A Not So Perfect Pair
By Sam Perwin
My mother was nothing if not a feminist. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College class of 1971, and Boston College Law School soon after, she spent the beginning of her career working on Capitol Hill for such Democratic luminaries as Ben Rosenthal and Esther Peterson, both of whom fought tirelessly for the ERA. She helped Ellen Malcolm found EMILY’s List and was one of its first board members. My whole childhood was surrounded by back issues of Ms. magazine and educated, kick-ass women who created their own opportunities and careers for themselves. When Mom lost her third battle with cancer last year, we set up the Jean Perwin Memorial Fund in her honor to help women law students pay for their education. You’d think, then, that Hillary Rodham Clinton - with her Wellesley education, her Yale law degree, and her 25 years of fighting for women’s equality as First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State - and my Mother would be a match made in heaven. But no, Mom never liked Hillary. She actually thought she wasn’t feminist enough.
Back in 1998, I was 17, a junior in high school, full of hormones and sweeping generalizations about politics, sexuality, and marriage. I remember stating frequently (and cluelessly) how provincial the whole Monica Lewinsky scandal seemed. “Why is this a big deal?” I thought. “At François Mitterand’s funeral, his wife and mistress stood next to each other, and no one cared. If Bill wants to get a blow job from an intern now and then, that doesn’t make him a bad President.” This was not received well. While my family always encouraged healthy political discussion and differences of opinion, my father was quick to jump on me for assuming that all husbands cheat on their wives. “I don’t,” he said, proudly. “That’s right,” interjected Mom, “because you know I’d stab you to death if you did.”
And there was the problem. Hillary, as we all know, took it on the chin and stood by her man. That pissed Mom off. Deeply. How could an intelligent, accomplished woman just roll over and take it? Wasn’t she supposed to be this independent ball-buster? Mom wanted Hillary to be pissed too, to stand up and say, "No, I will be not be humiliated like this in front of the entire world. I deserve better. America deserves better. Women deserve better." Mom ranted every time she saw Hillary in the background behind Bill swallowing her anger and hurt for the camera. She believed that by not standing up for herself and walking out on her philandering husband, Hillary had set a bad example for the women of America.