My guest today is Liza Featherstone, editor of the just-released book False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Joan Brunwasser: Welcome to OpEdNews, Liza. How did you come up with this project in the first place?
Liza Featherstone: Actually, I was asked to do this by Andy Hsaio, an editor at Verso Books. At first, I said no because I don't like how much time and airspace our elections take up, I find it forecloses the development of more interesting, radical and fruitful politics. Also I didn't want to spend so much time thinking about Clinton, a person I don't like very much! But I thought a lot about it and realized it was a great opportunity to elevate left feminist voices, and advance a kind of feminism that has been largely absent from the discourse but has a long and rich tradition, an anti-war, socialist feminism.
JB: I haven't yet had an opportunity to read your book so I can't speak about that. But I'd like to know whom you enlisted to contribute and why.
LF: I took care to make sure our contributors were diverse in life experience, age, race, writing style, and expertise as I knew that would make the collection far more interesting and politically powerful. Margaret Corvid is a sex worker as well as a writer, while Donna Murch is a history professor. It was also important to me that we have a mix of contributors well known to the left wing reader, like Frances Fox Piven and Laura Flanders, and people who should be much more widely read, like Yasmin Nair and Catherine Liu. I wanted the collection to reflect emerging younger left feminist voices like Tressie Cottom McMillan, Amber A'Lee Frost and Megan Erickson, while also incorporating the work of thinkers like Zillah Eisenstein who have been at this for a long time. I was also thrilled to be able to publish people whose work I admire so much who are not being widely read right now but should be; a great example is the brilliant Moe Tkacik, who like so many women is not writing that much because she is taking care of her baby and making a living. Moe heroically managed to write, between waitressing shifts and despite fierce opposition from her baby, perhaps the most powerful feminist essay of this whole campaign season. What all the contributors have in common is that I admire their writing and thinking, and that they are all part of the left feminist tradition that I think the world badly needs.
JB: Sounds good! Regrettably, many of us are not familiar with your background, Liza. What made you the right choice to put this together?
LF: I'm a longtime journalist and essayist on feminism and economic justice issues -- and the author of Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Workers' Rights at Walmart (Basic Books, 2005).
JB: Your book came out smack dab in the middle of a presidential election cycle. I'm assuming that was not a coincidence of timing. What were you hoping to accomplish?
LF: Not at all. We anticipated that the rhetoric surrounding her campaign would reach peak nonsense levels and would need to be balanced by other feminist perspectives. If she wasn't running for president right now these critiques wouldn't be so important. Some of us were also hoping that our book would help the democratic socialist challenger. Even though the book didn't come out until late in the primary cycle, I think that through the media coverage we received and the excerpts we published, we did at least help to get out an alternative point of view to the ubiquitous drone of HILLARY IS THE FEMINIST CANDIDATE. Now that she is presumably the Democratic nominee, there is still a need to point to her record and say, look, feminism should be better than this. We hope that people -- especially women -- will be gearing up to criticize her and protest her once she is in office.
cover art for 'False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton'
(Image by courtesy of Liza Featherstone) Permission Details DMCA
JB: This is a little broad, Liza. Can you be more specific about your complaints against Hillary?
LF: Sure. Clinton has devoted her career to austerity at home, and war abroad, all of which runs counter to feminist goals. Domestically, she made one of her first big policy splashes as First Lady of Arkansas, aiming to improve schools in that state by fighting the teachers' unions. Her efforts there helped lay the groundwork for the bipartisan war on public school teachers -- most of whom are women, many African-American -- and their unions, which continues to this day. But it wasn't just middle class working women whose interests she was willing to sell out in the interests of the austerity demanded by the one percent and by a growing conservative movement: she was also an influential voice within her husband's administration calling for the end of traditional welfare. Scaling back public assistance in the '90s greatly impoverished many women and their kids, yet Clinton later referred to these reforms as successful, saying that the welfare recipients had been "deadbeats," not a very feminist way to refer to women who are raising their kids.
Abroad, she is hawkish even by the generally militaristic standards of the Democratic party. She voted for the war in Iraq, which has been an unqualified disaster. As Secretary of State, she was more bellicose than the rest of the Obama administration, even the Republican defense Secretary. Republicans have obsessed over Benghazi, in which a few Americans tragically died, but they should be criticizing her role in the whole Libyan intervention, which has killed many more Libyans. She also aided and provided cover to, in Honduras, a right wing coup against a democratically elected government, unleashing a wave of horrific violence in that country, greatly increasing the rate of rape and femicide. Some of this violence has been state violence from the regime Clinton helped to install, including - to come full circle here -- the killing of public school teachers protesting their conditions.
JB: That's quite a shopping list of complaints. What're your thoughts regarding the email scandal? Is it a big deal? And if so, is it enough to get her indicted, dropped from the ticket or to lose to Donald Trump, who, whatever else he is, is highly unqualified for the highest office in the land.
LF: Well, it's not really a list so much as a specific and partial description of what I mean by "austerity and militarism," cornerstones of an agenda I see as deeply at odds with the interests of most women.