Tuesday, 20 May 2008

This week, I've been ashamed to be a woman


 

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

Cherie still defends the war in Iraq. Hillary would go nuke Iran

Monday, 19 May 2008

In 1988 I was on BBC TV debating politics with an all-female audience. For most guests, the 1979 election of Margaret Thatcher had marked an optimistic turn of history. I disagreed vehemently. Our leaderine made me biliously ashamed to be a woman.

Today that old shame heaves again, and stomach acids fill my throat as two more grasping women betray themselves and rob us of our ideals. Hillary Clinton and Cherie Blair would refute the charges. Heed not their denials, not after this week. The two mates are covetous of clout and wealth, rapt in cringing marital dotage, above all, morally questionable and beholden to none. God is always on their blessed side to exonerate any (tiny) trespasses. From those who share their chromosomes, they expect, nay demand, infinite sympathy and fulsome appreciation.
Is this where it leads to, our long road towards gender parity? It might have been better for us not to have started the journey. I don't mean that really. Blame the gloom which is set to deepen as we get a whole week of chirpy Cherie on Radio 4 reading from her (allegedly) million-pound memoir, a well spun tale – Scouse lass from a broken family gets to marry a British PM, just like that assistant in Love Actually... In reality, Mrs Blair's example is less than inspirational. As soon as she stepped over that famous threshold, she turned, like fresh milk left out overnight in the summer. She blames her embarrassing photos after election night, when, bleary and dishevelled, she opened the door to receive flowers. What tosh. All those years building up a reputation as a respected human rights lawyer and champion of equality, her passion and purpose, the luminous intelligence and warmth were jacked in as she fell into the perfidious embrace of power. It was glitzy and wildly exciting, never mind the political corruption that came with the privilege.
Meanwhile, Hillary carries on a noxious, malignant campaign covered in pustules of lies, expediency and congealing ambition. Though she tries hard to wash herself clean, to deodorize the air around her, the stench of forgery lingers on. Five years ago, Hillary wrote her own self-aggrandizing memoir and was paid eight million for the sentimental drivel. Both ex First Ladies have studied law and should know the inviolability of facts and evidence. Hillary misspeaks involuntarily, as if she suffers from a strange brain disease that twists out falsehoods and forces them to be uttered. She pretended to be shot at in Bosnia and insists her name comes from Edmund Hillary, who at her christening had not yet climbed Everest. Observers say both Clintons will tell a big lie when a small one will do and a small lie when the truth would suffice.
But hey, men who rule over us or want to are natural born fibbers so why this level of ire? Are women commentators always bitchy to other women? Because both Cherie and Hillary have used womanhood to get on, but only when it suits.
Over the nomination campaigns, Hillary has come across as a man in bad frocks, a "ventriloquist" says Jane Fonda. Arguably, you have to be a manly woman to get elected – but then she and Cherie climbed up through marriage to stand on the shoulders of husbands with lethal defects and judgements. Though unelected, the wives sought illegitimate influence over national politics and policies. Cherie wanted not only more money, more things, more foreign trips, more kudos, but a vastly more important role. So did Hillary and the claims to "experience" come from exactly that pushy presence she exerted in the White House.
Cherie still defends the war in Iraq. Then she believed New Labour women "should be supporting our men in these difficult decisions, not making it worse by nagging them". So being a sweet little wifie was more important than the law, deaths of innocents, human rights. WHAT? Today those Iraqi wives and mothers who are not grieving are being suppressed, veiled, killed for the freedoms they once had.
After tortuous obfuscations, Hillary now wants to distance herself from her old war-mongering self, but still would go nuke Iran. Both have defended laws curtailing fundamental civil rights and yet both are drawn to back frightfully worthy charities to help womankind.
Finally, the two women lack political conscience. Cherie is no better than John Prescott and, like him, has damaged the Labour party this difficult week. By not stepping aside, Hillary will destroy the Democrats and possibly let the Republicans back in. As women, they ought to know and act better. We should have higher standards otherwise what is the point?



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