A Place in Hell or Hell on Earth?

When Madeliene Albright threatened women who voted for Bernie Sanders with a place in hell, my first thought was, "how can she condemn a whole new generation of feminists for being what those of us over 60 fought so hard to raise up and educate?" She seems to have missed the rise of what Kimberle Crenshaw in 1991 called "intersectional feminism."

Intersectional feminists, aware of multiple forms of oppression by race, class, sexuality, religion, and gender, refuse to choose one over the other. They challenge the premises of radical feminists who focus on women's oppression as the primary evil. Those of us who experienced racism in the early years of feminism--and still do now in some circles--know that white privilege operates as deeply in feminism as sexism does in racial justice or anti-war movements. And in radical feminist circles, I have especially faced a fierce anti-religion bias, as if working for gender justice where a majority of women are found was a betrayal of feminism ("potted-plant feminists" was Mary Daly's pejorative term), and as if it were more radical to work in majority male institutions like academe or politics, where I also worked teaching women's studies and religion in intersectional ways.

Over the years, I've found feminist leaders in politics who are members of Christian churches but have little or no understanding of the last three decades of justice work by diverse women theologians and clergy working for change. We have created womanist, mujerista, and global feminist work. It's as if, in their private faith, these feminist leaders in the secular world dropped the political ball.

What radical feminism failed to understand is that white feminist space can sometimes be as alienating for women of color as being a feminist or lesbian in racial or ethnic religious space, so establishing our loyalties by either/or choices just makes no sense. Frank Bruni of the New York Times wrote about this complexity as a gay man who might or might not support a gay presidential candidate.

What is especially impressive is how seriously and carefully intersectional feminists engage oppression that is not their experience, a form of love-justice Christian churches often preach but only weakly practice weekly, which means they have mostly lost the Millennials. Intersectional feminist Millennials have played a major role in movements such as Occupy, Black Lives Matter, Native American rights, immigration reform, a living wage, and 350.org. Economic oppression, climate change, mass incarceration, marriage equality, war, gun violence, rape, reproductive justice, and student debt are all issues that matter to women who attend to multiple forms of injustice and harm. We know that communities all over the world live under conditions that are hell on earth, and this must change.

The younger women leaders I've seen in social change movements are impressive for their confidence, passion, and leadership skills (and the allied men are sometimes the first to notice when not enough women are contributing). As intersectional feminists, they do not identify as women only, but as women aware of multiple oppressions who may choose to support a white man because he represents their passion for justice, not just for women but for others we love.

Hillary Clinton's candidacy for my generation is a powerful sign of how far women have come, but for the intersectional feminists who are our daughters, her message of tweaking the current system to open floodgates for more trickle down (which is how she sounds) is not change enough for all the other things we care about. A good man is not the enemy, especially if he might do more for all people. Perhaps voting for him will land us in hell, but that is a risk many women will take to stop the hell on earth so many people on the planet live with now.