell that she was -- and is -- breaking barriers for women all over the U.S.
Fast forward to Anderson Cooper asking the candidates what makes each of them different from President Obama. "Well, I think that's pretty obvious," she pauses for a second while the audience (and I) laugh. "Being the first woman president would be quite a change from the presidents we've had, including President Obama."
Um, okay? So you're telling me that the defining feature that would make you different from our current president is not an idea, a policy, a skill -- but instead, your gender?
In this, Secretary Clinton has undermined feminism.
And ironically, it was a male who brought this to my attention. Last night, my mentor, AbdelRahman Murphy, national activist and speaker, reminded me that the underlying ideology of feminism is rooted in the idea that a woman can be just as successful (or more successful) than her male counterpart socially, economically, intellectually, and politically.
What then, he asked, was Clinton doing by producing the ultimate red herring: touting her gender as though it adds to her credibility in some way, or perhaps, using it as a superficial means to garner votes? Either way, it is fundamentally despicable, and it sets women actually working to receive recognition based on their own merit back a great many years.
I am absolutely not going to vote for Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb or Lincoln Chafee because of their gender. In fact, if any one of them flaunted their gender on stage as a reason to vote for them, we would be in uproar. So what if you're a man? What does that bring to the political table? How are you going to affect immigration reform, systematic racism, gun violence- anything, really, through your gender?
That's the thing about feminism: gender has nothing to do with it.
As women we argue every single day to be taken seriously because gender has nothing to do with our capacity to succeed. We present our work, talent, and skills, as just that: our work, our talent, our skills, independent of gender, because gender has nothing to do with them. And we are constantly trying to make space for ourselves in a world that has been largely accommodating to men since the beginning of time, because gender should have nothing to do with it.
By appealing to her womanhood, Hillary Clinton has undermined the very essence of feminism. She is actively attributing her uniqueness to her gender and not her merit. Again, this is not to say that her being a woman running for president again is anything short of historic. But why not let that speak for itself?

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