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Is it vital to vote for Hillary Clinton just because she's a woman?

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

Is voting for a woman president more important than a candidate with similar views?

The fact that Hillary Clinton is a woman is likely to be an important factor in the upcoming election, just as Barack Obama being (half) black was in 2008. But it brings up an interesting question: Is it so important to have a woman in office that we vote for her even though we might otherwise have more similar views to another candidate?

It was the source of much hot debate in Obama's 2008 election. Some outspoken black leaders (and even celebrities) encouraged black voters to vote for Obama just because of the color of his skin. Actor Samuel L. Jackson, while more apathetic about it than advocates like Al Sharpton, even admitted he voted for Obama because he was black. In his opinion, since all politicians lie, that was as good a reason as any.

Other black activists and voters felt it was unfair to expect them to side with the man just because of his race (and certainly weren't fans of being told they were betraying their people if they didn't). Still, other (usually white) individuals called foul — voting for Obama because of the color of his skin is racist. As physically unable as I am to control my eye-rolling at even having to type that last statement, the fact remains that people were divided. And it's bound to come up in regard to Hillary Clinton, too. But what do we do?

Is voting for Clinton reverse gender bias?

No, because there's no such thing. When people say that, the only thing I hear is, "Bitch, go make me a sandwich." You can't oppress, subjugate and objectify a group for hundreds of years then whine about fairness when we defend ourselves. It's like the 8-year-old boy who runs bawling to Teacher when the girl he's spent all recess harassing finally turns around and pushes him down. Grow up and look up the meaning of the word "consequences," will you?

Is a woman president really that important?

It depends on the woman. The primary reason one might vote for a candidate just because she's a woman should and does necessarily come down to how she's likely to deal differently with issues relating to women and families than her male counterparts. And that requires a careful examination of her voting record and related political achievements — and those of her male counterparts.

Sarah Palin didn't do much for feminism or women's rights. But for the abject embarrassment she became to proud, practical Republican women and giving misogynists a host of talking points about the potential disaster of electing a woman to such a high office, I'd say she's done nothing but pay lip service and tow the party line. (I hope McCain fired the idiot responsible for vetting that hot mess.) 

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has a strong voting record on issues affecting women and families and has even been responsible in part or in whole for strong, successful legislation and programs that help women and families. She cosponsored the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (which Palin didn't support). She supports universal pre-K, high-quality child care, reproductive and health services for women, paid leave for parents, workplace flexibility and more.

Ted Cruz and Rand Paul voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act and Paycheck Fairness Act — as did Mark Rubio (potential candidate Jeb Bush didn't even know what it was when asked). Worse yet, Scott Walker signed a law overturning his state's Equal Pay Enforcement Act.

Abortion isn't the only reproductive issue

This is a tough one because being a woman doesn't automatically mean you think abortion is a good thing. But women's reproductive issues aren't just about abortions, are they? And some politicians (talkin' to you Rick "Hell, I was close" Perry) might know that if they could locate a vagina on a map.

Clinton has sponsored, co-created or voted previously for legislation and programs that would reduce the number of abortions, but she is pro-choice.

Rand Paul claims it's too hot an issue despite him believing conception begins at birth — except that he actually introduced legislation that would do more than ban abortion entirely (potentially including medically necessary abortions to save the life of the mother and abortions for rape victims). It could have serious implications on the legality of some forms of birth control and on in vitro fertilization, which many couples rely on to even have children.

Ted Cruz continues to fight for a Texas law that was ruled unconstitutional. Apparently, Cruz thinks it's OK to shut down clinics that provide lifesaving cancer screenings, inexpensive birth control options (the ones that ensure abortion isn't an option you have to consider), prevent dangerous self- or unqualified professional abortion attempts and provide much-needed prenatal care to women — all in the name of preventing something that's legal in the U.S. But I guess the potential to have one boy baby is worth the lives of a few hundred Texas women.

Scott Walker, while not as extreme as Cruz, attempted (and ultimately failed) to put into place a law in his state that would have shut down two of the state's only four clinics (which, again, generally provide services that have nothing to do with abortion) by adding yet another restriction on the doctors themselves. The law would require the doctors to secure admission privileges to a nearby hospital, rather than their typical hospital, as though any emergency services would somehow be denied by said nearby hospital because the actual doctor couldn't admit. His law was overturned because the risks associated with an abortion are so nominal as to make admission privileges an undue burden.

Mark Rubio is pseudo pro-choice in that he believes abortions should be allowed for the first 20 weeks after fertilization — of course, there's no way to know exactly when that is, but it's something (and in fairness, a law to that effect would likely have terms spelled out). Unfortunately, his career isn't actually long enough to know if he's just laying the groundwork for avoiding being totally skewered by women in this election.

Regardless of your stance on abortion, supporting laws that limit abortions at the expense of other women's health issues is a potentially deadly game of "would you rather" roulette.

What should women do?

Ultimately, no one can make the decision for you, and it's wrong to be pressured into doing something you don't truly believe in for fear of being told you're against women's rights. That said, we as women need to send a very clear message to politicians. Women in this country are under attack, and too many politicians are ignoring the serious issues we face.

We have to say it's not right for women doing the same job to make almost 25 percent less than their male counterparts. We have to say that we won't tolerate them tolerating violence against women. We have to say no to attacks on families through limitations on maternity care insurance that leave the whole family (not just the mother) in debt and any other children they have with less as a result of that.

We have to say no to gambling with women's lives by using clinics that provide preventative and pregnancy care more than abortions as a weapon to serve their anti-abortion agendas — the proper political response to that is to attempt to make it illegal legitimately, and if you can't do that, the people have spoken (remember that whole thing where we live in a republic and how it means you don't always get your way?).

And if they won't listen to our voices, maybe they'll listen to our votes. And I think that's a damn good reason to vote for a woman.

More on Hillary Clinton

Brit Hume's attack on Clintons proves Republicans still don't get it
Hillary Clinton just announced her run for president
VIDEO: Hillary Clinton and Stephen Colbert in a battle of names

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