Feminism is a movement dating back a hundred years, and even today it represents a very important goal in the further development of our society. Women all over the U.S. who identify themselves as feminists, as well as men who do so, undoubtedly wish to give the right person their vote, the person who is in their eyes, most capable to contribute an adequate solution to the issue of inequality between the sexes. It is at this point that a pretty apparent generational clash can be seen.
On one side, there are the older women, who have been supporters of feminism throughout the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, confronting structures of male power head on and fighting for their rights. These women learned that women simply have to support each other, and the moment that any kind of infighting takes place, the movement will fail. With this kind of mindset, these women would consider voting for a man, while there’s an opportunity to put a woman in office, a betrayal of their very identities and everything they’ve been fighting for, for as long as they’ve lived.
From a certain point of view, this can be rather biased. A perfect example of this would be a woman like Gloria Steinem who’s been fighting for feminism her whole life and has just turned 81. A woman such as her naturally wants to see the fruit of her hard labor while she’s still alive, and that means putting a woman in office. And indeed, Steinem has expressed her support for Clinton as well as disdain for Bernie Sanders, saying on Real Time With Bill Maher that younger women support Sanders only because “that’s where the boys are”.
Clinton therefore now sees herself in a predicament that two generations of women have quite a different idea of what she represents for them. For one generation, she’s the obvious choice and supporting her is something they simply have to do on an identity level. For the younger generation (and perhaps a bit more open-minded), she is simply the less liberal of the candidates. And of course, these two sides aren’t trying to hear each other, so we’re forced to watch a well-known old fight play out.
The first woman secretary of state Madelein Albright voiced her support for Clinton’s campaign as well and called on all women to support her, calling upon her saying “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” Interestingly enough, this statement wasn’t about Clinton at all originally, but instead about all women in the workplace. She argues that there are so few opportunities for women that we can’t really afford to take women out of the running at this time.
Photo credit: Crush Rush / Shutterstock.com
So, what’s the other side of the story? Why does the younger generation of feminists support Bernie Sanders over Clinton and why do they think that he is the better choice for their cause? First of all, they argue that voting for a man who offers policies that help people is also feminism, instead of a rejection of it. It’s not that young feminists don’t care about putting a woman in office some day, but they figure that it will eventually happen, the same as it has happened with a person of color. They argue that issues such as reforming the immigration policy and fighting racism, as well as leveling the economic playing field are much more important.
For young women, voting for Clinton in this fashion would be simply voting for a woman for the sake of it. Sanders, on the other hand, has deemphasized identity politics multiple times in order to focus more on economic issues. Raising the minimum wage is the way to help a lot of women, younger feminists claim. Reforming criminal justice and policing will benefit women of color whose children are vulnerable to unfair prejudice from police simply because of their skin color. They argue that it’s important to be in the here and now, thinking of broader progressive issues instead of tending to a previous generation’s idea of feminism and thinking about their priorities.
Clinton has repeatedly presented herself as the ultimate outsider by candidating herself for a job that has so far only been held by men. By this same logic, Obama could’ve played this same card when candidating himself back in 2008. Yet young women don’t necessarily consider men to be their enemies, and they know that true equality of the sexes means that it’s also sexist to consider that only a woman can help the cause of feminism.