I am a young (white, cis, straight, privileged) woman and feminist, and I was shocked by the scandal that erupted last weekend on the heels of Gloria Steinem's and Madeleine Albright's comments about women and the candidates they support.
First, I want to recognize that these comments were widely shared in the media and that fact alone is enough to make me think twice about their authenticity and their context (as I always do especially when the media vilifies a woman). And yet, here I am...
These comments were widely spread and the political implications discussed at length, but I wanted to weigh in on how these comments struck a feminist chord more than a political one for me. I'll repeat: FOR ME. I am not speaking on behalf of all feminists, nor all women, nor all women who support Bernie.
What disappointed me MOST was the effect the two comments (Steinem's 'girls go with boys'// Albright's 'special place in hell for women who don't help women') had on me, and what they made me feel: DOUBT and SHAME.
When I first heard Steinem's comment, the first thought that went through my head was not, 'no, here's why I do support Bernie...' nor 'wow, that was a misguided comment!', but 'am I really following the boys? Is that why I like Bernie? My boyfriend/brother/guy-friends are very strong supporters, am I simply following them? Did I do enough research?'
Steinem is obviously a leader in the feminist movement and a woman I deeply respect. She has paved the way for post-Roe v. Wade feminists like me. I want to honor that. She has done and continues to do a lot of heavy lifting. And it's because of her feminist clout that I initially doubted myself before I thought to question her comment.
Steinem is one of the many role models who has empowered me to believe in myself, my journey, and make my own decisions. So her comment that took that power away from me was not only disappointing but also hurtful. She empowered my abilities then second-guessed them.
Regardless of the candidate she supports, I would have hoped that Steinem would acknowledge the power she has to influence young feminists and use that power to encourage women to do the necessary research to come to their own informed decision. Or explain further why voting for Clinton is something that COULD drive the feminist movement forward and why SHE endorses Clinton. Making a woman (at least me) question and doubt herself and her decisions is not the kind of feminism I stand by. I would have hoped that a leader like Steinem would encourage young women to exercise their right to vote and let their own feminist voices be heard not try to win votes for her candidate by diminishing those women who favor another.
When I heard Albright's comment, I felt like I was betraying my sisters. "There's a special place in HELL for women who don't help women." I felt like I was turning my back on the cause and was walking around with a scarlet B berned on my chest. (Also I was literally wearing a Bernie sticker on my lapel.)
Albright's words were strong words. And they created a strong response in many women, myself included. I agree that there is a special place in hell for women who don't help women, but I think there are many different ways to help women.
I support Bernie not because I DON'T want to help women, arguably, I support Bernie BECAUSE I want to help women.
I relate strongly to such programs as Bernie's tuition-free college. I am not the only woman who has graduated from college with a mountain of debt, and the current wage gap (which stacks the deck against women of color especially) makes it harder for women to pay back these loans. Not to mention the fact that Bernie has, in my opinion, some of the best racial justice policies that will work to transform this country into a nation that affirms the value of its women of color--a group that is often pushed to the fringes of the feminist movement. And Bernie is fighting hard against a capitalist system that is economically damaging to women. Bernie supports paid family leave, affordable childcare, healthcare as a right, expanded protection of reproductive rights, and the list goes on and on.
I believe that Bernie's policies better serve a larger number of women, so he gets my vote. And this doesn't make me any more or any less of a feminist that any other voter.
Furthermore, I think Albright's comments diminish women who support Hillary by implying that women support Hillary only because she's a woman--an argument that Hilary's opponents (particularly Republican) have made to diminish Hillary's political prowess. It makes the women that support Hillary seem like they have not come to their own educated decision but have simply joined the "girl's party." I believe that women who support Hillary have come to that conclusion after doing their own research and studying Hillary's policies and it's disappointing that such a strong political woman like Albright could potentially undermine that. (Note that Albright's same comment could be used in favor of supporting Carly Fiorina, or Sarah Palin who endorsed Trump--two candidates whose policies are detrimental to a feminist cause.)
At the end of the day, I think Steinem and Albright missed a huge opportunity. As noteworthy women in politics and the feminist movement, I would have hoped that they would have found a way to encourage women to vote for Hillary and explain why they endorse her--not shame and diminish the women who are planning to vote for another candidate OR simply encourage women to vote for any candidate who has strong policies to uphold women's reproductive rights, marital rights, and civil rights OR to vote period.
At the end of the day, I support my candidate because I agree with his policies and ideas. And TRUST ME this was a decision I landed on after a lot of consideration because I think a woman in office is long past due.