WOMEN

Newsflash: Young Women Vote With Their Brains

Let's stop acting like millennials can't make thoughtful political choices.
When it comes to choosing who to vote for, young women are thoughtfully considering their options.
When it comes to choosing who to vote for, young women are thoughtfully considering their options.

A reminder to anyone who seems to have forgotten: Young women are fully-fledged human beings who are more than capable of choosing who to vote for in a thoughtful manner. 

Gloria Steinem made a misguided comment on Bill Maher's "Real Time With Bill Maher" on Friday night when discussing why many millennial women seem to be #FeelingTheBern. "When you’re young, you’re thinking, 'Where are the boys?' The boys are with Bernie," she said.

Let's assume that Steinem -- as a feminist icon who has spent much of her career lifting up the voices of younger women -- doesn't actually believe that millennials are only supporting a candidate to get a date. But regardless, the comment was tone-deaf, and as Mashable's Juana Summers pointed out, ignored young women who have zero romantic interest in men. (Update: Steinem has since apologized, saying she "misspoke," and clarifying that, "Whether they gravitate to Bernie or Hillary, young women are activist and feminist in greater numbers than ever before.")

The rhetoric about women who support Sanders' Democratic opponent isn't any better. Many have implied that women of any age who support Hillary only do because of their gender. (And despite Sanders' 19-point lead among millennial women, there are still plenty of vocal young women who believe in Clinton's candidacy.) As Susan Sarandon said while campaigning for Sanders last month, "I don't vote with my vagina."

But the idea that women who support Clinton are only moved to do so by their vaginas is just as absurd as the notion that young women who support Sanders are only moved by their libidos. In either scenario, young women are stripped of their agency as individuals with political opinions, interests and priorities. 

Sadly, the idea that young women voters are silly girls who can't be trusted to make thoughtful political decisions is a familiar trope. Fox correspondent Jesse Watters dismissed young, unmarried women as "Beyoncé Voters" in July 2014, saying that "they depend on government because they’re not depending on their husbands." In October 2014, Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle suggested that young women shouldn't vote at all because they "don't get it."

This New Hampshire woman feels the Bern. 
This New Hampshire woman feels the Bern. 

The young women I know -- Democrat, Republican and Independent alike -- have fierce political convictions. And those who are considering where to place their votes in the Democratic primary race are carefully weighing their options.

Some young women are resolute in their choices, like radio host and writer Jillian Gutowitz, who eloquently wrote in The Huffington Post about why she supports Clinton:

Here's a woman -- Hillary -- who has spent years in the White House, has proven herself a powerful politician, and has the knowledge, platforms, passion, perspective and qualifications to back it up. She supports gay marriage, racial equality, narrowing the nation's wealth divide, Planned Parenthood, access to safe, legal abortions, eradicating the wage gap -- and she wants to rebuild and empower the middle class. Those are all the qualities I personally am looking for in a president.

[Sanders] wants to take down big banks, create a constitutional amendment that will eliminate the super PACs, make public colleges tuition-free through taxing stock transactions and provide paid maternity leave, just to name a few. I don’t know about you, but all of that sounds pretty f**king ideal.

Others, myself included, are genuinely torn. There are things about Sanders that are incredibly appealing: His support of universal health care. His history of fighting to close the gender pay gap. And to a generation who came of age (and into the workforce) in the midst of a financial crisis, Sanders' brand of democratic socialism doesn't sound half bad. There are also things about Clinton that appeal to me. She has strong foreign policy experience. She has been a vocal opponent of the Hyde Amendment and a vocal proponent of gun control. She's been endorsed by Planned Parenthood. And, yes, she would make history as the first woman president of the United States in a world where representation really, truly matters. 

But regardless of how millennial women cast their votes, I feel confident that those decisions aren't being made lightly. (Or at least not any more lightly than the voting decisions made by the other men and women in this country.)  

Ultimately, candidates, their high-profile supporters and political commentators would be better served focusing on the needs of millennial women rather than making ignorant statements about their political motivations. Because -- newsflash! -- us "Beyoncé voters" are a pretty influential bunch. 

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