Clinton's Loss: A Rejection of the Erotic by Hilary Scheppers

Hilary Rodham, 22 years old, after graduating from Wellesley College. Photo Courtesy of Lee Balterman

Hilary Rodham, 22 years old, after graduating from Wellesley College. Photo Courtesy of Lee Balterman

“a system that defines the good in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need” or defines human need to exclusion of the psychic and emotional components of that need— it robs us of our work…[This is] tantamount to blinding a painter and then telling her to improve her work, and to enjoy the act of painting. It is not only next to impossible, it is also profoundly cruel.” Audre Lorde

In November of 2015, my former professor of Feminist Theology from Loyola Marymount University invited me to a fundraiser she was co-hosting for Hillary Clinton in Washington, D.C.. Though I was not a supporter, I saw the invite as an opportunity to witness a historical moment, so I took a bus down to the Hyatt Regency Hotel for the event. The line-up before Clinton included 13 of the 14 Democratic women senators. Each of them spoke before Clinton, rallying the crowd and verifying their support for Hillary’s nomination, including the mention of a letter that all the Democratic women senators signed in 2013 urging Clinton to run for office. It was then that I realized Clinton was the only female candidate who had a shot at competing; she was the sacrificial lamb. If it was time for a woman president, Hillary would take us there.

After that remarkable experience of seeing the women Senators come together in loyalty for each other, I was on board. I was, at first, a shy supporter, but then I unexpectedly became an advocate by nature of sharing the same first name. Every time I introduced myself to a stranger, I inevitably fell into a conversation about Hillary Clinton. I’d say my name, and they’d say, “Oh, you know what, I hope you win!” Or “Wow, are you voting for her?” The question of whether I supported Clinton always followed. Without intending to do so, I had more political conversations with complete strangers.

As a mother, Clinton belongs to an impactful, political community. Audre Lorde would consider Clinton to possess "the deepest life force.” In Lorde’s essay “Uses of the Erotic: Erotic as Power”, the definition of “erotic” is expanded from an adjective to a noun: The Erotic is the“resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling.” Though we all have the ability to tap into the erotic, our society has taught us to distrust erotic knowledge gained from the experiences of the body. American culture, so strongly shaped by Christian ideals, continues to spread the notion that the body is what leads us into sin and temptation, a way of thinking that can be traced back to Christian Theology’s adoption of Plato’s ideas that the body is lesser than the mind, that the soul is holier than the flesh: “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

Now Clinton suppressed this kind of power from her public image for the duration of her career. She deflected comments, coverage and bias that would draw attention to any of part of her gender or motherhood. And for good reason. To be a player in the traditionally male dominated arena, Clinton had to separate the aspects of her gender identity from the workplace. But was this a mistake? Did she lose the trust across genders because of this?

Recently, while watching a PBS series of Joseph Campbell retelling creation myths of ancient cultures, I noticed a similar plot among all of them: birth, sex and death. For men, after they lay with a woman, the next mark in their journey is death; sex symbolizes the end.

Donald wore many masks to professionally demonstrate atrocious behavior,  unparalleled in public vulgarity, he managed to enlarge the “battle of the sexes” divide. Clinton ought to have followed suit; we waited, almost holding our breaths, for her to retaliate in “female rage”. But she refused to fight his fight, and then, of course, she lost that battle. But this is the mark of a hero--a woman with dignity, self-respect, and the courage to disengage.

Perhaps women didn’t trust Clinton as being a world leader because she buried her erotic power. Perhaps men didn’t trust Clinton because she innately carried her erotic power. Either way, Clinton never revealed her true nature to us in the way Trump unleashed his. And what would have happened if she had?

For women, we ought not to separate our erotic power from whatever work we intend to produce for the world. In whatever setting we choose to place ourselves, we must be vigilant in honoring all aspects of our self in order to reach new normal in our society. The Women’s March on Washington was an example of the power of embracing one’s sex, gender, & ethnicity, embodying the 65 million who rejected Trump’s rhetoric.

This reminds me of an old Cherokee tale of a grandfather telling his grandson about a fight that is going on inside of him—a fight between two wolves. One is evil; it is anger, greed, guilt, resentment, superiority and ego. The other one is good; it is peace, love, hope, serenity, kindness and compassion. The grandfather says the same fight is going on inside the boy and inside every person. The boy then asks, “Which wolf will win?” And the grandfather replies, “The one you feed.”