I’m supposed to be happy. As a woman, and a woman involved in politics no less, I’m expected to applaud Hillary Clinton for securing the Democratic nomination. But I can’t help feeling that just as Thatcher and May smashed glass ceilings in becoming Prime Minister and just as Obama smashed the race barrier in becoming President, this latest victory doesn’t hold the promise that many hope.
As an intersectional feminist, it’s clear to me that Clinton ticks every box of privilege apart from her gender. White, wealthy, straight, well-educated, well-connected and living in a Western nation – arguably the most powerful nation on earth. If she were male, she would match exactly the criteria fulfilled by 98% of the Presidents the US has known.
Not only does she come from a place of privilege, but her politics are nothing to be applauded. Whether it’s her support for “welfare reform” in the 1990s that plunged millions of Americans into poverty and punished single mothers and the lowest earners; or her praise for the three strikes rule that her husband introduced in office which saw more black and brown people locked up than ever before; or her war hawkish approach to Iran, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria, Clinton represents the same neo-conservative politics that have ruled the USA for my entire life.
Some have argued that despite her appalling policy track record and her highly questionable ethics, the very fact that she is a woman means that we should celebrate her nomination as a victory for women everywhere. But my feminism doesn’t celebrate drone attacks on women of colour in the middle east or slashing social security in the US. My feminism doesn’t celebrate as a victory against the odds, the nomination of a woman who has spent her entire life at the core of an elite establishment.
Eight years ago, I sat up all night to watch Obama being sworn in as President. I cried happy, humbled tears at this hugely significant moment. A black man in the White House. A nation built on slavery, servitude and the torture of black and brown bodies, led by a brown skinned man. Yet the eight years since have seen police violence against people of colour continue unabated. Black lives simply matter less than white lives in the America of today.
At the same time, military action against people of colour in the rest of the world has increased exponentially under Obama. An expanded drone programme that kills innocent people on a daily basis. The renewed occupation of Afghanistan. Support for Saudi Arabia’s slaughter in Yemen and military intervention in Syria that, just last week, killed 35 children.The lives of black people around the world are no better under Obama. Indeed, they are arguably worse.
But why do we expect that one man – or one woman – can single handedly throw out the structural inequality that plagues our world? They can’t and they never could. It’s a ridiculous expectation that we place on these people. To expect that Obama would and could deliver the hope and change he promised and transform the lives of black people in America, simply by virtue of being black, was always too much to ask. This is the truth that the hero worship of Clinton obscures.
It is movements of people that change the world, not individuals with the world on their shoulders. It is simply not enough for us to hope that the world will change, one President at a time, smashing one barrier at a time. There is just too much to do for us to sit back and relax with a nomination secured or even a Presidency won. As Black Lives Matter are doing in the US and here at home, we must build movements with urgency, passion and the knowledge that no one else is going to fix things for us.
So whilst I may feel some solidarity with a woman who has undoubtedly faced, and perhaps overcome, sexism in her political career, I won’t be placing my hopes at her feet any time soon. Instead, you’ll find me on the streets, online and on the airwaves fighting for equality, democracy and peace. Another world is possible, and it’s ours for the taking.