backlash against female Bernie Sanders supporters has been growing for some
time, it reached a head recently when prominent feminist icon Gloria Steinem
explained Sanders' ever-growing number of millennial female supporters as
little more than boy-crazed girls.
"When you're young, you're thinking, 'Where
are the boys?' The boys are with Bernie," Steinem said on a recent segment of Real Time with Bill Maher.
feminists took to the interwebs to call Steinem out on her wildly
short-sighted, heterosexist, condescending and shockingly sexist statements.
Disappointingly, the first female (and former) Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright followed suit, saying, "There's a special place in hell
for women who don't help each other." Clearly, the message is that women who
don't vote for female candidates are going to hell.
feminists argue that Clinton is not only more feminist than Sanders, but the most feminist presidential choice.
Some have gone so far as to claim women who vote for Sanders aren't actually feminist
at all. Recently, a queer feminist I have deeply admired for years claimed on
Facebook that women who don't vote for Clinton are doing so out of internalized
I'm a feminist, and I find this argument, at best, vexing.
I'm approaching 40 and have spent nearly half my life studying feminism
and living a life informed by it. I've long since confronted my internalized
sexism. Although I examine it, my initial instinct around men is doubt and
distrust. Sure, I am proud to know some stellar men, one of whom I had a child with
and married. Yet I've also desired, loved, supported and prioritized women
throughout my life. My love for, and support of, women remains. It is as much a
part of me as my child.
Many of my feminist friends are shocked to find out I don't support Clinton. They ask, in ways both explicit and implied, how I reconcile my feminist politics with my support for a male candidate. I find the very question to be ludicrous and ultimately un-feminist. Here's why:
First of all, it assumes men can't be feminist. This applies to both cisgender and transgender men of all sexualities. While it's true that men, especially heterosexual cisgender ones, haven't historically been supportive in significant numbers, there have always been male allies and supporters of all persuasions.
The second, and biggest, flaw in this line of thinking
assumes that being a woman automatically makes a woman a feminist. How can
Steinem and Albright, two renowned, seasoned feminists, conflate womanhood with
feminism? If this were true, how do you explain Phyllis Schlafly, Sarah Palin,
Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin? The notion that womanhood alone can
or does unite women across their various lived differences such as race, class and sexuality has proved to be largely ineffectual.
respect the work Hillary Clinton has done to overcome the obstacles she's undoubtedly
faced, and while I recognize that sexism plays a part in her perception and criticism,
there's also the factual matter of her political record. She has flip-flopped on issues around gay
marriage and mass incarceration, which I find unsettling. She is a shrewd,
disingenuous politician whose convictions are fickle at best—a trait shared
with far too many of her cohort of both sexes.
queer, Southern, working-class white woman, it's clear that her brand of
feminism doesn't serve those of us who live in the margins.
contrast, Bernie Sanders' politics have remained consistent over the course of
his political career and have always favored the underdog, even when his
causes were not politically trendy or topical. My favorite real-time example of
this is from a passionate 1995 speech he gave to the House of
Representatives in support of queer soldiers. It's especially thrilling when
you consider that this occurred shortly before the time President Bill Clinton
signed the Defense of Marriage
Act into law. In
response to criticism for their support of DOMA, both Clintons have claimed it
was a pre-emptive move to protect same sex couples from the the Federal
Marriage Amendment. This explanation has been widely panned by leaders within the queer
feminism is rooted in economic justice, which is hugely responsible for social
equality more broadly in a capitalist society. He wants single payer, universal
health care and a $15 per hour minimum wage. He wants to make college tuition free. He
supports women's reproductive rights and has made paid family leave a key
aside, this is fundamental: he wants to overturn the colossally disastrous 2010
Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, which lifted restrictions on campaign
donations from corporations and unions and which has fundamentally changed the
political process. For what it's worth, the incomparable Notorious RBG called it the "most
disappointing" ruling of her time on the bench.
Hillary doesn't go far enough, she isn't revolutionary or feminist enough, so I am completely at ease as a feminist and a Sanders supporter, because I know I am supporting the one who wants to guarantee the most rights to the most people.
Hillary supporters argue that Sanders is too focused on economics, that it
would mean more and be more impactful to have a female president. Impactful to
whom? Third- and fourth-wave feminists don't need to see women in roles of power to imagine it for themselves. We need to access the things that will enable us to
be empowered, including class stability, education and healthcare for starters.
stability is my greatest goal and lack of it has been the biggest stressor in life. Because I work to support my family, and my
husband stays home with our child, I live the need for this sort of economic
justice every day. I make ends meet, but we don't have credit cards, savings or any real safety net. My brand of feminism does not need a female president
to feel empowered. I need economic, reproductive, racial and environmental
justice codified into law. I need college to be free so that my 2-year-old
daughter can follow in my footsteps as one of the first and few in my family to
attend college and graduate school. I'd prefer she be able to do this without
acquiring the staggering student loan debt that I and millions of others have.
doesn't go far enough, she isn't revolutionary or feminist enough, so I am
completely at ease as a feminist and a Sanders supporter, because I know I am
supporting the one who wants to guarantee the most rights to the most people.
If it's not easily accessible to the poor and other devalued members of
society, it's not really that revolutionary at all.
Supporters of Hillary Clinton claim her ascent to the
presidency would be a momentous occasion for feminism, and I don't disagree
with that. I, too, think
having a female president would be momentous.
I think it would also be
momentously more feminist if that president were Bernie Sanders.