Feminist icon Gloria Steinem is feeling the “Bern” in a way she never intended, after a backlash from women of all ages over her comments that young women support presidential candidate Bernie Sanders simply because “that’s where the boys are.” While Steinem later backpedaled and apologized for her comments on Real Time with Bill Maher Friday night, this isn’t the first time she’s discussed Sanders in relation to a campaign. Back in 1996, Steinem not only endorsed Bernie Sanders for Congress, but hailed his record on women’s rights worthy of making him an “honorary woman,” reports Mother Jones.
When Sanders was running for re-election against Republican Susan Sweetser in 1996, Gloria Steinem came to Sanders’ defense at an event with progressive women. Not only did Steinem endorse Bernie Sanders over a female candidate, but she hailed his pro-feminist agenda as soon as she stepped up to the microphone.
“I’m only here today to make Bernie Sanders an honorary woman.”
Fast forward 20 years, and Steinem, the 80-year-old feminist icon, suggested Friday night to Bill Maher that millennial women are more interested in the social benefits of supporting Bernie Sanders rather than basing their actions on more substantial concerns. Maher had asked why so many female voters were flocking to Sanders over Hillary Clinton.
“When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’ ” replied Steinem.
Women of all ages spoke out on Steinem’s Facebook page against the suggestions that they only vote based on “chasing boys,” as some put it, or that they should be expected to give a candidate their vote based solely on gender. Now, with the clip circulating of Steinem supporting and endorsing Sanders in the past and making him an ‘honorary woman,” a new wave of anger simmers at what appears to be the hypocrisy of criticizing women who support Sanders, when Gloria Steinem herself was a past supporter.
Steinem posted her apology on Facebook, saying she had been misunderstood.
“In a case of talk-show Interruptus, I misspoke on the Bill Maher show recently, and apologize for what’s been misinterpreted as implying young women aren’t serious in their politics. What I had just said on the same show was the opposite: young women are active, mad as hell about what’s happening to them, graduating in debt, but averaging a million dollars less over their lifetimes to pay it back. Whether they gravitate to Bernie or Hillary, young women are activist and feminist in greater numbers than ever before.”
Despite her clarification, posts continue flooding in against Steinem, speaking to how angry and disappointed women are over her comments, with accusations that Gloria Steinem is guilty of the very sexism she fought against.
Chelsea McCallum Donaldson expressed what over 7,000 women posting were thinking, according to the “likes” on her post.
“You’re one of my heroes, Gloria, and to hear that you quite plainly stated ‘the boys are with Bernie’ in response to why young women are voting for Bernie Sanders was not only a sexist statement, but extremely disheartening. Young women and women such as yourself are in this struggle together, and while I appreciate the apology, this statement doesn’t really confront the problem, nor how much damage your statement did. You chalked up an entire generation of women as brainless who vote for a man’s approval. That’s not why we earned the right to vote.”
While Steinem apologized for the “misunderstanding,” former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright doubled down on her controversial comments at a Hillary Clinton event about how women not supporting other women “have a special place in hell,” according to Time. Hillary Clinton may have laughed at the comment, but many women thought it was no laughing matter and accused Albright and Steinem of trying to “shame” them into voting for the candidate they endorse.
The New Hampshire primary takes place today, with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders expected to win his neighboring state with a substantial lead over Hillary Clinton in recent polls.
[Photo by AP Photo/Seth Wenig]