No Shit, Sherlock: Hillary Clinton's Women's Rights are Human Rights

No Shit, Sherlock: Hillary Clinton's Women's Rights are Human Rights

Hillary Clinton's historic (and obvious) speech at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women
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On September 5th, 1995, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton addressed the United Nations Fourth World Conference in Beijing, China. The resulting speech, commonly known as, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights”, was a huge milestone in the fight for women’s rights. Clinton’s speech was coherent, impactful, and had all the makings of the great speech. In fact, it is still well known and highly regarded over twenty years later. According to President Bill Clinton, it is one of (if not the most) important speeches of Secretary Clinton’s long and storied career.

And, as Secretary Clinton herself said on the twentieth anniversary of the speech, “[it] seemed like a very obvious thing to say, but I wanted to say it, because people would say various things about human rights and throw something in about women. And luckily it did catch the imagination". While Secretary Clinton’s speech was, at the time, groundbreaking, it failed to make a lasting impact, and women’s rights are still a huge issue today.

The United Nations Fourth World Conference was attended, as these events usually are, by dignitaries, officials, politicians, and other powerful figures. The preliminary audience for Clinton’s speech was not the everyday woman, it was primarily women (and men) of some means and some political power. At the time, China (the host of the conference) was seen as a flagrant violator of women’s rights due to the one-child policy and other sexist policies. China also banned representatives of non-governmental organizations from attending the conference. Because of the many restrictions China imposed on the conference, Clinton’s participation was especially important to the United States. The speech is an example of an issue-framing speech, used to raise the profile of a certain issue and frame it for both the immediate and larger audience.

A commentator on an ABC News show at the time stated, “There’s no national interest in Hillary Clinton going to China, going to this women’s conference. It’s not an important conference.”. Clinton herself said, “ a lot of people said, this is not important to the United States government. It’s a nice thing, and we’re glad you care about it, but if Hillary Clinton goes to Beijing and talks about women’s rights, that elevates an issue, [...] and with so much else going on, maybe you (meaning me) should just talk about it from afar.” Many people also believed that Secretary Clinton would not address anything of importance, either. Mona Charon said on CNN that, “ [...] if she would go there and give a hard-hitting human rights speech, it would be worth it. But she won't do it.”. That perception was widespread in the mainstream media at the time.

The conference opened with a speech by former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto. Bhutto criticized the western world generally, and the United States in particular. Bhutto’s remarks, along with the Chinese government, put particular pressure on Secretary Clinton’s remarks. Because of various international tensions, the exact wording of her remarks was under close scrutiny. According to Alyse Nelson, who attended the conference as a recent college graduate, China had no idea what a women’s conference would entail, and were expecting, “a knitting conference, not these radical feminists”. The conference was only six years after the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre, and an American activist was arrested (and released) in the days leading up to the conference, all of which made Secretary Clinton’s participation controversial.

Before Hillary Clinton was the Democratic Nominee for the presidency, before she was Secretary of State, even before she was a senator, she was the First Lady and a powerful and prominent lawyer. According to Ann C. McGinley, a scholar at the University of Nevada, Los Vegas, “Hillary Clinton was an accomplished lawyer and partner in a well-known law firm, graduate of prestigious Wellesley College and Yale Law School, first lady of Arkansas, law professor, and mother of one child in 1992 when her husband, Bill Clinton, announced his candidacy for President of the United States.[...] When she married Bill Clinton in Arkansas, Hillary Rodham retained her own surname, a practice that was common among feminists of her age in order to avoid losing their identity and independence. Because of a chilly reception in Arkansas to her use of her birth name, presumably because she was too independent of her husband, she soon switched her name to Hillary Clinton.”. According to many scholars, different (and often explicit) challenges face gendered rhetorical speakers (in this case, Hillary Clinton). Clinton has for decades now been criticized not only on the basis of her politics, but on the basis of emotional appeal, psychological inquiry, fashion choices, and other personal matters that, in all likelihood, would not have played nearly as big a role if she were not a woman. Indeed, Secretary Clinton has perceived as, ‘unlikeable’, for many years, with no clear basis and with very little factual merit, although she has repeatedly tried and failed to address the issue by portraying emotional availability (as noted at the time in The Washington Post).

