Oh, is it April of 2013 already? I must have missed the banshee call that signals politicians to prepare for the 2016 presidential campaign. And how do we know the time for endless speculative punditry and partisan PR bonanzas — heralded by constant media coverage, all to decide who will be president 40 months from now — is nigh? Democratic dreamboat, former secretary of state, and all-around "I'm-In-It-To-Win-It" (version 2.0) go-getter Hilary Clinton delivered a fiery speech at the fourth Women in the World Summit in Washington D.C., wherein she coupled national security and women's rights.
Now, before the comments section is doused with Betty Friedan quotes, and lit with the match of Susan Patton-gate, I'd like to make clear that I am all for gender equality. I'm a woman, and a minority, and would very much appreciate, in my lifetime, to see countries all over the world change their cultural, social and legal attitudes toward women's rights.
But color me skeptical if Clinton's speech sounds like nothing but early voter-bloc pandering. Regarding "the fate of women and girls," Clinton said, "The extremists understand the stakes of this struggle. They know that when women are liberated, so are entire societies. We must understand this too. And not only understand it, but act on it."
May I ask for the research? Burning the bra and purchasing over-the-counter contraceptives didn't liberate America, the country cited for its legendary ability to liberate everyone. Women had more rights, certainly, but there was no guarantee that protection of these rights would be executed. (Especially since pharmacists still refuse to fill birth control prescriptions, and a law mandating equal pay for women was passed only four years ago.) And while we here in the U.S.A. do not condone the brutal rape and disembowelment of young women (and therefore have laws which would prosecute such criminal behavior), denial of women's rights still exists.
Every country has its own version of extremism — in Egypt, a nation struggling daily in its effort to reinvent its political and social culture, female victims of sexual assaults and rapes are routinely blamed for putting themselves in dangerous situations. And Clinton was right, in her speech, to cite Egypt, India and Pakistan (the latter-most has a whopping population of five million children who don't attend school, two-thirds of whom are women) as examples of nations which will be unable to advance internationally, in all fields, if they do not treat women with the respect they deserve.
But unless potential-future-President Clinton is considering arming State Department attaches bound for the Middle East with lesson plans on feminism and gender equality, I don't see what this speech, aside from the fodder it provides for the 2016 discussions, does for Clinton's reputation. Is she galvanizing female voters who are still stung by 2008? Probably. Is she making her pre-campaign declaration priorities clear? Certainly. Does the text of this speech have the barest hints of stump-ery? Absolutely:
"If America is going to lead we expect ourselves to lead, we need to empower women here at home to participate fully in our economy and our society, we need to make equal pay a reality, we need to extending family and medical leave benefits to more workers and make them paid, we need to encourage more women and girls to pursue careers in math and science."
That's the National Democratic Convention platform in less than 80 words.
But aside from combining a farewell speech, an early policy agenda and a Rosie-the-Riveter approach to Beltway politics, Clinton's speech accomplished very little. Toward the end of her speech, Clinton remarked, "For too many American women, opportunity and the dream of upward mobility — the American Dream — remains elusive."
Indeed, Mrs. Clinton. As does your dream of leading a second — but first-to-be female — Clinton presidency.