U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech at the Women of the World Summit on Monday in New York City stopped short of actually naming and pointing to the Catholic Church and others opposed to the Obama administration's contraceptive mandate. That being said, she did have plenty to say about "extremists" and their battle against women both in America and beyond.
While speaking about the U.S.'s responsibility to be a role model for women and girls across the world, Clinton transitioned from sharing a story about a Tunisian woman to railing on about issues "here at home" that women are facing. Additionally, she seemed to equate those embroiled in this home-front debacle with extremism -- although she stopped short of saying it explicitly.
Clinton's words began innocuously, as she spoke about an encounter she had at a recent town hall meeting in Tunis, Tunisia. She said that an Islamic woman stood up and shared her personal experience working with the U.S. and the surprise that many had at her willingness to collaborate with the West (and vice-versa).
Then, Clinton told the audience, "I told her that, in America, in Tunisia, anywhere in the world, women should have the right to make their own choices about what they wear...how they worship...the causes that they support." These words led Clinton to make statements about extremists who are trying to strip away women's rights across the world.
"Why extremists always focus on women remains a mystery to me. But they all seem to. It doesn't matter what country they're in or what religion they claim. They all want to control women," Clinton proclaimed. "They want to control how we dress. They want to control how we act. They even want to control the decisions we make about our own health and our own bodies." [Emphasis added]
And she wasn't done there.
"Yes, it is hard to believe but even here at home we have to stand up for women's rights and we have to reject efforts to marginalize any one of us, because America has to set an example for the entire world," she said.
Watch Clinton's words, below:
While the secretary of state was clearly choosing her words carefully and speaking very generally, it seemed as though she was referring to the debate over religious freedom and the contraceptive mandate here in America. Politico's Burns & Haberman was hesitant to attribute the comments to the current contraceptive debate, writing:
Without specifying which policy issues, exactly, she was referring to, Clinton said the United States has to be a "model" for how governments treat women. [...]
It's not an explicitly 2012-related comment. But it comes at a moment when Democrats are trying hard to brand the GOP as an anti-woman party, and when the president's campaign works to cement a huge gender gap in place for the fall campaign. And the gentle politicking by both Clintons underscores what powerful assets the could be in the fall, if they end up coming off the bench in a more aggressive way for Obama and their party.
Daily Beast editor Tina Brown appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," where she discussed Clinton's speech and its application to women's rights in America being "rolled back." Here, too, Brown was vague, but it seemed as though she was referencing recent sociopolitical dialogue. Watch her comments, below: