Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Generational Divide: Feminism and the Democratic Race

Note: Okay, before anyone gets angry, for the purposes of this post (and really, in real life too, but let's not have that argument here): Feminism, definition (according to the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men. Discard the "feminazi" or "angry feminist" connotations you may be used to, at least while you're considering the below. Thank you.

Madeline Albright, the first female Secretary of State and the highest-ranking U.S. female government official at the time of her appointment:
"There's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." 
Yay, feminism! Equality! ...Right?

But when it was discovered that young (white) women, along with most other younger voters, tend to gravitate to Sanders over Hillary, that quote took on a slightly different meaning. Albright repeated the quote at a Clinton campaign event, evidently insinuating that women who don't support Clinton are horrible people/feminists. Gloria Steinem, feminist icon, also had something to say on the subject:
"...when you're young, you're thinking, 'Where are the boys?' The boys are with Bernie."
Ah, yes, of course. As the great opponents of women's suffrage thought, women vote for candidates for reasons of attraction and romance. Thank you, Steinem. (She later sort of apologized, saying she'd been misrepresented and hadn't meant to say that young women aren't serious about politics.)

But maybe feminists should be supporting Clinton. Maybe, rather than possibly undermining a serious milestone for women's rights and years upon decades of hard work, young women should throw their weight behind Clinton and make her the Democratic nominee, and maybe even President.

Should feminists be supporting Clinton over Sanders?  Does Albright have a point, or should we be waiting for Ms. Right, not Ms. Right Now? (credit for the cleverness goes to Kathleen Graves, who founded the "Babes for Bernie" Instagram account. No, it's horribly objectifying.)

And, y' Clinton better for feminism?



Elliot Quan said...

I don't have a particularly strong opinion on this issue, so I'll instead articulate the opinion of my mother, who was quite fond of Steinem in her youth and scorned her for her recent choice of words.

I don't believe Steinem is quite in touch with young people as of now. Yes, she misspoke (or did she really??), but it's regardless irresponsible to speak for an entire legion of people, no matter what influence you once had or still have over that group. It seems like an ass-backwards move to be generalizing with such an accusatory tone given all she's done for the feminist movement. But perhaps such radical statements need to be made, although too bad it had the ironic effect.

Now, my actual thoughts on who they should be supporting - neither gender nor race should be the most influential part of deciding who receives the feminist vote; instead, it should be ideology and character. But I mean honestly, both have the same stance on plenty of issues, so the real divide comes in Bernie's appeal to young people as someone who can revolutionize America rather than someone who has similar albeit much less radical aspirations.

Regardless of who gets nominated and possibly elected, women are sure to be better off given the dedication that both candidates have towards policies that support women. The question then becomes who is the better symbol for feminists - a woman or an old man? This seems obvious to me if you want a feminist "breakthrough." But I'm not so sure of the importance of getting the first woman president ASAP; I'm sure it will happen in the future, but I'm not seeing the radical effect or great symbolism that demands it right now. Nevertheless, I would hope that feminists (and all of us who will be voting in the future) would vote for a candidate based off of their vision and plan for the future, previous track record, and ideological and value positions rather than simply their gender or race. I would hope that if Hillary does win, she won primarily because of her own political performance and ability rather than the fact that she's simply a symbol for women. But perhaps I simply lack the point of view of a feminist. - follow up & some relevant statistics on gender divide

Crystal Lee said...

Elliot, thanks for your comment, and I found the self-awareness, like referencing your mother's opinion and qualifying your own, quite intriguing.

I'm curious what you mean by being "in touch with young people," by the way. Do you mean she doesn't understand them, they don't understand her, or there's simply some sort of opposition between her (and her camp, I suppose) and the younger generations?

