Sunday, February 7, 2016

This feminist is for Sanders

“Young women have to support Hillary Clinton… It’s not done and you have to help. Hillary Clinton will always be there for you. And just remember, there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” Former secretary of state Madeline Albright told a crowd of Clinton supporters yesterday in New Hampshire. Albright was not alone in addressing young women voters this weekend.

In an interview on Friday, with Bill Mahers, Gloria Steinem suggested that the main reason Bernie Sanders has so much support from young women is so that they can meet boys: “When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’” While Steinem has since apologized for her statement, I don’t really buy it and I’m starting to get offended.

In attempting to support Clinton, Steinem reduced young women to mindless bimbos who are unable to make rational political decisions on their own, and instead politic based on the whims of their hearts. Surely, revolutionary feminist Steinem does not agree that young women are incapable of critical decision-making. However, her views - and Albright’s - echo a widespread sentiment that drives the rhetoric that voting for anyone other than Clinton is both un-feminist and untenable.

I am a feminist, and I support Bernie Sanders. It isn’t because he reminds me of my grandpa (which due to their shared Brooklyn accent and white hair, he really does). And it isn’t because of his “willingness to look and sound like a hot mess,” or that Hillary just isn’t cool enough. It also isn’t because his fervent fan base convinced me. It’s because after a careful analysis of Sanders’s and Clinton’s politics, my beliefs are more aligned with Sanders’. I also firmly believe that Sanders’ policies are feminist policies.

As Kevin Young and Diana C. Sierra Becerra wrote in their 2015 article, “All issues of wealth, power, and violence are also women’s and LGBT rights issues.” Sanders supports single-payer healthcare, women’s reproductive healthcare, free college tuition for public universities, and a $15 minimum wage -- all policies that benefit women in this country. Sanders has an established history of supporting LGBTQ rights, in stark comparison to Clinton who supported DOMA and did not announce her support of gay marriage until 2013. Sanders’ history of opposing foreign wars, the Patriot Act, and the death penalty are all reasons that I support him for president. This is not an exhaustive list, it is merely illustrative of the fact that I, a young, female, millennial am capable of comparing two candidates and coming to my own feminist conclusions.

My support for Sanders does not mean that Clinton has not faced an enormous amount of misogyny and sexism in this election - and throughout her career. Nor is my support for Sanders unwavering. I have legitimate qualms about some of his policies. I’m worried about his age. I’m worried about his effectiveness implementing his policies once in the White House (though, to be honest, I am not sure that Clinton will do any better).

That said, my support for Sanders is indeed rooted in my feminist beliefs. Beliefs that recognize the complexity of womanhood, and the need for intersectional politics that acknowledge race, gender identity, class, and more. I have to support the candidate that I feel embodies those beliefs and I truly believe that Sanders will be the better candidate for all women. After all, I don’t want to end up in that special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.


Amanda said...
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Amanda said...

As a Hillary supporter, I was also really disappointed to hear the recent comments by popular feminists disparaging female Bernie supporters. Unfortunately, I've seen these types of attacks from both Bernie and Hillary supporters, and it brings up a larger question—why are fellow progressives hell-bent on tearing apart Bernie or Hillary supporters (as opposed to focusing on the actual candidates)? And why is our public discourse ignoring that people have different perspectives and can come to different (and still legitimate) conclusions? It's all very discouraging. This election cycle needs a serious dose of empathy and cooperation.

Ari Asher said...

I agree with a lot of what you said. I think Sanders could be a great candidate for women. I also don't think that people should be bullied into choosing a candidate. However, I think that Gloria Steinem's comments are being sensationalized in an unfair way. Yes, they do appear on their face to be ironically sexist (coming from the feminist champion of the twentieth century). However, in her defense, I watched the video and feel that her comments are being made into sound-bites without showing the rest of what was said. While I don't think that people should vote for a candidate just because they are a woman, I also think that they shouldn't undercut someone's accomplishments for the same reason. Both Clinton and Steinem have been instrumental in the fight for women's rights. Now both of them are being held to a standard that frankly, men are not held to. Steinem says one comment that taken out of context appears sexist, and now her entire identity as a feminist is being attacked. I thought this was an interesting take on her comments:

Sonja said...

