Before I delve into my argument, I want to make one thing loud and clear: I believe that the only form of true feminism is intersectional feminism, a form of feminism first named by American scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. I reject the mainstream feminist narrative that inherently ties “progress” to capitalist goals. I believe that if someone truly believes in gender equality, they will consider all experiences under the highly-generalized “woman” label, including the experiences of women of color, trans women, poor women, and people with vaginas. These experiences are not the same but in many ways are vastly distinct in their lived realities. Thus, any form of feminism that purposefully or non-purposefully prioritizes one form of woman over the other is not feminism, but another form of oppression.
Now, let us talk about Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Recently, noted feminist Gloria Steinem and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright both have received heated criticism for their comments about young women voters. At a campaign stop in NH, Albright introduced Clinton and claimed “We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done. It’s not done. There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” She also claimed that a “true” political revolution (a direct criticism of the language used by Clinton’s top contender for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders) would be having the first female commander-in-chief. To wrap up this rather misogynistic mess, Albright then further commented during an NBC interview that Clinton was struggling with young female voters in NH because, “women could be judgmental toward one another and that they occasionally forgot how hard someone like Mrs. Clinton had to work to get where she is.”
Now, let’s look at Gloria Steinem.
On the show Real Time with Bill Maher, when asked about Sander’s popularity with younger women voters, Gloria Steinem explained that she believed that women get more radical as they grow older, while men become more conservative as they age. Steinem then claimed that young women support Sanders because they are chasing the boys. “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.”
Even Bill Maher immediately realized the potential for offense in Ms. Steinem’s statements, replying “Oh. Now if I said that, ‘They’re for Bernie because that’s where the boys are,’ you’d swat me.”
Ms. Steinem replied by laughing and saying “How well do you know me?
According to Ms. Albright, younger women are politically apathetic and complacent in their comfort because they did not fight for women’s rights in the 60’s and during Roe v. Wade. Thus, if you are a woman who is not supporting a woman, there is a “special place in hell” for you. According to Ms. Steinem, the only reason I am supporting Bernie Sanders is because I hold internalized misogyny and am too horny and distracted “chasing” boys, despite the fact that not all women who support Bernie are sexually attracted to males.
Are you offended by these seemingly harsh over-generalizations? Well, Ms. Clinton has a response for you straight out of the conservative playbook: “Good grief, we’re getting offended by everything these days! People can’t say anything without offending somebody.”
These are the “feminist” statements coming from the only-female candidate on the democratic side. These statements are coming from the same campaign that has criticized Bernie Sander’s for his “Bernie Bro” supporters (despite the existence of nasty online commenters who support ANY candidate, including Clinton) who charge Clinton supporters for “voting with their vagina.”
Apparently, Clinton, Albright, and Steinem do want you to vote with your vagina, but not to support women; they want you to support Hillary Clinton.
This distinction is clear whenever we consider the political landscape outside of the Democratic party. Where were Albright, Clinton, and Steinem when Sarah Palin, a woman, almost became the first female Vice President? Why did they choose not to campaign on behalf of that female politician? Where were Albright, Clinton, and Steinem when Dr. Jill Stein became the Green Party presidential nominee, and where are they now that she is running again this election? Why do these women in politics not get any support?
The clear answer could be policy differences. It would be hard to argue that Sarah Palin represents the interest of feminist and women voters, and perhaps Dr. Jill Stein is too far outside of the “political mainstream”. But if policy differences (not “womanhood”) make Hillary a better option, then why are female Bernie supporters roundly criticized as apathetic and boy-crazy for supporting a candidate they believe supports better policies? How can Hillary Clinton attack Sanders for “Bernie Bros” and in the same breath claim that America is too “politically correct” and easily offended?
Because this is not about voting for a woman to advance the interests of all women. It is about voting for Clinton because she is a woman. Apparently, according to later-generation feminists, we owe them, and we should vote for Clinton despite what we may believe or have seen from the Clinton campaign. This is not true feminism.