I also personally agree with most of your last paragraph. I have to point out that, as it seems to me, the main difference between Clinton and Sanders in terms of feminism is how high it ranks on their priority list and in their reputations as candidates. Sanders has been focusing on the wealth gap, a decrease of which could definitely help underprivileged women, especially those of color (the consideration of which could also bleed into intersectionality, which is the consideration of more than one social justice issue at a time (e.g., feminism and race-related civil rights)). However, Clinton has been rather a feminist icon, for more reasons than just her candidacy–she's an accomplished lawyer, and she's done a lot of work for women's rights around the world.

So, I guess, it comes down to which candidate is more "feminist"? Moving beyond gender politics (temporarily), then, which candidate could be better for the advance of feminist ideals? Should we be considering intersectionality, as well?

Anonymous said...

I do not think that women should base their vote off of solely the issue of feminism. By doing so, it seems that they are lessening their vote altogether as that is their main focus. Women wanted suffrage in order to contribute to society as a whole. While it is good to maintain women's rights, they should not forget that women's rights are not the only issue involved in choosing and supporting a candidate. I believe that women, like men, should chose their candidate based on similar ideology in their most prioritized issues, even though women's rights might be one of them. Feminists should not necessarily vote for Clinton because she is a woman running for president. They should if they vote for her, vote because they support a majority of what she represents, and not just being a woman, but on other issues like the economy, foreign affairs, the military, etc.

Crystal Lee said...

Tara, thank you for your comment! I like your historical tie–I completely agree that women's suffrage was for having a say in more than issues explicitly involving gender.

A clarifying question–so you're saying that, in your opinion, it's fine for women to consider Clinton's standing as a woman and a feminist, but it shouldn't be the entire basis of their vote?

Also, do you think that this applies to other single-issue voting as well, or should it be okay to vote based on one issue that's REALLY REALLY important to you? In a different context, is it okay for a diehard Republican to vote for the Democratic nominee in a general election because of Donald Trump's racism? (You also commented on my white supremacy + Donald Trump post, so feel free to link it :))

And how does single-issue voting relate to age groups?

Louis Villa said...

I full support what Elliot said. People should back the political figures who they believe will do things to help them or the country. Sometimes race or gender can affect how political figures will act, and in that case, it is an important thing to consider. But people should be pushed to vote for a certain candidate based purely on these factors. Policy is the main reason that someone should support a person in the government

Monica Mai said...

I don't think feminists should be supporting Clinton over Sanders for the sake of having a woman president. That is backwards to the whole idea of feminism. Voting for Sanders isn't undermining women's rights at all. There's also other issues to consider when voting, and to vote for Clinton based on her gender I think is undermining Clinton's political prowess and capabilities. Clinton is better fit to lead the feminist movement as a whole because she better represents the women. But, just because she is better fit to lead the feminist movement doesn't mean she would necessarily be better as president. Regarding your response to Tara's response, I think it is okay to vote based on one issue that's REALLY REALLY important to an individual. However, this is given that they are aware of the candidate's other stances on issues and not just that one issue.

Huayu Ouyang said...

Although I definitely don't think that people should vote for Clinton just because she is a female, I do think that one potential benefit of having Clinton become the president is that it would break down barriers for women in terms of young girls and boys seeing that females can become president because I think representation is very important in shaping kids' opinions on what they can be when they grew up. I've also read articles and blog posts arguing that the reason why there is a generational divide between young women supporting Bernie and older women supporting Hillary is that younger women more often believe in the ideal that overt sexism and discrimination is over, whereas older women are more likely to have gone through the workplace and have experienced overt sexism and discrimination that have affected their careers and view on their life. Although I don't think that this should be the sole reason people should vote or not for Hillary because there are many other potentially more important issues such as income inequality, education, and national security, I do think that issues of feminism and women's rights should be taken into account.

I also think that there is definitely some hidden sexism against Hillary Clinton, even among liberals. Although I don't agree with Gloria Steinem's comments that women must vote for Hillary to support other women, I also don't agree with people online who I have seen argue that women who support Hillary must be doing so just because they want a female president, or because they don't understand Bernie's positions enough, or because they are settling for the establishment candidate, not because they might actually agree with her policies and positions and think that she is the most qualified candidate to become President.