Photobook: Are Politics Dirty? Then Call in the Cleaning Woman

Cleaning Women Against Dirty Politics photo at Museum of the City of New York, 2014 Amy Cools

Cleaning women against dirty politics suffragists photo in Activist New York, a 2014 exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. 

What would these women think of Hillary Clinton, a savvy politician who has used what many consider dirty political tricks to get where she is now, the first female presidential candidate of a major political party? Is it necessary for a woman to get her hands dirty to make it to the top in our still aggressively male-centric, hyper-competitive political arena? Is it fair to call her tactics ‘dirty’ when the same sort of tactics are often considered run-of-the-mill political strategies when used by men? Like it was for our first black president, it seems that we expect our first female presidential candidate to be a paragon of virtue and stoic strength, without any of the human quirks and blemishes we might normally forgive in the traditional white male candidate.

One thing that’s struck me: many people, especially men, are hugely critical of Clinton for staying with her husband after he was caught cheating on her, saying it amounts to an endorsement of such behavior and shows that she’ll do anything to keep political power. But I don’t hear these same criticisms of other women in the political arena in similar situations: Jackie Kennedy, for example, or Eleanor Roosevelt. These women are often thought of as virtuously faithful for doing the same thing, and the latter, especially, used the political power she retained from staying in the marriage to accomplish many worthy things. I hope Clinton, mired as she is in the harsh and often dirty arena of American politics, will do likewise.

I took this photograph while in New York City in October 2014 following the life and ideas of Ernestine Rose and Elizabeth Cady Stanton; to read more about these great women, click here.

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, entirely supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

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