From Kris Macomber, visiting assistant professor of sociology at Meredith College, an all-women’s institution in Raleigh:
After securing the necessary 2,383 delegates in the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton is now poised to be the first woman nominated by either of the major political parties to the highest office in the country. It’s a milestone that is far overdue but nonetheless reflects a positive change and illustrates leadership roles for women are expanding.
Gender was always going to be a key topic in the 2016 Presidential Campaign. But it’s been especially interesting to see how it’s played out thus far.
With any social progress, there’s always a backlash. We saw it last year as Kim Davis ignored the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. We’ve also seen it in the increasing racial tensions since we elected an African American president nearly eight years ago.
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What’s most interesting in this case however, is that the backlash is happening simultaneously. As feminists champion one of the most experienced women politicians in our nation’s history, the other name on the ballot will be Donald Trump, a businessman who has never served in public office and whose misogynistic statements are well-documented.
Trump’s pronouncement that “the only thing she’s got going is the women card,” reflects a deep-seeded notion that political leadership is a man’s domain and the only thing Clinton could possibly offer is the fact that she’s a woman. Not that she served as secretary of state or as senator from New York.
This exposes an important paradox: for a woman politician, her gender is still seen as her primary identity. But for a man, his gender is rendered non-significant. It is tangential. It is a non-factor. It begs the question, if Clinton is playing the supposed “woman card,” haven’t male politicians been doing the same the years, but without the intense scrutiny on their gender?
Since it seems the two candidates running for president in 2016 present either a huge step forward for the advancement of gender equality, or a direct regression to pre-19th Amendment views of women’s involvement in public discourse, it can be tempting for women to blindly vote for Clinton when they enter the election booth.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has even go so far as to proclaim “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” But while this kind of rhetoric is effective at invigorating campaign crowds, it doesn’t foster a deep transformation to really empower women in the public sphere.
Here are three reasons why women should not vote for Hillary based on gender alone.
The democratic process is anything but simple. We’ve seen that more this year than in previous years, as the basics of the primary systems were frequently questioned, including the role of superdelegates, caucuses and non-binding delegates votes.
Having Clinton as a woman candidate should be a conversation starter to foster increased political literacy in general. It’s an opportunity to educate girls and young women (and the general public) about politics, thus making the arena less confusing and foreign and instead more practical and accessible. It can be a powerful tool to mobilize other women candidates to run for other political positions as well.
With such stark contrast between the candidates, blindly voting for one is politically irresponsible. It would be one thing if there were few differences to point to and voters felt like flipping a coin would yield a similar administration.
This is not the case with Clinton and Trump. While policy differences may be hard to pin down largely because Trump has outlined few specifics on policy, there are clear differences in the rhetoric used during the campaign and the leadership styles between the two candidates.
It doesn’t signify lasting change
Finally, a blind vote for Clinton is only one vote in one election. It oversimplifies the process that voters should work through not only every four years in the presidential campaign, but in state and local elections as well.
In North Carolina, women make up 54 percent of registered voters, but hold less than 25 percent of appointed and elected offices. Although women serve in record numbers in Congress, it remains 80 percent male. Women won’t achieve parity through blind voting, but rather in expanding and deepening women’s political engagement at every level.
It may be hard to imagine now, but we can hope that in the future, political races between two women will no longer be uncommon. And in that case, casting a blind vote for the woman will no longer be an option. This is the future that I envision and that I urge my student to help create.
There are plenty of reasons why women would want to vote for Hillary, but simply sharing the same gender identity should not be the only one.