According to the New York Times, both Madeline Albright and Gloria Steinem believe it is important for young women to support a female presidential candidate. So much so that Albright said: “There is a special place in hell for women who do not support each other.” We cannot help but assume that Albright is referring to young women who are not planning on voting for Hillary Clinton and instead are planning to vote for Bernie Sanders, since she was at a Clinton rally when this was said. Steinem also claimed that young women are only voting for Bernie Sanders to impress young men, according to The Guardian.
As Madeline Albright and Gloria Steinem are two heavily influential feminist activists, the feminist community and many young women hold them in high regard. However, when these women say things like this, I can’t help but conclude that they believe that the only way to show that you are a feminist is to vote for a female candidate. However, voting for Hillary Clinton because you’re a woman doesn’t make you a feminist.
If a young woman decides to vote for Clinton because she agrees with the policies and ideas for which Hillary Clinton stands, that is one thing (every person in the United States who is of age and is a registered voter is perfectly within their right to vote for whomever they choose—that’s the beauty of voting rights), but when we think about who we are voting for, we can’t just support whoever looks like us. Who looks like us doesn’t always have our best interests in mind or even hold values with which we agree. I know many black people understand this after watching Ben Carson run for president. When we only vote for someone because of the way they look, this opens us up to public scrutiny about sticking together as marginalized communities, even when the ideas that come out of this community may not always be the best ideas.
Additionally, this is not an act of feminism because it doesn’t treat women as equal citizens. Men are expected to go out to polls and to vote their conscience and use their brains when they are at the polls. However, from what Albright and Steinem are saying, women are expected to go to polls and use their brains for nothing more than looking for the female candidate, voting for her and going home. This makes the assertion, whether accidental or intentional, that women are not willing or able to vote their conscience the way men do and vote for whom will best represent their beliefs, whether this person is a man or a woman.
Feminism is also about a public push for equality between genders. It is not a battle of the sexes, as so many people would have you believe. But rather, it is about communal work so that people who are not cisgender white men keep making uninformed decisions for everyone. It is about giving everyone a fair shot at the very heart of it all. Women shouldn’t mindlessly support Clinton simply because she is a woman. That is the epitome of spitting in the face of feminism. It is giving Clinton credit based solely on the fact that she is a woman, not because those who vote with her may honestly believe that she is the most competent candidate for president. It strips all of Hillary Clinton’s intellect, success and all of her hard work away from her, making her nothing more than someone with a vagina.
As a feminist, I don’t see anything effectively and fundamentally wrong with Hillary Clinton. However, I plan to vote for Bernie Sanders because his policies lineup most with the values I hold as a feminist. I believe that he will work to enact much needed change in our country. Of course it would be revolutionary and amazing to have a woman become president. But what I want most is for the president of our nation to care about people like me and to work to make this country better for all people. If that just so happens to be an old white man, so be it.