Saturday, May 17, 2008

Hillary Clinton's female avengers to hit Obama

The backlash from women to Hillary Clinton's almost certain defeat for the Democratic Party's nomination has started in earnest. While many supporters accept Senator Clinton made strategic mistakes in her campaign, they are pointing to "intense sexism" in the race, where, among other things, the former first lady has been likened to the Glenn Close character in the movie Fatal Attraction - a psychopathic jilted female who haunts a suburban family, and in the end, keeps refusing to die.

An Ohio-based group of Clinton supporters has announced it will actively work against Barack Obama if he becomes the nominee for the party, saying Senator Clinton has had to fight gender discrimination from party leaders and the media. Organisers Cynthia Ruccia, 55, and Jamie Dixey, 57, say they are organising women, men, minorities, union members and others in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan - all important swing states in November - to protest at Senator Clinton's treatment. "We have been vigilant against expressions of racism, and we are thrilled that the society has advanced that way" in accepting Barack Obama as a serious candidate, Ms Ruccia told online political magazine Politico. "But it's been open season on women, and we feel we need to stand up and make a statement about that, because it's wrong."

In a press release, the group said: "We have a plan to campaign against the Democratic nominee. We have the (wo)manpower and the money to make our threat real. And there are millions of supporters who will back us up in the swing states. If you don't listen to our voice now, you will hear from us later." As calls grew for Senator Clinton to quit the race, Ms Ruccia said women felt "we're being told to sit down, shut up, and get with the program".

For his part, Senator Obama has been gracious towards Senator Clinton. He says the nomination fight is still joined and any decision to quit is up to her. While no one has accused Senator Obama of sexism, some, such as columnist Marie Cocco, say the campaign has exposed "the hatred of women that is accepted as a part of our culture". Writing in The Washington Post yesterday under the heading "Misogyny I Won't Miss", she noted: "I will not miss seeing advertisements for T-shirts that bear the slogan 'Bros before Hos'. The shirts depict Barack Obama (the Bro) and Hillary Clinton (the Ho) and are widely sold on the internet," she wrote. "I will not miss walking past airport concessions selling the Hillary Nutcracker, a device in which a pantsuit-clad Clinton doll opens her legs to reveal stainless-steel thighs that, well, bust nuts."

Senator Clinton has not played the gender card often in her campaign - she is vying to be the first female president of the US - and Barack Obama never discusses his historic candidacy as the first black man vying to be president. But as her campaign appears to be closing down, Senator Clinton has spoken about how tough it is for women to succeed in professional life. "Do you know how difficult it is for women to say we're the best at anything?" she told a fundraiser in Washington last week.

Also last week, comedian and magician Penn Jillette, satirising the animus to Senator Clinton in the US, said on cable TV: "Obama did great in February, and that's because that was Black History Month. And now Hillary's doing much better 'cause it's White Bitch Month, right?"

While Senator Obama looks set to be the nominee, his path is not without prejudice. He has been subject to racist threats and gained Secret Service protection soon after he launched his campaign in February last year. His offices, particularly in places such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia, have been sprayed with graffiti and had windows broken. And some voters openly admit they would never vote for a black man. Senator Obama is the only black person in the 100-member US Senate. Senator Clinton has 14 female colleagues.


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