Opinion: Should Hillary Clinton still have to answer for her husband’s affair?

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Hillary Clinton in Arizona, 2016. Photo by Gage Skidmore (https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/25982365345)

 

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky.”

These will be the words forever synonymous with Clinton – even though Hillary Rodham Clinton never had the affair that has marred Bill Clinton’s political career. She will always be remembered and scrutinised as the woman that stood beside her husband when the going got tough, even though so many women do this. In the late 1990s it surfaced that Bill had had an affair with White House Intern Monica Lewinsky. An impeachment charge began and even though he had the highest end-of-office approval rating for a US President since World War II, the scandal severely impacted his career until the end of his term in 2001.

 

But this article isn’t about Bill Clinton or whether he was right or wrong to have engaged in any form of affair with Lewinsky, or whether the several sexual misconduct claims against his name are legitimate. This is about Hillary Rodham Clinton, and for once Bill isn’t going to highjack this one.

 

Hillary has had a distinguished career in both law and politics. She earned a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Yale Law School in the early 70s, and not even 6 years later she was the first female partner at a law firm in Arkansas. She gave birth to her only child, Chelsea Clinton in 1980 and between 1978 and 1993, she earned more money than Bill did – it was only when she became First Lady of the United States did Bill’s salary surpass her. This would make her the first First Lady to have a postgraduate degree to her name and have a career until she entered the White House. Carl Bernstein says in his book, A Woman In Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton, that she was apprehensive about getting married and feared that her hard earned achievements would be jeopardised by someone else – little did she know that her future would be fraught with nightmares. She made the unpopular decision in the 1970s to keep her last name as “it showed that I was still me.” She seems to want to keep her identity so badly and not lurk in the shadow of her husband – but it seems that the majority of people want to tear her down for the actions of someone else.

 

I want to know why we have such an issue with women in power in the West. Hillary has admitted in the past that her approval rating as First Lady was not the best, but she was arguably the most empowered, independent First Lady up until that point in history. She donned her bullet-proof vest and worked hard, she set an example for First Lady’s to come. Someone had to be the first First Lady to take the role by the reigns and achieve great things – you probably don’t know much about her accomplishments before she even walked into the White House. Of course, you know about Bill’s affair, you know about Monica Lewinsky, you know about his denial and then impeachment charges. But you don’t know that in the 1970s she helped set up Fayetteville’s first rape crisis centre and was the first female Senator for New York.

 

After her unsuccessful campaign to be the first female President of the USA, the sexism projected towards Hillary Rodham Clinton became incredibly clear. People feared that Bill would highjack her presidency, they brought up his affair again, they scrutinised her for not leaving him, they scrutinised her outfits, they overanalysed every word that fell from her mouth. But no one picked on her opposition Donald Trump’s questionable tie, his multiple wives, his sexual misconduct charges. When it seemed like she had been given the platform to shine on her own during a different time (20 years after Bill’s affair), she was once again subjected to sexism.

 

The word ‘first’ is used 12 times in this article for a reason, because Clinton was a pioneer in the field of politics and was a successful woman in law, but people still  condemn her because of her husband’s actions. It seems that Hillary’s worst nightmares have become a reality, even with the momentum of the #MeToo movement and her tireless advocacy of gender equality. The moral of the story here is to look beyond the towering figures of powerful men, to the women fighting harder for their place at the table. The women you find might surprise you.

 

Hillary Clinton

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