Hillary’s Privilege Backpack Needs More Unpacking

Image via cgiI attended the annual Clinton Global Initiative conference in Chicago last month. I was eager to hear what Hillary Clinton would have to say about what life had in store for her. My feelings for Hillary are, well, complicated.

On the plus side, I admire how she has used her many positions of power to advance girls and women’s rights. She showed that being the First Lady was not just about safe projects, but could be a real source of power. We also both grew up in the suburbs of Chicago rooting for the Cubs.

On the other hand, well, I know she wants to empower girls and women to be all they can be. I bet she gets the same sick feeling in her stomach that I do when she reads about injustice against girls. Who knows, she might have a secret log-in for all those petitions asking for toy companies to stop making everything pink. But where we differ is our faith in poor women.

While discussing her plans for the future with the Clinton Foundation, she dropped this gem:

How do we make sure that pregnant women, particularly poor women, understand the nutrients they should take to support their own and their baby’s health?

I was in such shock that I actually wondered if I’d heard her correctly that when I tweeted it out, I added #NotExactQuote as insurance. But I returned to the video and confirmed the quote at minute 44. Disappointing. But not surprising.

While Hillary has been quite the champion for women and girls, including during her tenure as Secretary of State, she has also strayed when it comes to poor women and girls. Her low-point was her support of her husband’s 1996 “Welfare Reform.” While in the Senate she did try to improve things, but this quote shows why she will continue to fall short.

Rather than start from the position of thinking we need to educate poor women about the importance of nutrition while pregnant, why not start from the position that they want nutritious food, but lack the ability to obtain it? Food deserts, threatened reductions to WIC, and the simple fact that women are in low-paying jobs, thus reducing their ability to buy healthy food. I am sure that there are women who need some nutrition education, but let’s have faith in women, especially those who are pregnant. They may simply know they need to eat healthy, but are unsure how. Give them access to nutritionists, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables.

I’m a long time fan of Hillary, but also a long time critic. Her good intentions can become landmark policy that will raise the status of women and girls in the USA and around the world. But first she needs to question the system not the women.

[View the story “Hillary Clinton at CGI America” on Storify]

Veronica Arreola writes the blog Viva la Feminista, where she tries to navigate and understand the intersection between feminism, motherhood and her Latinadad. You can follow her on Twitter @veronicaeye

Image via CGI

  • Teresa Welby

    I think it is ridiculous to criticize Clinton about women, in any way shape or form. Welfare reform? It was a long time ago, helped a lot of women go from welfare to work and PS…she was not president. She supported Bill. Something needed to be done and what would have been done by the republicans would have been much worse. Again, she was not President and she is not Bill, she is a whole separate person.

    As far as the quote about women and nutrition, she said all women, particularly poor women. Poor women has less access to healthcare and doctors to advise them. They also have less money to spend on healthy food which is more expensive. There are options. It stands to reason poor women would need more help getting that information. It’s not a put down.

    Just once could we women on the left NOT sabotage the female candidate (possible candidate for president)? So many women on the left did it to Clinton in 2008 and for what, to elect George W. Obama?

  • SophieCT

    What’s wrong with that quote about preganant women getting the proper nutrients? I don’t understand at all why it’s giving you palpitations. I also don’t understand why you have welfare reform in quotes.

    I really don’t understand what you expect from her or any other candidate for that matter. Although it does seem to me that Hillary is singularly held to a higher standard than any other politician before.

    Theresa Welby makes a brilliant point in her comment:
    “Just once could we women on the left NOT sabotage the female candidate (possible candidate for president)? So many women on the left did it to Clinton in 2008 and for what, to elect George W. Obama?”

  • Thanks for the comments!

    What got my goat is HRC’s singling out poor women. By stressing that “esp poor women” need to know about nutrition ignores the systemic issues poor women/families face in obtaining nutritious food.

    And I think you underestimate HRC if you think solid critique of her past policy stances is going to submarine her. When she ran for President in 2008, she ran on the idea that being First Lady was part of her policy experience. So if she wants to put that her resume, it’s fair game to critique.

  • Kim Place-Gateau

    Veronica, I suspect you’d enjoy reading this. A great quote:

    “You want people to eat better? Give them enough money, a place for cooking and storage, and access to a decent variety of food.” <—- Yes.

  • I can see her point. Maybe it was wrong to single out poor women, but I suspect it was in the context that poor women can use more government assistance. I have no faith that pregnant women know how to properly feed themselves, given the standard American diet, where things like soda, Doritos and hot dogs are considered food.

  • Marti Teitelbaum

    Thank you very much for pointing out the fallacy of Hillary’s nutrition quote. It’s really good to point out that one of the core problems of obesity and malnutrition in low income people is the lack of availability of fresh food and the inherent problems with not having enough money to buy, store & cook healthy food. I would add that when middle class people say that low income parents should just get those obese kids out walking, they are blissfully unaware of how dangerous that could be for those children.

    I totally agree with you, even though I’m a Hillary fan. My guess is that she does have an understanding of the real plight of poor women, but because she is more centrist than leftist, her public take on it is going to be to the right of where I’d like it to be.
    I’ve learned over the years to expect far less of politicians than I did when I was a young person. Obama is a great example of that. I’d choose him any day over any Republican (and over many Democrats), but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t disappointed me terribly.

  • Kerrie Wrye

    One grassroots response to the faith in others’ humanity, intelligence, motivation and access to locally-based resources supporting health and local food economy: http://www.tenriversfoodweb.org/about-trfw/

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