By Peter Daou and Tom Watson
"The most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls." – Jimmy Carter
Let’s start with numbers:
- One out of every three women will be a victim of violence in her lifetime.
- Every year, 60 million girls are sexually assaulted at or on their way to school.
- Women and girls ages 15 to 44 are more likely to be maimed or killed by men than by malaria, cancer, war or traffic accidents combined.
- In some parts of the world, a girl is more likely to be raped than to learn how to read.
- Millions of girls and women are killed through starvation and violence, forced abortions, ‘honor’ killings, dowry murders, and witch lynchings.
- Murder is a leading cause of death for pregnant women.
- The children most at risk of attempted abduction by strangers are girls ages 10 to 14.
- In Africa, 28 million girls between the ages of 6 and 15 are not in school and many will never even set foot in a classroom.
- Femicide is the leading cause of on-the-job death for women.
- In Louisiana, the worst state in the U.S. for pay equity, women are paid just 66% of what men are paid.
- Globally, women make up just 22% of parliamentarians.
- Only about one third of countries around the world have laws in place to combat violence against women and in most of these countries the laws are not enforced.
- Every year, about 14 million girls under the age of 18 are given away as child brides and an additional 4 million women and girls are bought and sold into slavery.
- 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail.
- In Nigeria, a treatment center reported that 15% of female patients requiring treatment for sexually transmitted infections were under the age of five.
- In the U.S., the CDC estimates that 20% of young women experience intimate partner violence.
- In Nepal, 40% of girls are married by age 15.
- From elementary and middle school teachers to computer programmers, American women are paid less than men in female-dominated, gender-balanced, and male-dominated occupations.
The 2016 presidential race is an epic battle for the rights, hopes, and dreams of women and girls, embodied in the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. For the men who support those rights and who seek a better world for their daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers and spouses, joining that battle is an honorable calling.
It is impossible to fully comprehend the modern American political landscape without appreciating that dynamic.
That is not to say that opposing Hillary’s policies based on ideological principles, or disagreeing with her on specific issues constitutes automatic opposition to women’s equality. The reason we have elections is because no candidate is a perfect fit for every voter.
But what we’re witnessing in 2016 goes far beyond disagreements with a candidate. It is an inflection point in the future of women, the culmination of a decades-long effort by the forces of the past to block that future and to turn the clock back on women's rights.
Take a moment and ponder the fury of the effort to derail Hillary’s campaign, the vitriolic language, the frenzied commentary, the breathless predictions of her imminent demise. Think about the obsessive desire to prove she is losing, the insistence that she is a terrible candidate, the (absurd) claim that Democrats need a man to intervene and save them from “struggling” Hillary, even as she leads nearly two dozen declared and undeclared candidates. Consider the endless barrage of negative adjectives hurled at her by reporters, pundits, politicians, and political operatives, funded and tested by conservative groups, all with the aim of irrevocably damaging her public image. Look at the strange loop created by the national media, where they attack her relentlessly then blame her for being attacked relentlessly.
And what is the flawed assumption underlying the apparent surprise that Hillary isn’t just coasting, unchallenged, to the White House? Was she expected to declare her candidacy and enjoy an unimpeded victory?
Suggesting that the rough and tumble of a presidential race is somehow indicative of a fatal flaw in Hillary’s campaign is just another way to manipulate public perceptions and distort her image. If anything, it is a tribute to Hillary’s incredible strength of character and appeal that she remains so steady while subjected to an all-out assault from the media, commentariat and GOP.
"The tip of the spear."
After a particularly vicious sexist smear in 2008, that’s how Hillary described her role as a figurehead and advocate for women’s rights.
That phrase could not be more accurate. Whether or not you agree with all her policy decisions, Hillary is a living symbol of a timeless struggle, the embodiment of the multi-generational battle for fairness and equality for women and girls. She is the tip of the spear aimed at the heart of institutional and cultural gender bias.
As Tom wrote last year in a widely-shared essay on her record as a public figure, Hillary has one massive accomplishment that is unmatched in American politics.
Over the last quarter century, Hillary Clinton has managed to put the interests of women and girls atop the global development agenda … she used every facet of every office and position she had to pursue this effort — from First Lady to U.S. Senator to the State Department—and her name is synonymous in the global movement for equal rights for women and girls with that ongoing fight for justice.
During her four years at State, Clinton made the advancement of women and girls a central focus for Administration policy, with the strong support of President Obama. Indeed, Hillary Clinton’s record at the State Department is deeply progressive, and the work of a major feminist leader.
Her accomplishments at State and her 2016 candidacy are a continuation of her life’s commitment to women’s rights. Twenty years ago, against the advice of White House political strategists, Hillary went to Beijing and gave the speech that made her a figure of lasting historic importance. In declaring “women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights,” she boldly opened a new chapter in the civil rights campaign for equality and fairness.
There is also a passage in that speech that smashes headlong into the American right’s well-documented war on women:
As an American, I want to speak for those women in my own country, women who are raising children on the minimum wage, women who can’t afford health care or child care, women whose lives are threatened by violence, including violence in their own homes.
I want to speak up for mothers who are fighting for good schools, safe neighborhoods, clean air, and clean airwaves; for older women, some of them widows, who find that, after raising their families, their skills and life experiences are not valued in the marketplace; for women who are working all night as nurses, hotel clerks, or fast food chefs so that they can be at home during the day with their children; and for women everywhere who simply don’t have time to do everything they are called upon to do each and every day.
Hillary’s words are a courageous and prescient repudiation of the GOP’s efforts to erode the rights of women in healthcare, the workplace, and society. That she has persevered and thrived despite decades of attacks is a giant thorn in the side of those who would roll back generations of progress on women’s rights. That she is poised to become the first woman president in U.S. history strikes terror in the hearts of the purveyors of gender bias in politics, the national media, and the elite punditocracy.
To those forces arrayed against fairness, justice and equality for women, (metaphorically) taking out Hillary is regarded as a singular goal.
There is a sweaty-palmed fear in the Republican Party of Hillary as their opponent next fall – and even worse, as an incumbent in 2020. Beyond the obvious policy differences, GOP operatives understand the cultural realignment that will literally shift the electoral ground under them if Hillary Clinton becomes President of the United States.
Women in power, particularly progressive women in power – that’s the Great Nightmare of the GOP's leadership.
A Hillary Clinton presidency would undermine much of the gender-oriented conservative dogma about women’s health and dominion over their own bodies. It would shift the political culture to policy areas that conservatives always deride as “soft issues” and seek to frame as cost centers for taxpayers – issues like gender equality in the workplace, family leave and parental rights, and generally humane reform across a wide swath of policy areas like immigration and criminal justice. It would destroy the working cultural thesis of the Republican brand since the days of Reagan, the search for the “strong man” who stands for rugged individualism in “the real America.”
A powerful and accomplished fighter for women’s rights in the White House, a figure with unparalleled international reach and expertise, a woman widely recognized for helping to lead the battle for fairness: that is a nightmare scenario for the GOP and their allies in the media and commentariat.
Hillary Clinton is an existential crisis for the American right and its corporate media allies.
As #HillaryMen, we proudly take Hillary’s side of history.
Peter Daou and Tom Watson founded #HillaryMen to provide actionable analysis of the 2016 campaign focusing on the gender barrier in U.S. politics. Peter is a former senior digital adviser to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative. He is a veteran of two presidential campaigns (Kerry '04 and Clinton '08). Tom is an author and Columbia University lecturer who advises companies and non-profits on social activism.