During Clinton’s time as First Lady, she was an extremely polarizing figure- either hated or loved for the threat she posed to traditional femininity, gender roles, and the office of the First Lady. As McGinley notes, “Throughout her career, Hillary Clinton suffered criticism for her dress and appearance. During her campaign for President, she was criticized for her pant suits, a symbol of women's empowerment since the 1960s. This criticism demonstrates the bind that women often face when they appear in public. The public evaluates women's competence and authority based partially on their clothing. [...] This double standard creates an additional burden on women running for public office. A sixty year old woman who apparently struggles with her weight, Clinton may not have gained public approval for her clothes even if she had dressed in high style feminine clothing. The pant-suit was her uniform, like the men's suits were their uniforms. [...] Clinton showed her masculine toughness by wearing pants, while distinguishing herself as feminine by choosing pant suits of many brilliant colors.” In this case, Secretary Clinton went above and beyond in establishing her femininity (appropriately, for a women’s conference). At this particular conference, it seems laughable that she would be a threat to traditional gender roles, with her pretty blonde curls and her pink sparkly suit. According to Secretary Clinton, “A friend of mine had given me this suit, and had said if you’re going to go, wear this suit. At first I thought it was a little too much, in your face, but then i thought, why not? So, I wore this pink suit, I was jetlagged, I was nervous, and i was anxious. Went into the hall [...] I was apprehensive. There was a lot riding on one speech. The people in the room were the people who were the delegates, who would ultimately determine what we voted on, for the platform for action.” Clinton’s suit probably caused people in the immediate audience (and those watching after the fact) to underestimate her based on her appearance. That is, until she opened her mouth.

Secretary Clinton recently said, “I was coming of age at a time when there were jobs girls couldn’t have, schools we couldn’t attend, so when i heard about the conference I very much wanted to go, because whatever role I played, I wanted to be seen as supporting the full participation of girls and women. It was just profoundly important.. Speaking to the conference, she wanted to be very clear in her intentions. Secretary Clinton began by establishing her credibility to speak on the topic - something which, as a woman, she probably should not have to do. This reinforces the idea that women are treated as less than human- a man probably wouldn’t have to prove his credibility on the topic of the rights of men. Hillary Clinton first spoke from her own experience before turning to examples from the international community to establish ethos while using a narrative to keep the audience’s attention. As she says “Over the past 25 years, I have worked persistently on issues relating to women, children, and families. Over the past two and a half years, I've had the opportunity to learn more about the challenges facing women in my own country and around the world.”

In terms of ethos (meaning the speaker’s qualifications), Clinton begins her speech by developing her credibility and position as someone able to advocate for women. And, as a woman, she refers to global women as a ‘we’ rather than a ‘they’, which further establishes her credibility. She establishes her credibility and the collective identity of global women early, and reaffirms it throughout the speech. She also established herself as a member of global leaders, able to make change and improve conditions. Because Secretary Clinton is a woman, and a woman in a position of power, she was able to use her Beijing speech as a way to give voice in a rhetorical performance. She used her gendered subject position as a way to represent an issue for unempowered women worldwide.

Clinton’s speech declared, "that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women's rights as separate from human rights". Historically, women’s rights have been a subset of human rights, thought of as less-than. By Clinton’s logic, if women are humans than women’s rights are equal to human rights. This statement is a pretty basic syllogism and an example of deductive reasoning. As an onlooker said, “...what she saved till last was forced abortion and forced sterilization. Everyone in that room understood she was talking about China.” . Using a specific example to call China out on their human rights abuses without actually calling them out on their human rights abuses is a pretty great example of dog whistle politics, and it also demonstrates the Secretary Clinton was a better rhetorical speaker than generally believed at the time (and, really, now).

In Clinton’s own words, “I wanted my speech to be simple, vivid and strong in its message that women’s rights are not separate from or a subsidiary of the human rights every person is entitled to enjoy”. She was not aiming to be flashy, or overly emotional. She just wanted to draw attention to an ongoing human rights issue. Additionally, Secretary Clinton knew her speech was being translated live to her primary audience; it was written with that in mind, and she received little reaction initially because of it. That would have made it hard to perceive the impact of the speech whilst it was happening, making her performance all the more impressive.

The main rallying point of Secretary Clinton’s speech was, "If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights, once and for all.Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely—and the right to be heard. " Because she echoed her sentiment twice, and uses key verbs, she made the symbolic nature of her rhetoric even more powerful. The words she used, meaning ‘speak’ and ‘heard’, opened up a space not historically open to women - the public space. As women have been historically regulated to the private space (the home) they are often thought of as afterthoughts, not meant for political participation. Secretary Clinton used her powerful position to make clear that any woman has the same right as she does to participate in the public discourse.

