ICYMI, Hillary Clinton in Bejing, 1995: “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights once and for all.”

So many voters this year weren’t even alive for most of the 1990s, so–as the kids say on the internets–in case you missed it, here’s Hillary Rodham Clinton’s speech at the United Nations’ Fourth Women’s Conference in Bejing, China on September 5, 1995.  At the time, it was a pretty big deal for a sitting U.S. first lady to speak publicly and boldly as a feminist, and unfortunately, I still think this performance is still singular although we’ve seen twenty more years and two more first ladies.

You can find the full text of her rotten, craven, neoliberal, baby-killing, Goldman-Sachs approved totally right wing and corrupt speech here.  (The excerpted part of the speech from 11:30-15:00, for those of you with short attention spans.)  A little flava:

I believe that, on the eve of a new millennium, it is time to break our silence. It is time for us to say here in Beijing, and the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights.

These abuses have continued because, for too long, the history of women has been a history of silence. Even today, there are those who are trying to silence our words.

The voices of this conference and of the women at Huairou must be heard loud and clear:

It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food, or drowned, or suffocated, or their spines broken, simply because they are born girls. ‘

It is a violation of human rights when women and girls are sold into the slavery of prostitution.

It is a violation of human rights when women are doused with gasoline, set on fire and burned to death because their marriage dowries are deemed too small.

It is a violation of human rights when individual women are raped in their own communities and when thousands of women are subjected to rape as a tactic or prize of war.

It is a violation of human rights when a leading cause of death worldwide among women ages 14 to 44 is the violence they are subjected to in their own homes.

It is a violation of human rights when young girls are brutalized by the painful and degrading practice of genital mutilation.

It is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will.

If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, it is that human rights are women’s rights…. And women’s rights are human rights.

As they also say on the internets:  discuss!  

15 thoughts on “ICYMI, Hillary Clinton in Bejing, 1995: “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights once and for all.”

  1. My DH (who normally doesn’t worry his pretty little head over things like politics) last night told me that he’s for Hillary because she’s been tested and he doesn’t like the anti-Hillary rhetoric he’s been hearing. He didn’t make the connection that said rhetoric was sexist, but he still pointed out that Sanders wasn’t getting the same treatment– he attributed it to her being the front-runner, but said he thought the same kinds of things could be said for Sanders and will be said by Republicans if Sanders gets on the ticket.


    • YES. This was the argument the Obamatrons–and Obama himself–made in 2008: “Eeewww, Hillary is so old and corrupt and icky and mired in the divisive politics of the 1990s. BO is of a new generation and will make a fresh start and he’ll avoid getting dragged into the partisanship of that era!” And look how that worked out!

      Granted, they never tried to impeach him. But they never, ever worked with him either.


      • Obama has done a really good job. I was pro-Obama (though would also have been very happy with Clinton) because he really wrote a love-letter to economists about doing evidence-based policy. And he has done a LOT of evidence based policy. It’s astonishing (but not well publicized).

        Obama as president and Clinton as Secretary of State worked out really well and now Clinton is set up to be a tremendous president. That extra time as Secretary of State and the intervening 8 years has really made her perfect in every aspect of governance. I don’t know how the counterfactual would have worked out– Obama in the senate probably wouldn’t have been as helpful, and Obama as vice president, I dunno. It probably would have been fine. But Clinton right now is really beyond reproach and she is really the best person for the job in every way.


      • I agree that Obama has been very good. His instincts were also totally correct that he needed to run in 2008. Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line, and Dems were ready to fall in love with someone who was so different from Bush and who could win (as compared to Howard Dean or John Kerry, whom I both liked and supported). Democrats reward ambitious young men, and ’08 was his year.


    • Also: please, let’s imagine how far a woman pol would go if SHE had had an out-of-wedlock child in the 1960s. People don’t like Hillary because she checked all of the boxes and was determined in her youth to make a mark; but what realistically was the alternative for her?


  2. It would have been far, far better, I think, for everyone if Clinton had had the previous eight years to set the ball up for the maybe/maybe not but-now-we’ll-never-know impending spike by Obama–aging during that time in the fine wine of the Senate. As we said here eight years ago, the guy just wasn’t ready. I don’t think she was the one who needed to do more prep, speaking as a birthright and then an émigré New Yorker. I wasn’t crazy that she decided (as Bobby Kennedy did years before) to claim New York as a “national” Senate seat. But she did get the job done there in a wide variety of respects.


    • I’m not saying that Clinton needed seasoning more than Obama did. That would be ridiculous. Just that things have worked out *and* Clinton is now optimized, as in, she spent those years well both in terms of her personal development (her world-wide reputation as a leader and her foreign policy bona fides) and in service to the country as secretary of state (which is an extremely important job especially during a difficult time) and a presidential candidate could not be better.

      She’s not going to have a learning curve coming in.


  3. o.k., I can see those points. I do think that Obama needed, and would have benefited from, more seasoning in the Romper Room pits of the legislative branch, where he has not shone. His headwinds have been even worse than the ones Bill Clinton faced, and he has dealt with them with some facility.


  4. Thanks for posting this, Historiann. I’m having a hard time making up my mind this year. As a former Vermonter, I have a sentimental attachment to Senator Sanders, but the more I see of him the less I like him. I also find the sexism of some of his followers very disturbing. It really is 2008 all over again.


    • Indeed. The Bernie Bros are even more condescending in their ignorance than the Obamatrons were, (as if that were even possible!) Feminist women are not the only people with mommy issues, clearly.


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