August 15 2013
The Gender Delusion
Earlier this week, “conservative” Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker all-but endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.
In Parker’s (admittedly “hyperbolic” words) she proclaims: “She can save the world.”
She then follows up:
Women, if allowed to be fully equal to men, will bring peace to the planet. This is not so far-fetched a notion. One, men have been at it for thousands of years, resulting in millions and millions of corpses. Two, countries where women are most oppressed and abused are also the least stable.
I have to admit, the exaggerated tone of Parker’s article rang of near-mythical or Biblical proportions, creating the sense that with a woman – and with Clinton, in particular – the oceans would part and we could at last cross into the Promised Land of freedom and opportunity.
While it may very well be time for a woman president, Parker’s analysis is sloppy, if not spurious. It’s certainly true that societies where women have more rights, such as the the United States, are more stable. But that is a classic case of confusing correlation with causation. Women have greater freedom in countries with strong democratic governments, stable economic systems, and modern conceptions of gender and gender roles. But this is not necessarily the result of women in power or women’s liberty – this is about electing leaders with the right ideology and vision, be it Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher.
One must ask: Is Clinton the right woman?
Like Parker, I appreciate Clinton for bucking the grievances of traditional women’s groups. She appears to view women’s rights here in America largely as settled business and gives greater weight to the very real needs of women suffering around the globe.
Her recent interview with Marie Claire magazine, where she announced, “I can’t stand whining” in response to Anne Marie Slaughter’s now famous Atlantic article "Why Women Still Can’t Have it All," earned her a little respect in my book.
Yet the real impact of a President Hillary Clinton would have nothing to do with her gender, but everything to do with the policies she advances. How insulting to her -- and to women generally -- to judge her solely by her sex and not her ideas. This is classic feminist behavior that should make any self-identified “conservative” cringe.
That’s why I can’t wrap my mind around why Parker is so enamored of Clinton. Why would someone committed to free markets rally behind a woman who worked to create a single-payer health care system as First Lady? Why campaign for a woman who showed contempt for finding out the truth after the Benghazi tragedy? And why stand behind a woman who has served as a mouthpiece for the Obama Administration on failed energy and environmental policies?
I’m simply not overly concerned about having a woman in a “position of power” per se. Let’s not forget we have had a female Speaker of the House, we currently have 20 female senators, and there are female executives around the globe -- and it hasn’t created the kind of peaceful world Parker pretends it will. I’m interested in having a woman in power who understands that progressive policies fail women and their families, and who values the economic and personal liberty that matters most to all Americans.
To achieve that end, we have a slate of strong, fiscally conservative female lawmakers who are also physicians, accountants, business owners, and mothers. They are poised to communicate a message of economic liberty, personal freedom, and the importance of civic institutions. Why advance a woman like Clinton when we might encourage someone like Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Governor Susana Martinez, Governor Nikki Haley, or Senator Kelly Ayotte?
It’s clear that Americans are ready for substantive change in 2016 and beyond, but what a raw evaluation of Clinton. We must be careful not to let our enthusiasm for seeing a woman in the White House fog our principles. Women at home and around the globe benefit when the state’s power is limited, economies are allowed to flourish, cultures are permitted to prosper, and individuals, their families, and communities are empowered. For that, gender is irrelevant. It just takes a leader with the right values.
Sabrina Schaeffer is executive director of Independent Women's Forum and co-author of Liberty is No War on Women.