Presidential candidate Ted Cruz, faced with the death knell of his presidential prospects, attempted to inject some life into his bid by announcing Carly Fiorina as his future Vice President. With her name invoked once again on the national stage, feminists and women’s rights advocates are again forced to tackle the question of whether or not Fiorina, a staunch pro-life activist and social conservative, should be considered a member of their ranks.
The confusion is easy to understand — the GOP does not often have standout women at the forefront of their party, and at a time where the GOP’s platform is derided for being too exclusionary, it would seem that Fiorina’s rise would be at least a victory for women in general, if not for leftist feminism. But the problem with this line of thinking — that any representation is good representation — is that it turns a serious need for representation into a form of political tokenism.
Female representation in the legislative and executive branches is necessary. After all, it’s the touchstone of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. And it makes sense. When groups of people do not have an analogue to voice their concerns, they feel disenfranchised. Clinton’s status as a woman does not make her an automatic authority on women’s issues, but it does mean that she sympathizes with their struggles. Clinton shares the experience of the common woman, and that shows in her policy.
But this logic is not applicable in Fiorina’s case. Her record and views only represent a small fraction of women who can afford to live like she does. With a household net worth of about $59 million, descended from a long line of prominent academics and possessing a background in corporate work, Fiorina is wholly removed from the experience of the average American woman.
This same critique could be extended to Hillary Clinton, with her suspicious ties to Wall Street and her long-term status as a Washington fixture. But the difference is that Clinton’s positions at least ring true for some sort of empathy for the women below her in life. Fiorina’s views on a number of issues fail to take the concerns of the most vulnerable women — poor, women of color and women who do not conform to traditional sexualities and gender roles — into consideration at all. Between her proud conservative vote for Proposition 8 in California, which would actively deny same-sex couples the right to marry, and her defense of a debunked Planned Parenthood abortion video, she has had a major role in dismantling the institutions that exist to bring poor women of color up to parity.
Ultimately this becomes an issue not just for Fiorina, but for the GOP. It’s hard to take Fiorina’s desire for equal pay and glass ceiling shattering seriously when she so closely aligns herself with an ideology that’s harmful to those she claims to represent. Fiorina, even if she has the gall to call herself a feminist, is simply anything but.
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