When I was in elementary school, I spent several years telling anyone who would listen that I was going to be the first female president of the United States. I even had a well thought out and sophisticated platform, which basically said no more wars, and celebrities had to share their money with poor people who didn't have any. Over the years, my career goals may have shifted a little bit, straying out of the political world. But this past April, when Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for 2016, I was excited to think that even if I wasn't destined for the Oval Office, at least I could cast my first vote in a presidential election for the woman who would be living out my childhood dream.
The problem was, I couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't backing Hillary out of any sort of excitement or belief that she would fight for the things that I valued, but rather, that I was pulling for her by default. I was disturbed to see that Hillary had spoken out against same sex marriage as late as 2004, her foreign affairs policies seemed to me somewhat imperialistic, and the last straw came when, after being asked what her view was on the Keystone XL pipeline, she responded, "If it's undecided when I become president, I will answer your question." I was beginning to lose faith in the 2016 election as a whole.
But then, along came Bernie.
When I first read through Bernie Sanders' platform after hearing that he'd tossed his hat in, I could just picture him, perched atop some sort of noble steed, surrounded by a glowing white halo (or maybe it was just his hair), ready to save America from the big money that has been threatening to take over politics for so long. He's been singing the same tune for decades; instead of shifting his views to keep up with the political climate, it feels like the political climate is shifting to coincide with his views. Everything he says and does emanates the authenticity I so value in public figures. Just like that, he had my vote.
Now, when people ask me why I'm supporting Bernie, instead of running through his platform point by point, I just tell them it's because I'm a feminist. Frequently, I am met with confusion, and questions such as: "But if you're a feminist, shouldn't you be voting for Hillary?" My typical response to that is pointing out that, by that logic, I would have also been voicing my support of Sarah Palin a few years back.
Needless to say, I was not.
What really interests me, though, is that even avid Bernie supporters seem surprised that I consider his campaign primarily a feminist one. They believe that his campaign is, at its heart, about economic issues. But it's important to remember that issues of feminism and economics are not mutually exclusive.
When Bernie Sanders fights to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, he is speaking on a feminist issue. Currently, women make up two-thirds of all minimum wage workers in America. Earning a living wage will enable women to provide financial stability for themselves, as well as empowering single mothers to provide for their families. Additionally, women trapped in cyclical poverty are at a higher risk of experiencing violence and abuse. Ending wage inequality in America is a feminist issue.
Bernie also plans to help every American gain access to childcare and Pre-K, which is essential to helping women succeed in the workplace. For struggling mothers, single or otherwise, from lower socio-economic classes, the availability of childcare can be the difference between whether or not they can put food on the table. Not having to compromise motherhood at the expense of a career or vice versa is a feminist issue.
What's more is that Bernie's platform doesn't just help women who are struggling financially, it protects women everywhere. Bernie has consistently voted over his entire political career to uphold Roe vs. Wade, which protects pregnant women, granting them access safe and legal abortions, and this is a feminist issue. When Bernie voted against the Defense of Marriage Act nearly twenty years ago, he was protecting lesbian, bisexual, and queer women who sought to marry other women, and that was a feminist issue. When Bernie Sanders has the audacity to suggest this outlandishly socialist notion that women in our workforce should receive equal pay for an equal amount of work, that is a feminist issue.
For far too long, old white men in Washington have been abusing their privilege to oppress, undermine, and silence women and other minorities. Now, however, it's time for one old white man in particular to turn the tables. The bottom line is that if I can't be the one running the country, I'd much rather cast my vote for a man who's looking out for women than for a woman who's looking out for herself. That's why Bernie Sander's is 2016's true feminist candidate.