Throughout the 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton has abused the feminist label and the feminist agenda in order to win and aggregate her own personal political power. What I mean by this is that Clinton has (unsuccessfully) tried to own the feminist designation and is using it to win the election, as opposed to using feminism to advance the equality of ALL women who intersect with the “woman” identity. For example, when asked how she would be different from President Obama in a past debate, her answer was “Well, I think that's pretty obvious. I think being the first woman president would be quite a change from the presidents we've had up until this point, including President Obama.” In that same debate, Anderson Cooper cited Martin O’Malley’s criticisms that politics has become two powerful families passing the crown back and forth (the Bush and Clinton families) and asked Hillary Clinton why Democrats should pick an “insider” as opposed to an outsider like Bernie Sanders. Her response? “Well, I can't think of anything more of an outsider than electing the first woman president.”
This same exhausted logic was used again in the most recent debate, when Clinton claimed that she was not part of the establishment. “A woman, running to be the first woman president, as the establishment. It’s really quite amusing to me.”
It seems painfully clear that these responses are lacking in any depth or actual political weight. Yes, Hillary Clinton and I are the same gender, but our similarities in our lived experiences pretty much end there. Clinton is incredibly rich, believes in Neoliberal Capitalism (which has consistently been tied to the inequality of working women and WOC), and is both White and straight. Her idea of “feminism” is simply a narrowly focused version that she is using to become even more politically powerful than she already is.
According to Clinton, Albright, and Steinem, we, young women of America, owe her our vote simply based on our gender identity. And, according to Steinem, if we are not voting her, we are abandoning our own and must be distracted with the possibility of meeting boys at Bernie rallies.
Being a woman is not a homogenous experience. Being a black woman is a different experience than being a trans woman or a Latin@ or a lower-class woman, and these differences become more complex as we consider different and multiple intersecting social identities. By claiming that Hillary deserves the woman vote “because she is a woman,” those complexities and nuances are whitewashed away. Albright and Steinem are asking me, a woman who is both Latin@ and from the LGBTQ+ community, to overlook how Clinton has consistently acted against my best interests in order to achieve some symbolic victory of feminism.
Hillary Clinton is not an intersectional feminist. Hillary Clinton is a democratic establishment White feminist whose concept of “feminism” is mostly centered around women leaving the lesser-valued “reproductive” sphere of labor (such as raising children, cooking, supporting familial function) to enter the “productive” sphere of labor (any labor you get paid for, essentially a job). That is why Clinton continuously evokes the image of “breaking the glass ceiling” ad nauseum. This is an explicit goal of White feminism: women of color and poor women have not had the privilege to avoid working in order to survive. However, it is also a severely limited scope when considering the experience of any given American woman. Because Clinton bases her feminism off the current neoliberal capitalist model, which is inherently hierarchical and unequal, she continues to perpetuate a hierarchy of womanhood, with the white upper/middle class women perched neatly at the top. Albright and Steinem appear to have similar philosophies.
For Albright, Steinem and Clinton to assume that young women are “apathetic” and “do not know how hard we have had to fight” is insulting. Trans women are still getting murdered on a regular basis, as are Black and Latin@ women. Many women of color STILL do not have adequate access to reproductive health services or abortions, and even if they do they cannot afford it. LGBTQ+ women are STILL fighting for equal rights and representation. Racism STILL affects the life outcomes of WOC. Disabled women have a whole other set of obstacles outside of being a woman. And I have yet to see Secretary Clinton really act in the best interests of those women with same consistency she has for White, upper-middle class women. Instead, she sticks to the capitalist narrative that feminism means women should enter the workforce and assume powerful positions. This is not just overly-simplistic, it is downright harmful.
The “fight” is not over. We are still fighting like hell, and we stand by our right to make independent choices outside of our genders. These political games are ultimately beneath smart women such as Albright and Steinem, and only serve to tarnish what could have been a strong and positive political campaign for Hillary Clinton.
Photo courtesy of Russian Times News