Young Millennial women, you are on notice. You are not to be trusted with your political instincts. You cannot be trusted to think for yourselves. You must support the female Democratic candidate for president or lose your feminist card. At least, that’s what Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem are saying. Gloria Steinem, a feminist icon for more than 40 years, thinks young women support Bernie Sanders because “the boys are with Bernie.” Madeleine Albright spoke at a Hillary Clinton event and told the group “there’s a special place in hell” for women who don’t help other women.
The recent trend of gender shaming young females into supporting Hillary Clinton is a brand of gender politics that has no place in a presidential election.
Both octogenarian feminists have assumptions about young female voters that are similar and strikingly appalling: It is the assumption that women under 35 can not think for themselves. It is the assumption that the only thing that interests them is finding a boyfriend or a fling. It is a form of gender politics that intends to shame young women into joining a type of sisterhood. If they don’t obey, they’re not real women. Steinem has worked diligently for female autonomy and equality, so her admonishment of young women supporting Sanders is especially troubling.
At the New Hampshire event, Albright referenced Bernie Sanders’ political revolution and spun it for Clinton.
“People are talking about revolution. What kind of a revolution would it be to have the first woman president of the United States?”
Albright, who was the first female Secretary of State, served under Hillary’s husband, Bill Clinton, in the 1990s.
Steinem appeared on Bill Maher’s show, “Real Time.” When discussing Democratic politics, Maher asked her why she thought young women supported Sanders. What she said surprised the late night talk show host.
“They’re going to get more activist as they get older. And when you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie.”
Both Albright and Steinem were both on the leading edge of feminism in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, with Steinem gaining popularity as a fervent activist for women’s rights. What is perplexing is how adamantly Steinem is campaigning against Bernie Sanders after she once called him an “honorary woman” in recognition for his work in support of women’s rights.
In 1996, when then-Rep. Bernie Sanders was running a tight race against Republican Susan Sweester, Steinem traveled to Burlington, Vermont, to campaign for him. In her speech, Steinem gave him a glowing endorsement.
“I’m only here today to make Bernie Sanders an honorary woman.”
Steinem’s previous support of Sanders over a female candidate in 1996 makes her dismissal of young women’s support of Sanders over Clinton today look inauthentic at best. Let’s not forget, neither of these women have mentioned Carly Fiorina, the lone woman on the Republican side, as a possible revolutionary in the presidential race.
Hillary Clinton’s supporters have been vocal in their complaints of sexism coming from so-called “Bernie Bros,” but that term to describe Bernie Sanders supporters is itself sexist. It assumes that most of his supporters are young, aggressive men when that is not the case. Illustrating the gender politics emanating from the Clinton camp even more are Steinem’s and Albright’s scathing comments dripping in gender bias that disregards young women’s autonomy to participate intelligently in politics.
From their comments, it is easy to assume that these elder stateswomen of feminism believe that Millennial women must be told how to vote. But like many classic mother-daughter relationships, young women have rejected the gender politics resoundingly. The icons of the past are being replaced by icons of the future, and the political revolution is being led by a septuagenarian man.
But Steinem, Albright, and Clinton aren’t the only ones guilty of gender bias in discussing Democratic politics. Mark Joseph Stern of Slate recently wrote that Bernie Sanders’ advantage over Clinton is the fact that he is a man.
“I have no doubt that some Sanders supporters legitimately favor his policies over Clinton’s, and they they might vote for a woman with Sanders’ ideology. But my strong suspicion is that, in any nominating race featuring a female candidate, there will always be a Bernie Sanders — a male alternative whose gender allows him to do everything his female opponent cannot.”
In his piece he acknowledges the very real concerns of Sanders supporters regarding Clinton’s record, but in one fell swoop diminishes those concerns as superficial because women still have a disadvantage. That may very well be the case, however, in this election, Hillary Clinton is not an underdog. She’s a deeply entrenched establishment candidate with a vast network of supporters and long, abiding ties with Wall Street. She has the Super PACs behind her. She has the big money to support her campaign. She is in no way an outsider in this presidential race.
In 2016, Democratic politics relies too much on biological and demographic data and who should support whom. Steinem, and supporters of Hillary Clinton can’t fathom why women, much less younger women, would support Bernie Sanders over their favored candidate. It seems inconceivable that the Vermont senator could be stronger on women’s rights than Clinton, but the reality is Sanders has always been a strong advocate for equality. Gender politics betrays the feminist ideal of true equality and strays dangerously close to misandry.
[Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty]