I don’t really want to be told by old-guard “feminists” (or anyone for that matter) that my support for anyone other than Hillary Clinton is wrong. Or why it’s wrong. The voices of feminist leaders, such as Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright, trailblazers and leaders in theory and practice, are normally so measured and reasonable. While they have taken on the mantle of speaking for many in the past, which has been appreciated, co-opting the voices and choices of other women now is inappropriate. It is no wonder that women of all ages are angry. The idea that we should be told for whom to vote under any circumstances is egregious and over the line. To be told we betray all women by not voting for Hillary Clinton is feminist apostasy.
In defending Hillary Clinton and her candidacy for president, both women have pulled out the generation card and slammed the younger generation of women in what can only be called a sexist way by claiming that younger women’s support for Bernie Sanders stems from following the path where they might find boys at the other end. Not only does it imply that young women’s only concern is meeting, impressing and gaining the attention of boys – it discounts the well-reasoned support women of all ages have for other candidates. (And couldn’t the same have been argued so long ago when Steinem went to work at the Playboy Club in the service of getting an undercover expose? She was going to bat for true feminist causes but was doing so by “going where the boys are”.) I am not discounting the value of this work, but if looked at only on the surface, which is about how Albright and Steinem looked at young women’s political choices right now, they look about equal.
At a recent Clinton rally, Albright reportedly said, “We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done.”
I think anyone alive today knows that it is not done – not for women’s equality, not for racial equality, not for economic or social justice at all. We know that Roe v Wade is never a done deal. We know that there are still massive strides to take in getting equal pay. We know, in fact, that families – men and women both – are struggling with the consequences and sacrifices they have to make to have families. Women end up struggling more, on the whole, because of the inequalities at work and because of the biology of their having to be the ones to carry and give birth to children. That is not going to change, but society’s approach can.
So no, no one imagines that the work is finished. Yes, we may take for granted the work that has been done – for example, no one demanded that I get him a coffee when I entered the workforce. I took for granted that no one could have such an expectation of a professional woman (or man). An older colleague who worked in a technical capacity since the 1970s schooled me on my obliviousness and ignorance (she and her few female colleagues were often maligned this way or saddled with extra “women’s work” like fetching coffee or something that had no formal place in their work description). Perhaps it is good that people my age and younger grew up completely ignorant of the fact that it was once acceptable to make these kinds of petty demands of you just because you were the female employee in the room. But forgetting may, in fact, lead to complacency – and I suppose this is at the heart of Albright and Steinem’s argument.
But being complacent about how far we still need to travel to get to gender parity is not the same thing as making a conscious, well-informed decision not to support Hillary Clinton.
By not supporting Hillary, are people somehow not supporting all other women (as Albright implies, saying there is a “special place in hell” for women who do not support other women)? Are we obligated to support Hillary just because she is a woman, particularly when she has let her views, her talking points, her votes, her perspectives, shift casually to suit her purposes at any given moment – sometimes in ways that damage equality and grant favor to corporate over human interests?
Other than “Hillary fatigue”, the urge to fight against the sense of inevitability and her attitude as though it’s “her turn” now – I have to ask, “Does she deserve the support?” At this stage, no. If she ultimately gets the nomination, I will support her. She will still be better than whatever the alternatives are. Hillary is not my first choice because Hillary feels insincere, insubstantial and untrustworthy. It is not that she cannot get the job done. It is not because her views change because in fact, if someone’s views change and grow more nuanced, that is one thing. But changing to pander to the rising voices of the day – that’s disingenuous. Her time on the world’s stage has been so long and public that we have a very clear view of just how disingenuous she has been over the course of time.
While I very much support Bernie Sanders’s aims and like the idea of the US moving toward “democratic socialism”, I am a bit burned out on the whole idea that there are not more of Sanders’s ilk among younger politicians. I will vote for Sanders or Clinton, whichever gets the nomination, but the idea that we can be carried forward by the oldest of the Baby Boomers (in fact Sanders was born at the tail-end of the previous generation) is a sad commentary on the state of American progressivism. Clinton is a tired reminder of the old guard, and the Baby Boomers in general need to start handing over the reins already. I feel as though we took many steps forward with Obama in handing over responsibility to a new generation of leaders, but the only reasonable voice we have is an old man. (And the young politicians are snake-like zealots and anxiety-riddled, almost-human robots. Nothing remotely presidential… or sane.)