There has been a lot of discussion lately, both nationally and on this blog, about women and feminists voting in the Democratic presidential primary elections. Much ado has been made about the generational split revealed in early primary voting, with younger women overwhelmingly supporting Bernie (69% of women under 45 and 82% of women under 30 voted for Bernie in New Hampshire). Exit polls from Nevada, where Hillary won overall, reveal similar trends.
What does this mean, and why does it matter? It matters to me because at the same time I’m being told that it’s sexist to vote for Hillary because she’s a woman, my presumed voting preference as a 28-year-old is being defined for me because I’m a woman. I’m supposed to ignore Hillary’s gender when I vote, but the media focuses their coverage on the electorate’s gender. What gives? Either way, women are being told what to do and how to think.
A big part of why I’m voting for Hillary is because she’s a woman. Because she’s also struggling to break through the glass ceilings we all face as women. Because she continues to slog through the implicit bias and discrimination women see on a daily basis. Because I want the person determining the fate of legal precedent for the next three decades through nomination(s) to the Supreme Court to understand the importance of ending the Hyde Amendment. Because it’s ridiculous that there have been forty-four Presidents of the United States and never has someone of the gender that makes up more than half of the U.S. population sat in the Oval Office. I don’t think it’s sexist to vote for Hillary because she best represents the same lived experience as me or because I believe she has the best chance of representing my interests in the White House. (Sure, I also have concerns about Bernie: his ability to win a general election, the lack of nuance, the fuzzy math.)
I find myself empathizing with some of the recent commentary that hypothesizes that the generational Bernie/Hillary split is due to younger women not yet having experienced the sexism in the workplace that older women have. I certainly see that parallel in my own voting patterns, from a 2008 college-age Obama supporter to a 2016 world-wearier Hillary supporter. But that’s simply my own experience. I don’t think it’s right to extrapolate so broadly over a generation of women. Nor do I agree that all women who vote for Bernie have a “special place in hell” waiting for them. We can’t all be defined in one broad brushstroke. What I think we all can agree on as female voters is that who we vote for is a personal choice, made by each of us based on our lived experience, our beliefs about the candidate, and our priorities for the future. Don’t assume that we all think and feel the same way solely due to our age and gender. Don’t tell me how to vote because I’m a woman, but then tell me I can’t vote for Hillary because she’s a woman.