Progressive Feminism: Hillary’s New Generation ‘Female Trouble’

While Hillary Clinton has the fervent support of women of a certain age, that seems to exclude women of a certain younger age, who flocked to Bernie Sanders in the primary.  The difficulty Hillary has had reaching and converting younger, millennium women voters is Hillary’s “Female Trouble.” To reach them, she must become more progressive.

Hillary Clinton’s progressive streak begins and ends with 1972’s ERA. The ERA died when it failed to be ratified by the deadline of June 30, 1982.


Even Hillary’s 1993 plea for universal, single payer health care, dubbed “Hillarycare” at the time, has given way to a meek practical progressivism and an extension of Obamacare rather than an extension of Medicare for all.

Surgeon General Koop and Hillary Clinton, 1993
Surgeon General Koop and Hillary Clinton, 1993

To modernize her campaign in an effort to appeal to anyone who didn’t love “Maude” and “One Day at a Time” she should reframe her feminist arguments into progressive terms. This is not to disparage those who did love “Rhoda” and “Phylllis” but to build on their loyalty to bring even more women into the Hillary fold.

Unless Hillary makes her “women’s issues” men’s issues, she risks sidelining an additional source of potential support. Abortion and family leave are not solely women’s issues, they’re family issues, important to men as well. In this writer’s opinion, Hillary talks exclusively about the issues in women’s terms. By failing to reach men with her 1980’s-era feminism, Hillary also has “Men problems.” A more universal appeal will help in the general election, and would have helped in the primaries. Most candidates move to the middle after they’ve won their nomination, in order to broaden their support. Hillary should do the same. It’s not an admission of defeat, its an admission you want to win.

In truth every one of Bernie Sanders’ progressive issues applies to women as well as men. Justice reform, income equality, all of them. Both democratic candidates could have appealed to the others’ base by reframing the debate but each was trapped in the terms as they existed in their formative years.

Betty Ford supporting the ERA in 1974
Betty Ford supporting the ERA in 1974

Having a woman president for the sake of having a woman president is sort of historic except for the implication that any woman would do. Would a President Sarah Palin be celebrated for breaking the glass ceiling?


President Obama’s being the first black president was more meaningful than if it would have been Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, both of whom ran for the presidency. Hillary Clinton has yet to make the case that HER being President will be anything but a statistical blip. Her current supporters may “believe,” but she needs more voters than that to win.

The conceit of stand up comedy is that comedians don’t realize they’re funny. That’s the reason comics don’t laugh at their own jokes. The conceit of a historical figure is they don’t acknowledge their historic-ness. When Hillary revels in it, she betrays it. President Obama certainly appreciated the historic nature of his campaign, but you never had the sense he was standing on the podium, waiting for his crown of heather.

That Hillary is the first woman presidential nominee of a major US political party has so many qualifiers it ranks low in the Ripley’s Believe It or Not book of historic accomplishments. More than a dozen countries already have or have had female heads of state. To them this is old news. In American terms, it’s arguable that Margaret Chase Smith who contested Richard Nixon in 1954 was more historic. Smith was was the first woman to be placed in nomination for the presidency at a major party’s convention. Or 1972s Shirley Chisolm, the first major-party black candidate for President of the United States, and the first woman ever to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

It’s not my life’s goal to see a woman president or a gay president or a transgender president or a Jewish president or another Muslim president.

My goal is to have a democratic president. If he’s a woman, so be it. Go Hillary.


This column was edited since first published.

Photo Credits:

Woman holding Equal Rights Amendment sign in Los Angeles, California, with two men, one of them yawning.jpg  via Wikimedia Commons

Betty Ford ERA.jpg  Betty_Ford_ERA.jpg By Karl Schumacher [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
C. Everett Koop and Hillary Rodham Clinton promoting universal health insurance (QQBBRF) noframe.jpg  By Unknown photographer: White House [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Glass ceiling in Mare building1.JPG  By Alma Pater (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Cover photo: 2016.02.05 Manchester New Hampshire, USA 02413 (24484057889).jpg  By Ted Eytan from Washington, DC, USA (2016.02.05 Manchester New Hampshire, USA 02413) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

About Marty Rudoy 54 Articles
Marty Rudoy has written for tv shows, major comedians and a former President (Bush I). He's a former stand-up comic working out of the IMPROV in New York and is now published by AmericanNewsX, The Huffington Post and an east coast satire site, What Exit NJ. Marty doesn't know why he's writing this in the third person but he thanks you for reading. Oh, and he's also a lawyer who frequently writes on legal and criminal justice issues.

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