As the only female in the race to the White House, does Hilary Clinton’s gender make a difference? Indeed, should it? Is it time America had a female president as she believes? Or is gender irrelevant in the vote for the president? On the campaign trail, Clinton has endeavoured to win women, championing her political and social achievements as testimony of a sincere commitment to enhance women’s lives with hope and salvation for a more fair and just society. There has been considerable rancour in Australia about playing the gender card in politics, yet Clinton is unabashedly playing her hand without calling anyone’s bluff; the ‘ace’ not up her sleeve, but within her anatomy. Her male competitors, Sanders, Trump, and Cruz et al, must accept ‘Realpolitik’ to inspire female voters and sublimate their masculinity as merely superficial.
The obvious gender divide obfuscates issues beyond biology with Clinton entertaining the attitude that being female is all it takes to understand, even represent, most women’s needs without individual differences or particular political perspectives. She is reaching out to women as a woman, underpinned by great female generalisations that promise political sagacity and personal policies with more equitable outcomes than her male counterparts. Earlier this year, endeavouring to enhance gender diversity in his company, BHP Billiton CEO, Andrew McKenzie, acknowledged that ‘unconscious bias’ in past business practice in employment opportunities and recruitment discriminated against women. In the Clinton-male game, there’s no unconscious bias per se, indeed quite the opposite. Biological bias acclaimed or accused depending on your point of view. Shouldn’t these ‘gender’ cards be reshuffled so that this conscious bias; embedded in the deck, albeit invisibly, can be confronted and challenged as much as bias which is supposedly unconscious?
Three years ago, it was stated ad nauseum that former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was ‘undermined’ for no other reason than her gender, yet many women applauded her as a gender inspiration; her ‘anatomy’ paramount in the contempt and/or celebration; policies irrelevant. Both perspectives were lamentable with their focus of bias, too often based on irrational assumptions and illogical judgements. Gender politics must not claim metaphoric meanderings as irrefutable truths; they passed their use-by-date decades ago.
That’s not to say there is still not a long road ahead to achieve equity and parity for women, with a dearth of female leaders on our global landscape in this 21st century. With Clinton parading ‘feminism’ as a political weapon, she simplifies a very complex issue about capability, charisma and cunning; ‘corrupting’ policies and perspectives that impact everyone by distorting the debate into one of gender bias; be it positive or negative. This bias can be inimical to achieving genuine equality of opportunity in our world for us all.
One should reflect on the 2014 High Court of Australia ruling that transgender ‘Norrie’ could be legally identified as of ‘non-specific gender’ to facilitate a new way of thinking about gender labels, not just legally, but more pervasively in our daily lives. Non-specific gender could herald real change for both males and females, with our anatomy, appearance and sexual diversity deemed irrelevant and superfluous to the human condition.
Certainly as a female child I indulged in dress-up doll time, while with male friends toyed instead with Meccano sets, trains, boxed cars and creating buildings with Legos. My father taught me to play poker and chess, my mother taking me to my first Aussie Rules match and introducing me to Scrabble, movies, theatre, opera and classical music concerts. At nearly 14, I discovered politics when JFK was assassinated. As my hormones ran rampant, I was fascinated by sex. I was blissfully ignorant, and/or naive, that my interests were unusual as a female, loving fashion and fantasising about being a famous model, too. I was also an avid reader, relating to male characters as much as females about ideas, experiences and beliefs though bedroom behaviour was strictly heterosexual. At 18, I had become an incorrigible football addict, passionate about politics and not just desiring sex, but intrigued by sex per se and its significance in our society. These interests have dominated my life, but football, politics and sex were more commonly valued as male domains and almost an anathema to being female. This was the 1960s.
So at 66-years-old, beyond being biologically female, who am I? Moreover, who is Hilary Clinton, now 68 years; a human who happens to be female or a female first and foremost that wants to be president of the United States? Are these identity concepts innately contradictory? Clinton calls herself a feminist, but does this gender specific label reflect who she really is? Should her gender be singled out as a symbol of her intrinsic worth and meaning; dictating her identity with its array of implicit assumptions? Human might just be more apposite.
The focus on biological gender identity should be eschewed, too often accounting for so many erroneous and misguided norms and stereotypes that only serve to reinforce inequality and injustice. Embracing equal opportunities demands we transcend gender references to identify as unique, human individuals. That’s who I am and while I can’t answer for Clinton, I play poker; a game where specific gender cards are surpassed by perspicacity and psychology with an ace of the right colour and shape often leading to a powerful position as leader of the pack. Maybe Clinton should play poker on the campaign trail; maybe she already is; it is a game of bluff and buster, not biology. The irony is that while she seems to offer herself as the ‘Diamond Queen’, the males in the race are winning many young women as ‘Kings of Hearts.’ Maybe as a woman, Lady Luck, gender relevant, is Clinton’s best ‘trump card’, taking her to the throne in the White House with a royal flush. Of course, that depends on what ‘card’ she believes is of most value in the pack alongside her competitors and the voters of America.