Friday, July 29, 2016

Hillary Clinton as a feminist leader


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

July 29, 2016


                Radical feminists have shown me basic distinction between two culturally political definitions of leadership: the ability to get others to follow one’s directions, historically associated with patriarchy; and the ability to hear and organize to the needs and wants of those in one’s care, historically associated with motherhood—leadership as partnership, rather than as hierarchy.  One kind of leader makes decisions for others, the other with others.

                Patriarchal leadership is measured by what the leader has personally achieved.  Indeed, it was Ms. Clinton’s jibe at Donald Trump by promising what he alone could accomplish.

Instead, presumably under her leadership, the closing night of the Democratic convention featured some five hours of personal testimony from those whose lives she had personally touched, to whom she had responded, addressing issues her proposed policies address, again as the result of a process of broad consultation.  They have been informed and moved by the socialist spirit and planks that have inspired supporters of Bernie Sanders.  Ms. Clinton acknowledges mistakes, as in having supported getting tough on crime during her husband’s governorship and presidency.  In sum, she listens and tries to learn from her own mistakes.  And she offers the electorate concrete plans for what she proposes to do now, if elected, making them available for continuing debate and discussion.   She continues to learn from those her decisions and commitments have affected.  In Riane Eisler’s terms, she seeks to lead by partnership; in Martha Ruddick’s terms, she thinks maternally.  It is an approach to leadership that focuses on connecting people, to hear and learn from one another to guide where one tries going next, and which shifts course when those who suffer are attended to.

It is interesting that Ms. Clinton has chosen a Jesuit-inspired Catholic, Tim Kaine, as her vice president.  I recall it being said long ago that Ms. Clinton felt a calling to service as a Methodist.

Earlier this week, a friend asked me to name a single thing Ms. Clinton had done.  I was at a loss for words.  In US media and political dialogue, we look for personal achievements of those who seek high office.  I come back to a lesson systems theorist Les Wilkins taught me: In the decisions we make, how we (re)make them matters more than thinking we know what is right or wrong regardless of the reactions we get.  It is not simply that Ms. Clinton is a woman.  Margaret Thatcher made herself known to be “the Iron Lady,” a woman who proved she could be as tough as a man’s man.  In Ms. Clinton I see someone who represents a feminist approach to governing that is rooted in, but not limited to, women’s experience.  It is an approach to wielding power not over others, but with others, most critically those whom power over others hurts most, for the sake of the welfare, safety and security of us all, among ourselves and with the planet on which our lives depend.  If as I expect she is elected over Mr. Trump, it will represent a cultural shift in the qualities we in the US seek in those we trust to lead us.  Love and peace, hal

No comments:

Post a Comment