Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Quick hit: funny feminist faux-pas

by Jordan Kisner

Hillary Clinton lost her temper on Monday at a Q&A session with Congolese students when a student asked her “What does Mr. Clinton think through the mouth of Mrs. Clinton” about the World Bank’s interference in a Chinese trade deal with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Visibly surprised and offended, Clinton responded scathingly, “Wait, you want me to tell you what my husband thinks?? My husband is not the Secretary of State, I am. So you ask my opinion, I will tell you my opinion; I am not going to be channeling my husband.” The last sentence in particular dripped with disdain. (For the full effect, see the video here.)

Score one for feminist Hil, right? After the ridiculous coverage of the Clintons since Bill’s trip to North Korea (polls concluding Bill is now more popular than Hillary, the endless discussion on network news of whether or not Bill upstaged her trip to the Congo, etc.) it was satisfying to watch her demand to be taken seriously as a political figure completely independently of her husband’s achievements, even if her delivery was a little bit harsh.

Except, (and herein lies the rub) the question had been mistranslated. Turns out the student had asked if she could speak to President Obama’s thoughts on the issue.


Unfortunately, this may wind up successfully upstaging the real intention behind her trip to the Congo: raising awareness about the devastating rates of sexual violence –notably, the use of rape as a weapon of war—in the region. This week, she announced a $17 million plan to combat sexual violence in the Congo. The program will train doctors, give victims video cameras to document the sexual violence, and train local law enforcement to arrest and prosecute rapists (info pulled from a great NYT article. I suggest you read the whole thing.)

“We believe there should be no impunity for the sexual and gender based violence,” she said, also declaring this outbreak of sexual violence “evil in its basest form.”

So, despite the gaffe, I think Hillary Clinton deserves a big feminist round of applause for her work (and sound bites) this week. Just make sure you get the good translator before you ask her a question!


At August 17, 2009 at 8:06 PM , Anonymous Welmer said...

Most readers have probably seen Hillary Clinton’s rude display of pique when an African had the gall to ask her what her husband, former President of the United States Bill Clinton, who is widely admired and respected throughout Africa, thought about foreign policy. Now, as you can hear in the clip, Hillary Clinton’s imperious, undiplomatic behavior is cast as righteous indignation over how Congolese women are treated. The newscaster even throws in a couple of submissive statements to his wife and female boss (they’re “always right”) before reporting on the excuse for Hillary’s little fit. Disgusting.

Of course, Congolese women have had it hard during the war, but what of the men? Have more women died? I seriously doubt it, but this is American feminism at work: the men don’t count. Even the young boys who have been pressed into service – some seized from classrooms – are largely ignored.


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