Unfortunately, despite Clinton’s groundbreaking speech, women’s rights have not made much progress in the last twenty years.According to a report released by Deloitte, the gender wage gap in the United States will not close until at least 2069. According to the IWPR, if progress continues at the same rate then women will not have fifty percent of seats in the US Congress until 2117. This is in spite of the fact that a higher percent of registered voters than men, and that since 1980 more women have voted in presidential elections than men. In fact, Hillary Clinton herself is the first woman to be a major party’s presidential candidate. Clinton herself says that despite some progress made, “Women and girls still comprise the majority of the world’s unhealthy, unfed, and unpaid. At the end of 2013 women held less than twenty-two percent of all seats in Parliaments and Legislatures world-wide”. While Clinton’s speech was a milestone in the fight for women’s rights, she herself would acknowledge that the struggle is far from over. “As I dove deeper into my work on behalf of women and girls, I started describing our quest for equal rights and full participation for women as the unfinished business of our time. It was a reminder to audiences, and to me, just how far we still had to go.”. In fact, in Hillary Clinton’s opening statement during September’s first debate for the 2016 Presidential election, she reaffirmed the need for equal pay for equal work. Hopefully, Secretary Clinton will continue her advocacy for women’s rights for the next twenty years.

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The Gay Cake

Why this Supreme Court case is more important than you think
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Disclaimer: I believe discrimination is wrong in most situations. People should not be discriminated on the bases of race, gender or religion

How would you feel if you were forced to do something that goes against everything you believe? Pissed.

That’s what’s happening to Jack Philips, a Christian baker who refused to design a cake for a gay couple. Discrimination is wrong but people have the right to be wrong. A person should not refuse service because of sexual orientation, race or religion but the federal government involvement starts a completely different issue. The overreach of government leads to tyranny and violating someone’s personal beliefs are just as bad. Finally, the market and the consumers should decide Philip’s ad his cake shop's fate, not the federal government.

To catch everyone up this a summary of the trending Supreme Court Case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission:

Jack Philips, a self-identified Christian, owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado. Charlie Craig and David Mullins are a homosexual couple that wanted to buy a cake for their wedding. Philips refuses his services on the reasoning that gay marriage is against his religious beliefs (he has refused to service people for Halloween Cakes too). Craig and Mullins sue Philips and through appeals, and it goes to the Supreme Court.

On the surface, this Supreme Court Case seems like a normal civil rights case. It is not.

On a deeper level, this case is about how much overreach the federal government is capable of and how free is the free market. The reason why the Supreme Court took this case is they understand the precedents their rulings will set for future courts' decisions.

The reason why this case made it to the Supreme Court because the federal government has very vague laws when it comes to discrimination in private business. The Equal Protection Clause prevents the government from discriminating against citizens, not privately owned business. Of course, the easy situation would be to create a law that stops business from discriminating.

Obviously, it is not that simple.

Businesses that refuse to serve people without shirts is a form of a discrimination. Upscale restaurants should be able to establish dress codes. A Jewish family-owned restaurant would have to serve neo-Nazis. If you disagree with any of those points, then you truly do not disapprove of discrimination. The question is where do you draw the line?

If the baker is forced to serve the gay couple against his wishes, then the Jewish family must serve the Neo-Nazis.

Can the United States make someone work against his wishes?

Philips has a right to decide when and where he wants to work, especially since he owns his own business. If the United States can force Philips to decorate the cake, can the government force someone to sing patriotic songs? This infringement on Philip’s personal rights is a governmental abuse of power.

Why should Philips have to use his first amendment right (symbolic speech and religion) for something against his will? I do not endorse Philip’s discriminating against homosexuals; I do endorse his right to use the first amendment at his own discretion.

Making Philips design the cake against his will would set a horrid precedent. Should an African-American be forced to create a cake for a white supremacist couple? Hypothetical example, if a person is in a religion where they have to love and protect all animals, but has a customer that wants to have a Michael Vick birthday cake. Should the cake owner have to go against his religion to make the cake?

You probably said no to both of the last questions because it goes against your personal and most American values. However, in the eyes of the law, it is black or white. If Philips has to make the gay cake than the African-American and dog lover has to make their cakes too.

