8. Juli 2016

US Election Series VII: Is Hillary Clinton playing the ‚Woman Card‘?

The upcoming U.S. election is not about undocumented immigrants. It is not about ISIS or gun control either. According to Hillary Clinton, this election is about women’s issues. Republicans snap she’s playing the ‚Woman Card‘. But there is more to it.

A comment by Amelie Hipp and Sarah Günther


Often condescendingly belittled by being called women’s issues, Clinton stresses that these are actual family and economic issues as well as issues that are crucial to the competitiveness of the country. What Clinton suggests is inspired by countries like Sweden, Norway and Germany: Domestic policy, like paid family leave or reproductive rights are far from radical in most of Europe, but stir a huge debate in the U.S. She therefore demands three key changes to advance women’s rights, which are after all human rights as she famously stated in her speech at the UN in 1995.


Women’s Rights are Human Rights

First and foremost, Hillary Clinton intends to ensure equal pay for women. She is thereby narrowing down the recently much debated gender pay gap. A focus on transparency and passing the Paycheck Fairness Act are the solution. Additionally, she plans to raise the minimum wage to $12. Since women make up 2/3 of minimum wage workers, a raise to $12 would directly benefit many women. As Harvard economist Claudia Goldin points out, the gender pay gap is mostly a result of the way jobs are structured. In a recent episode of the podcast Freakonomics, Goldin explains how the disproportionate reward of working long hours or particular hours prevents women from occupying the same jobs as men, simply because most of the time women are still the primary caregiver in their family. That is why Goldin calls for the restructuring of jobs in order to improve temporal flexibility, a key reason why women decide to obtain certain jobs and decline others.

Secondly, Clinton says she will defend women’s health and reproductive rights against attacks. This includes the right to safe abortions and the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funding from being used to provide abortions. Her recent endorsement by Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America indicates that her former statement regarding abortions should be “safe, legal and rare” has become outdated.

Moreover, Clinton plans to implement paid family leave. On a side note, John Oliver pointed out aptly on Mother’s Day, the U.S. and Papua New Guinea are the only two countries worldwide that do not provide paid time off for women after childbirth. The 12-week paid family leave program that Clinton suggests would be financed by taxing the wealthy and allow women to stay home after conceiving a childBut Clinton’s campaign is about more than improving the situation for women at home. One could argue, that her becoming president could be beneficial for international affairs as well.


Female Involvement in International Affairs Makes a Difference

In Clinton’s campaign, international affairs are a key battleground against her competitor. That is because on the one hand, the latter is so ridiculously under-qualified in many fields of foreign affairs and therefore enables her to draw quite a sharp contrast. In her national-security speech in early June, Clinton noted that she visited 112 countries as Secretary of State. However, one should acknowledge that experience alone does not equal success, as many of her critics have pointed out already.

Clinton wants to make a difference. Stating that she wants to ‚bring women back in‘ is wrong, as foreign affairs and politics in general have ever since been largely a matter of the gentlemen’s club.

On the other hand, foreign affairs and her matter of the heart (women empowerment) are closely intertwined. Here are a few numbers: Women’s participation increases the chance of peace agreements that last at least two years by 20 per cent. Out of 585 peace agreements from 1990 to 2010, only 92 contained any references to women. Moreover, as of August 2015, only 22 per cent of all national parliamentarians were female, 11 women served as Head of State and 10 served as Head of Government.

Clinton wants to make a difference. Stating that she wants to “bring women back in” is wrong, as foreign affairs and politics in general have ever since been largely a matter of the gentlemen’s club. However, if Clinton becomes President of the United States, there are some things to expect particularly in foreign affairs. During her first five months as Secretary of State, Clinton evidently mentioned women 450 times in speeches she gave. In an interviewshe made clear why she chose to walk this path: “I have been working hard to integrate women’s rights as a cornerstone of our foreign policy. […] They are often discriminated against, even brutally enslaved, or simply not able to contribute to society or realize their potential.”


Rescuing the Women of the World?

As Secretary of State, Clinton travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo and gathered with women who had endured sexual violence. She justified many times why women’s issues are worth permanent prioritisation: The mistreatment of women is often a harbinger of authoritarianism and militancy. Plus, the United States’ national security will certainly improve when women’s well-being is secured and their economic and social potential is unleashed. Having the State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues renamed and reporting directly to her as Secretary of State, she institutionalised the growing awareness of gender topics in international affairs. And even if some critics force Clinton to stop her narrative of “rescuing the women of the world”, she herself faced sexism throughout her entire career. It is therefore not farfetched that she is determined to use her official status and influence to promote opportunities and equality for women in the United States and beyond.

Clinton as President of the United States of America would highlight the cause of other female politicians entering the male dominated world of politics.

So why should women vote for her? Could her presidency really make a difference for women in general? It seems that many female voters especially young women, refuse the automatism to support Clinton just because she’s a woman. However, the accusation Clinton is only playing the ‚Woman Card‘ is insulting. Indeed, what really matters, is whether the person is qualified to take on the top job. Nevertheless, Clinton as President of the United States of America would highlight the cause of other female politicians entering the male dominated world of politics. During her time as Senator of New York, she hired twice as many women as she hired men and she will most likely carry on hiring a certain percentage of women. While one may argue this benefits primarily highly educated women, it is also a way of strengthening the female role within the government as well as publicly promoting equality – a gesture of empowerment to all women.


The Polis Blog serves as a platform at the disposal of Polis180’s members. Published comments express solely the authors’ opinions and shall not be confounded with the opinions of the editors or of Polis180. Image: http://bit.ly/29lFTGx.

Amelie Hipp

Amelie Hipp

Amelie Hipp hat Medienwissenschaft, Kunstgeschichte und politische Kommunikation in Tübingen, Berlin und Washington D.C. studiert. Bei Polis180 engagiert sie sich im Bereich Frieden und Sicherheit in der Taskforce US Wahlen.


Sarah Günther

Sarah ist seit mehr als drei Jahren im Bereich Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit tätig. Sie studierte vergleichende Politikwissenschaft in Berlin und an der London School of Economics. Sarah ist bei Polis bisher für die externe Kommunikation zuständig und engagiert sich im Projekt Naher und Mittlerer Osten des Polis-Programms Frieden und Sicherheit.


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