Hillary Clinton seems poised to accept the nomination of the Democratic party, but it isn’t as clear as it may seem what this, and her potential presidency, means for feminism in the U.S.
While the media has been a-flurry for months over the fractious topic of how women supporting or not supporting Clinton connects to feminism, to me the more urgent, less symbolic question right now is: will a President Clinton change the establishment to help women achieve equality? Clinton is a woman, yes, but she is a woman of the establishment. The jury is out on how radical or progressive she may turn out to be in office -- and radical progressivism may be precisely what is needed here.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, who will be speaking at the Festival Ideas event The Care Economy on Saturday, June 11, was Hillary Clinton’s director of policy planning in the State Department. An international lawyer, foreign policy analyst, political scientist and public commentator, Slaughter is, like Clinton, brilliant, ambitious, and respected. But after two years at her “dream job” she quit -- the hours and commute were too long for her to devote sufficient time to her family. While other powerful women like Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg have urged ladies today to “lean in” to their work in order to succeed, Slaughter saw that just working hard wouldn’t overcome all obstacles. The system is rigged: women who cut back on work to care for their children and families missed out on the promotions, higher salaries, and esteem that their male counterparts got. Slaughter has become a public voice asking: “Why don’t we, as a society, value caring for family equally to going to work? And how can we become one?”
The last chapter of her 2015 book Unfinished Business suggests public policy changes that would help both men and women take care of their families while preserving their careers. Perhaps the government is the only one who can correct these issues. Hillary Clinton, of all people, should understand the burdens and prejudices with which working women contend, but will her administration focus on implementing change on a legislative level? If I’ve learned anything from inundation of op-eds during the primary season, not to mention the earlier debate between Sandberg and Slaughter, not all women believe in the same path to gender equality.
-Alex Ripp, Ideas Program Manager
Image: Anne-Marie Slaughter (left) former director of policy planning, sits with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and fellow State Department employees, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg, far right, in 2010.
Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images