"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“An Appalling Message To Women”: Stop Second-Guessing Hillary About Her Marriage

Ruth Marcus is a respected journalist, who has achieved an extremely privileged position in a male-dominated industry. More power to her! I’d be the last person to say she didn’t work hard to get where she is. Good on her.

But I am troubled by her recent over-the-top screed attacking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which sends an appalling message to women: Ladies, if you have a messy personal life, stay the hell off the public stage! Be forever shamed by your total humiliation! A respectable woman whose husband cheats on her must leave him — indeed, leaving him is the only way for her to regain her respectability, after an acceptable period of being ashamed of him, and ashamed of herself for ever having been with him. Darn that Hillary Clinton, she is not acting respectable! How dare she go out in public with that man!? How dare she run for U.S. Senate, serve with distinction, then go on to reshape the U.S. State Department as Secretary of State — all without leaving that no-good husband of hers. She was a shamed woman! How. Dare. She.

Ruth Marcus has been on the receiving end of media attention for her column, from this on MSNBC to this in the New York Times. Now, I know that columnists are often deliberately provocative, and I don’t expect to agree with everything that even a favorite opinion writer publishes. But I have a particularly personal reaction to this column.

Reading Marcus, I can be reminded what a loser I am. My life has been messy with many personal failures. My first husband beat the crap out of me. That was humiliating. I knew it was something that did not happen to respectable young women. I was extremely fortunate, however, as with the help and support of my parents I regained respectability by leaving my batterer. My mother and father breathed a sigh of relief and hoped I would stay on the right path. I went to law school, got good jobs and performed well. But my life kept being messy. I married again, not once but twice. Not respectable. My mother was bitterly disappointed. Ms. Marcus reminds me of her.

When my third marriage was breaking up, a friend of mine told me she believed marriage failures were always the woman’s fault. I laughed, but stopped when she said she was serious. This individual truly considered herself a friend, and so did I. I still do. I just don’t share her archaic view of women’s place in the world. Ruth Marcus’s narrow conception of what wives must and must not do is outdated in the same way.

All of which brings me round to why I admire Hillary Clinton as a woman, and why I am supporting her to be the next president of the United States. For most women, whose lives have not been perfect, Sec. Clinton’s career path — which has been marked by persistence and resilience in the face of extraordinary barriers — is cause for celebration and inspiration. When she ran for president in 2008, she was subjected to vicious forms of misogyny, but she didn’t let that chase her out of the public square. As a result, today, other women know that they don’t have to be chased out either.

The good news is that the vast majority of women aren’t interested in second-guessing Sec. Clinton’s decisions about her marriage. To paraphrase Sen. Bernie Sanders, the public has no interest in that ancient history. Most people consider former President Bill Clinton to be more than the personal actions he regrets and has apologized for. As adults living in the 21st century, we are able to agree or disagree with him on policy without clutching our pearls and fantasizing about some dress.

What women voters do care about is whether our next president will enact policies we need more than ever — a higher minimum wage, an expanded Social Security system, paid family leave, racial justice initiatives that include girls and women of color, access to safe, legal abortion care and birth control, and recognition of civil and human rights of LGBTQIA people. I don’t agree with Sec. Clinton on everything, but I do know that she listens and responds to people who disagree with her. And I especially admire her strength in the face of the hate and nasty attacks that come at her from all angles.

Thanks to Ruth Marcus, we have been schooled once again in the old rules of how wives are supposed to behave. But thanks to Hillary Clinton, there is a brighter future for women leaders.


By: Terry O’Neill, President, National Organization for Women, The Blog, The Huffington Post, January 6, 2016

January 10, 2016 - Posted by | Domestic Violence, Hillary Clinton, Women | , , , , , ,


  1. Terry O’Neill: I am sorry for your troubled marriages and wish you only the
    best. However, I am not going to vote for Hillary just because she is a
    women who has overcome troubles. Most every woman I know has had to
    deal with some personal problems in marraige. Bernie Sanders is just as
    much concerned about all the issues you write about and more. He has
    spent his entire public life living what he preaches. He is honest, hard
    working and sincere about what he tells people he will do if president.


    Comment by lrfalstad | January 11, 2016 | Reply

  2. Are not spouses punished enough by philanderers? Just four years ago, these same folks were saying Barack Obama was no Bill Clinton, especially with him on video encouraging Paul Ryan. There was also a huge double standard with Newt Gingrich’s several infidelities. If we focus on the right things, Hillary Clinton was married to the President who oversaw the largest growth in jobs, even more than FDR and about 6 million more than the GOP’s best in Ronald Reagan. Wild Bill even balanced the budget and kept us out of war. Those issues are more important.


    Comment by Keith | January 10, 2016 | Reply

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