Ari, thanks for sharing that article. While I agree it is wrong to disregard Steinem's lifetime of achievement based on one offhanded remark, I do believe that Steinem and Albright were (though not in coordination) shaming young women for not supporting Hillary. Sexism is real and pervasive and Clinton and Steinem are undoubtably held to a higher standard than men. However, my qualms with Hillary's supporters, both famous and not, have to do with the fact that anytime someone raises a reason for not supporting her campaign, "sexism" is the automatic response. I'm ready to legitimately talk policy, but that doesn't seem to be an option during this election. One of my friends posted this quote in the response to this debacle and it's something I agree with:

"I think that Hillary is perplexed at the young, white, feminist voter not supporting her because she left a spot for us at her table. We (the white, American, middle class) have always been invited into Hillary's vision, but I don't want it. I want more. I expect more of feminism because it is precious to me, it moves me, and I was taught to question dominant narratives, not settle for them."

India Powell said...

Sonja, I really appreciate your post and share your distaste for the comments from Steinem and Albright. And I also really appreciate both Ari and Amanda's responses on this topic. However, I am concerned that there is a bigger, perhaps more cynical, conversation that no one is really having right now: can Bernie really win a general election? I feel like most of us could agree that when we move away from Bernie vs. Hillary, the fact of the matter is that democrats are good for women. Call me a realist, but I have a hard time seeing Bernie win the vote of moderate Americans in the general election. And that is really concerning, because we know how eager most GOP candidates are to reverse so much of the liberal policies that Obama has put in place. I agree with you that Bernie's policies, compared to Hillary's, are better for women. But if we're thinking long-term, big picture, realistically, I have to vote for Hillary.

RC said...

Thank you for putting words to how I have been feeling about supporting Sanders over Clinton. I too lean closer to Sanders on the issues while also remaining keenly aware of my reservations about him (as you mentioned, his age, his foreign policy, his practical ability to bring the change discussed as part of his platform). That being said, I most strongly identified with your distaste for the assumption that Sanders’s appeal is mostly that he is likable and Grandpa-esque. I find it offensive and patronizing for people to reduce my legitimate reasons for supporting Sanders (his political stance, his audacity to hold firmly in those stances, his authenticity) to more superficial ones such as his appearance and temperament.

I do understand that this kind of rhetoric is common during election time. When we disagree with people, we often reduce the opposition’s stances to a more base form of logic, rather than acknowledging the perfectly legitimate reasons why others may think differently than we do. We all like to believe that we are acting in the best interests of our people and our country, though we all different in how those best interests achieved.

Logically, I get that. But emotionally, it infuriates me that people would imply that we would jeopardize the sociopolitical well-being of future generations because we think that one candidate appears more “likable” than the other.

Liz said...

I read about Gloria Steinem and Albrights comments and was very upset. I have yet to decide who I will support as President on the Democrat candidate's side, but I do not want to support someone just because they are female.

I hope that at least on Steinem's part, that it was just a comment the media chose to focus on and not allow Steinem to finish her comment without giving more context. Regardless,the comments are unfair to young women especially. We are capable of making informed decisions about a political candidate and not feel that gender is an overriding factor.

Failure to support Hillary should not be reflection that we do not support women and women's issues.

Liz said...
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Meredith Hankins said...

I started writing a comment to your post, and then ended up turning it into my own post as I realized I had more to say. But in essence, I am equally frustrated by the media turning this election into an ugly gender battle. Women should be free to vote for whoever they want, for whatever reasons they want.

Ari Asher said...

Sonja, I agree. I think too many people are discussing gender over policy. This comes from both camps. I’m extra tired of the “I’m not voting with my vagina” mantra that’s been floating around the internet. This also seems like a way to refute legitimate criticism with an “I’m not a sexist” response.

Like India, perhaps I am a realist. I can’t see Sanders winning the election—and if he does, I worry about what that means four years from now. Sanders has ideas that if implemented could have an enormous impact on women (especially low income women). But if they fail, the consequence of those failures could hurt women in the long run. My concern is that a Sanders presidency that is unable to get anything passed will result in a too-far-right pendulum swing four years from now.