Women in Leadership: Hillary Clinton and Human Rights

7 Nov

From the Editor-in-Chief:
Hillary Clinton and Human Rights 

Hillary Clinton has recently been in the news for her stances on human rights in Uzbekistan, Bahrain, and Iran. There has been considerable criticism directed towards the Obama administration concerning human rights and gender-oriented rights. Hillary Clinton, the most visible female figure of the Obama administration, has borne the brunt of criticism regarding international human rights and international women’s rights. I shall not comment specifically about the performance of Secretary Clinton during this past week, but I thought I would republish a blog post from our predecessor blog on Secretary Clinton and her perspective on human rights. I would recommend watching the video referred to in the post first for context.

Without further ado:

Letters from a Girl:

Dear Secretary of State Clinton,

Having just watched video clips of your parallel speeches from the UN Conferences on Women, I have to admit. I was very impressed by the quality of your message on the issue of women and their rights and progress. There is an attractive ring to your words, driven home by the equating of qualities of women to all of humanity. Linking human rights to the rights of women and later the upward ascendancy on the human race with the development of women in society makes for a rousing call to battle for your audience in 1995 and in 2010. For the preservation and progress of humanity, we must look to our women.

Nevertheless, I do wonder about the implications of your words from 1995. Why must we make a distinction between humanity and women, Mrs. Clinton?

The violations you mention within the 1995, the intimidation, the suppression, the mutilation, and the death of women are striking examples of the lack of human rights worldwide. Without a doubt, the persecution of women constitutes a severe challenge for those who preach the doctrine of moral absolutism and the creed of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Here is my problem with your semantics –focusing solely on the rights of women does not advance the agenda of human rights its intended target, human beings in general.

To expand on this opinion, consider the actual semantics of your equation of the rights of human beings to the rights of women. Focusing solely the right of access to proper medical on the brutal treatment of women at the hands of “doctors” performing female genital mutilation tends to exclude the male gender from such considerations. By making this distinction that women’s rights are human rights, a logical argument can be made that it is ultimately discriminatory to those of another gender, which is surely not your point.

In terms of the human rights theory advanced in the 1940s (by UN Ambassador and intellectual Eleanor Roosevelt, no less), human rights needs to focus on those claims made by all human beings. The specific rights of women within the strictly academic sense is a “specific” right, according to theorist Maurice Cranston, but human rights focus on those rights specific to all human beings. These rights are those rights innate within all human beings. We cannot confuse the rights specific to a gender with those sacrosanct rights given to us by our existence as human rights. The progress made on these rights advance women’s rights, but progress with women’s rights does not necessarily advance human rights.
From 1995 to 2010, obvious progress has been made from the transition to a new millennium. Women occupy more top positions in government, business, education, and even religion (that bastion of anti-feminist sentiment, madam!). You yourself are, arguably, the most powerful woman in America as the Secretary of State for the Obama administration. This progress in society is laudable, and you mention this in your speech from 2010. However, we cannot confuse this progress with complacency, which you do warn against. However, women are not always the targets of abuses of human rights. Our rhetoric as women should be inclusive for human beings.

My point, Mrs. Clinton, is simply that the rights of women, the progress of women should be part of a larger movement of humanity towards equality. Through the progression of history, we have become more powerful, more educated, and more motivated as a gender. Focusing ourselves solely inward upon our own gender can temporary alleviate the problems of gender within a community while not addressing the problems of human rights. Women have an important role to play in alleviating the suffering of all humans, not just their oppressed sisters. 

Again, these are merely my opinions based on my admittedly limited experiences with human rights literature and legal code as well as the struggle of women for the rights of all women. I am a woman, but I am innately a human being.  

A Girl

I hope this post will give some perspective and continuity to Galatea on our discussion on women in leadership. I shall confess to being a fan of Secretary Clinton, but I shall promise a balanced perspective. The women of the GOP, the Republican women, will get their day with a post: 

Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin are Feminist Icons…
Whether They Like It or Not!

Stay tuned,

Molly Cunningham
Editor-in-Chief, Galatea
GALS Board Member  


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