Many American women are excited about Democrat Hillary Clinton’s ground-breaking bid for the White House, but feminists warn she can’t count on them just because she’s a woman.

They said tens of millions of women are more concerned about selecting a candidate who best addresses their top issues and are scrutinizing the former first lady in this light.

“Being a woman in and of itself is not sufficient to gain broad-based support,” Faye Wattleton, head of the Center for the Advancement of Women, said. “We’re not doing affirmative action in terms of the presidency.”

While Hillary’s gender is “an added attraction,” it is not enough reason alone, added Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a co-founder of Ms. Magazine.

The New York senator seeking the Democratic nomination for the November 2008 election won support from women last week at her alma mater, Wellesley College, where she spoke of facing “the all-boys club of presidential politics” days after Democratic rivals took aim at her at a debate.

Wellesley student Edlyn Yuen, 20, said she found Clinton inspiring. “It definitely boosts your confidence, especially when you see her holding her own in the debates.”

But some feminists object to Clinton’s decision to stay with her unfaithful husband, former President Bill Clinton, and others argue she fails as a role model by riding his coattails. And while Clinton supports women’s issues such as equal pay, abortion rights and family leave, some don’t think her stance is strong enough.


“It’s unfortunate that there’s not a greater field of candidates to choose from who are women,” said Kelsey Henson, 20, another student at the prestigious liberal arts college where Clinton graduated in 1969.

The National Organization for Women has endorsed her candidacy, said NOW President Kim Gandy. “Our priority is to have a feminist in the White House. If that feminist happens to be a woman, then we may have reached nirvana,” she said.

She said Clinton believed in the social, political and economic equality of women and had “lived it.”

“There is not a candidate running for president who can point to, as she can, a lifetime of working for the betterment of women and children,” she said.

But others warn that sending a woman to the White House could backfire. “It’s ultimately a trap,” feminist Lisa Jervis wrote in LiP, a magazine of radical politics.

“Women who do nothing to enact feminist policies will be elected and backlash will flourish,” she wrote. “I can hear the refrain now: ‘They’ve finally gotten a woman in the White House, so why are feminists still whining about equal pay?”

Sarah Harris, 36, who watched Clinton speak last Thursday, said she was still thinking.

“I sometimes feel like I might vote for her just because she is a woman. So that’s why I’m here, maybe, to find out why I don’t want to, to try to decipher between the myth and the reality,” said Harris, who bought her infant daughter a Clinton T-shirt that said: “I can be president too” and “Glass ceilings are made to be broken.”

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