The market will discourage discrimination if the federal government allows it. Homosexual couples would no longer come to Philips for their cakes. Additionally, bad publicity and moral values would encourage other heterosexual couples, who normally would get their cakes from Philips, not to buy from him anymore. The loss of revenue would force Philips either to change his views on serving homosexuals or run the risk of going out of business. The Jim Crow argument could be used to dispute this but in the next paragraph, it deconstructs that point.

The government forced discrimination by law during the Jim Crow era; therefore African-Americans were completely out of the market and were not potential customers. Businesses did not lose any revenue because African-Americans could not be consumers by law. Hypothetically, if discrimination was not forced by law but self-imposed by private businesses, the appeal of a completely untapped market would cause some businesses to open their doors to African-Americans. Some people are truly racist but most people care about wealth. The additional revenue from the African-American consumer base from the non-discriminate business would cause their competitors to open their doors or go out of business, ending discrimination. Proof of this was how quickly business opened to the new market after Jim Crow.

This article should have convinced you why Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is an important case to look into. In case you did not comprehend this entire article here is a summary. The supreme court will be deciding these questions for the foreseeable future: Can the United States Government force someone to use his or her skills against their wishes? Should private companies be held to the same discriminatory standards as the government? Would the markets or government decide if a biased private business will survive? Next time will the gay couple have to go to a different cake shop or will the baker be forced to bake the cake?

If you enjoyed this article and want to read some of my other work, make sure to follow on Twitter @JMcCrayJones

Cover Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

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As A Male, I Know The Problem With Sexual Assault Isn't The Women, It's The Men

As a man in society, I'm aware of the privilege that comes along with being a man.
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It has been crystal clear that men are still clueless about sexual harassment.

For instance, renowned actor Matt Damon, in a recent interview, referred to the recent allegations as a "culture of outrage" in response to the reaction of the scandals in Hollywood concerning misconduct.

Everybody has a reason to be outraged. The fear of worrying about how others will react is exactly what held women back in coming forward in the first place.

Those who initiated allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault against A-list powerful men feared that people will think of them as self-serving or lying for the purpose of ulterior motives. Being faced with unfair consequences because of their stories failing to resonate with men is ridiculous.

This is the only situation in which people are actually pointing fingers at the victims instead of taking action against the perpetrators.

These allegations are not limited to just rape, but many types and forms of sexual harassment and misconduct that are not acceptable. In regard to what Matt Damon was saying, people are entitled to their freedom in a reaction in response to the freedom of speech. The reaction or "outrage" is actually the bravery that sparked the #MeToo movement. Standing up to harassment a topic of concern is bigger than the industry or Hollywood.

It is about the gender equality of men and women.

Consent is still a hard thing to grasp for some people apparently. Consent is the clear mutual agreement of sexual activity between all persons involved and can be withdrawn by either party at any point.

Consent should not be assumed. It cannot be given if one of the people involved is inebriated. The outbreak of scandals occurring everywhere might cause men to stop and think "What if I did something and didn’t realize it?"

Deal with it.

Take accountability for the things you may have done wrong. Take the steps in educating yourself and changing.

The good guy narrative is another thing that is harmful and actually counter-intuitive. It should never be up to a person to decide if they are "nice" because that's completely up to everybody else's interpretation of them.

These self-proclaimed "nice guys" usually pretend to understand when they are just as ignorant as everybody else. How to differentiate whether or not people are actually "nice" is a line that is starting to blur more than ever.

Accepting the fact that you have no idea what women are going through is the first thing you need to understand. Shutting up and listening to people when they talk about the problems they go through would also help. But mostly, learning that you are ignorant of most things and demonstrate a willingness to listen and learn about harassment would be most helpful.

America has a social hierarchy. Tools such as racism, classicism, and sexism are what holds a specific group of people back in society.

As a man in society, its important for myself to be aware of the privilege that comes along with being a man, and I suggest that other men do the same.

Women are seen as commodities while men, thanks to their toxic masculinity think they are entitled. Young women are definitely not the only victims of these crimes. However, there is a power dynamic that often leaves women powerless when faced with confronting abusers or telling their story. The abuse of power can be used anywhere from the workplace to the bedroom.

To sum it all up very frankly: The problem isn't the woman, it's men.

Cover Image Credit: freegreatpicture.com

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