Ask the Hillary camp about sexism in American politics and here's what they'll tell you. Bernie Sanders is a sexist. Carly Fiorina is a closet sexist. Nikki Halley - who will deliver the GOP's response to President Obama's final State of the Union address Tuesday night - is of course, just a tool of the sexist GOP machine.
The Republican Party may have been the first party to say something as grotesque as "legitimate rape," to try to defund Planned Parenthood, a women's health organization, and to have a candidate for President who actually believes that a woman who is raped should have to raise the child of her rapist (see Ted Cruz), but the Democrats have a sexism problem too; a much more subtle, much less extreme, far less controversial - but nonetheless legitimate sexism problem.
In an effort to label everybody except for Hillary Clinton as a sexist, the Democratic establishment is mischaracterizing what it means to be a feminist. Clinton supporters are using sex as political tool to attack opponents and even insult and demean other female candidates. Instead, they should be out on the campaign trail championing women's issues.
Let's start with attacks on Bernie Sanders, who legitimately engaged his opponent - Hillary Clinton - in a debate about gun control. When Sanders said "all the shouting in the world" won't fix the country's gun violence problem, Clinton allies immediately labeled the comment as being sexist, saying that Sanders only used the word shouting because Clinton is a woman. Are you kidding me? If Bernie Sanders - who supported women's rights well before feminism became mainstream - is a sexist, than I'm not sure what the term even means.
No, by playing the sex card Clinton supporters were telling voters that a record of supporting the liberal feminist agenda - something Bernie Sanders has always stood behind - is not enough. You need to physically be a woman to be a real feminist. Clinton supporters were pushing down millions of women who Sanders has championed over the years, prioritizing her own political agenda over the feminist agenda - over issues like health care, abortion, equal pay and universal childcare. No, Hillary wasn't standing up for women - she was standing up for herself.
Next up is Carly Fiorina, a female CEO in a world where just one in eight Fortune 500 CEOs is a woman. Fiorina has broken new ground for women, serving as a role model for young girls who want to achieve success, manage large companies, and maybe even run for President. Her story is a great example of the American Dream. Instead of standing up for Fiorina - who like Clinton, has broken glass ceilings to reach where she is today (and must deal with sexist antics from Donald Trump), Clinton has repeatedly put her down. She laughed when a supporter recently told her that he wanted to "strangle" Fiorina every time he saw her on TV.
Perhaps worst of all are the attacks that have emanated from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic Party who said that Nikki Haley was picked to give the GOP's response to President Obama's State of the Union address because the party has a "diversity problem." What Schultz was really saying was that Haley's accomplishments don't matter. She's only giving the speech because she's a woman. That's an offensive comment - especially for a widely respected Republican governor who will likely be the GOP's Vice Presidential nominee. To say that Haley, who is a self-made woman, a strong conservative leader, and was elected to be Governor of South Carolina twice, only got to where she was because she's a woman is itself sexist. It implies a deep disrespect for another woman. Schultz, considered a long-term Clinton ally, was willing to use sexism to accomplish her own political ends.
I'm not saying that feminists should go out and support the GOP. Hardly. On the issues, Republicans continue to come out against reforms like equal pay and universal childcare, much to the chagrin of the 70% of American voters who say "workplace laws and policies are out of synch with the changing realities of modern families, and with the changing roles of men and women at work and at home."
But if Democrats want to be the feminist party, then they need to practice what they preach. Feminism is about real reform that helps women achieve true equality in a society where the cards are stacked against them. It's not a card to be played for political ends. As Carly Fiorina aptly said "My message to them [potential supporters] will be, 'Look, how about an honest woman, a competent woman? How about a qualified woman?' But I'm never going to ask for people's support because I'm a woman. I'm going to ask for their support because I'm the most qualified candidate to beat Hillary Clinton and to do the job."