Women’s Issues Are Not “Soft”: Sexism and the Urge to Devalue
In the media’s obsession with all things Hillary, the prognosticators for 2016 are exercising their insatiable need to sell copy by conjuring a blood feud between Vice President Biden and Secretary Clinton. We know Mr. Biden would love to be President. Respectfully, that day will likely not come for him. His team knows that, which is why they defensively balk at those who give the Vice President less than his due. Amy Chozick’s New York Times article, Biden and Clinton: Friends with Awkward Twist, works to amend that, not at Hillary’s expense but at the expense of all women. Here is the money quote:
“[Biden’s] camp clearly feels that his record is underappreciated, especially on foreign policy. One person close to the vice president suggested that while Mrs. Clinton elevated important issues surrounding women and girls as secretary of state, Mr. Biden took on tougher questions.”
This statement was made by someone close to the Vice President. The writer just let it go. Both illustrate how much men of both parties – and some women – are in need of enlightenment. First, the statement is inaccurate. As Secretary of State, even conservatives referred to Hillary Clinton as the "iron fist in the velvet glove," showing her grit on all matters of state. But this is less about looking favorably upon Clinton’s record than it is exposing the biased thinking that still exists here and around the world.
Women and girls make up more than half the world's population. As Clinton has stated, if you want the measure of a society, look at how it treats its women and its girls. The most violent countries treat women like garbage. Conversely when women succeed, the country succeeds.
There is no “tougher question.”
Countries that abuse women and girls are far worse off economically and are more prone to terrorism and war. A recent article in Reuters stated that “empowering female farmers in developing countries is crucial to solving the world's food problems.” Even Warren Buffett, among the world’s most successful entrepreneurs with a net worth of $60 billion, has stated that he is “bullish on women.” As Buffett put it – 100% productivity is better than 50% productivity.
Buffett then co-opted the reasoning Hillary Clinton used to advantage in countries where the moral argument would not work: when women and girls have access to education, health care, macro loans, the ability to build businesses – they, even more than men, reinvest in their community. The community thrives. The family thrives. The economy thrives. The country thrives – which means both men and women thrive, making them more prone to be peaceful societies.
For women to have an equal seat at the table is not just a nice thing to do but critical for our success. As well, an end to violence against women and proper punishment for those who violate those laws is critical in this equation.
Do we really think a country where women have equal value, voices and respect would use sarin gas on its citizens and children?
We need to stop grading issues that matter to women as soft, small or only worthy of the back burner, paying lip service to their “importance” only in order to manipulate women at the voting booth.
That the writer of this article is a woman who let the Biden aide’s "tougher questions" statement slide without comment shows just how far we need to travel in valuing what women bring to the table economically, socially, as innovators and as human beings.
A blogger made a comment on Facebook arguing that Ms. Chozick did the right thing in letting the statement hang there, since the inherent sexism in the statement was self-evident. Using racist slurs in the media as an example, she stated “Real words and thoughts need to get out there so we all know what we're dealing with and how to engage or combat” them. That much may be true, but I disagree with her comparison.
The chasm between racism and sexism in this country is huge. People see a racist comment as racist. There is no more disgusting charge that you can level at someone than to call them racist. Yet I wager that many did not pick up on the dismissive nature of the Biden aide’s "tougher questions" statement. The double standard continues unnoticed and unabated.
Until we understand that issues affecting half the world's population have a deep effect on all of us, we are less than who we can be as a society and are not taking advantage of the opportunities we have to empower all of our citizens – male and female.