With the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries underway the political focus on my facebook feed has switched from chronicling the constant stream of appalling effluence issuing forth from Trump’s mouth, to the race between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic candidate.
There is so much to say about this, from their differing view points, to their methods of fundraising, to the farcical Iowa coin tosses, to the bias of the super delegates that will counteract the public’s wishes in this land of the free. You could write a book about it, and someone will. Hopefully it will be one of the “…for Dummies” series since the American electoral system is sooooooooo incredibly complicated (full disclosure, I’ve been emailing a friend of mine who studied politics at college for explanations of the finer points).
Today though, I need to talk about Madelaine Albright and Gloria Steinem.
Madelaine Albright was the first female US Secretary of State. She was appointed to the post in 1996 by Bill Clinton. She is a very powerful, very strong woman. Not all of her decisions have been met with approval, but not all of them have been met with condemnation…she’s won more than she’s lost, put it that way. Throughout her career she has stated that “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t support one another.” It’s become her catchphrase, it’s even on a Starbucks’s mug. She sassily reiterated that catchphrase after a speech extolling Clinton’s prior achievements, declaring: “There are some that are out there that don’t understand the importance of why young women have to support Hillary Clinton. The story is not over. They are going to want to push us back. Appointments to the Supreme Court make all the difference.”
“We tell our story about how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women don’t think you have to—it’s been done. It’s not done, and you have to help Hillary Clinton—[she] will always be there for you. And just remember, there’s a special place in Hell for women who don’t help each other.”
Gloria Steinem is a journalist, editor, author and human rights activist who has spoken of herself as a radical feminist. She’s another very powerful woman. Feminists everywhere have had good reason to regard her as a role model, whilst also pondering if she is unfairly dismissive towards men and stay at home mothers. This week during an interview she was asked why so many young female voters are supporting Bernie Sanders (instead of Clinton), her response was a flippant, “When you’re young you’re thinking, where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.”
The female voters supporting Sanders found the comments insulting that their political allegiance could be swayed by youthful lust, or that they should be so sexist themselves as to ignore their political convictions in order too vote for someone based purely on their gender. Essentially the comments imply: forget the politics involved, if you don’t vote for a female president, you’re a bad woman; and, you’re only voting for Bernie so you can get laid.
So just how damaging is it that these two ardent feminists, who have spoken out time and time again in support of gender equality, have just stood up and given the impression that they are themselves misandrists who place the gender of the next president on a higher pedestal than the integrity of the next president. How damaging is it that they’ve basically cloaked themselves in the sexism they are trying to defeat?
Well for Hillary it sure isn’t great, but these remarks were made precisely because Hillary isn’t popular with young female voters so maybe her campaign will go much the same way that it would have anyway.
What’s more damaging is that Madelaine and Gloria in two, ill-thought out, off-the-cuff remarks, that have them groaning and saying to themselves, “Agh but I didn’t mean it like that,” have just given feminism a bad name. (Albright had actually been making a valid point about the struggle for equality being far from over – by the way, did you see the article criticising Clinton for wearing the same yellow jacket to two engagements two years apart? The other candidates’ suits never get a mention – before she trotted out her tag line.) They have given credence to the insecure and ignorant thinking that perpetuates the stereotype that feminists believe women are inherently superior to men and hate all those humans born with an XY chromosome.
There are a surprising number of people in the world who are ignorant of the definition of feminism. Feminism is a movement that desires equality between the genders. That’s what it comes down to. It’s not about hating men, it’s not about wanting a world run by women, it’s not about burning bras (which honestly I never really understood, I know it’s a symbolic act, but in my world a bra is a comfortable item of clothing for which I am extremely grateful.. burning of a chastity belt on the other hand, that I understand), it’s not about being either feminine or masculine.
I’ve met a number of girls who say, “I’m not a feminist but..” before making a feminist statement. So I’ll ask them why they don’t think of themselves as a feminist, and their answers range from, “I don’t hate guys,” to “I want to get married and have children.”
Really, lots of people don’t know what feminism is.
To put it simply, feminism amounts to this: “Hello, so you’ve got an inny, and you’ve got an outy, congratulations we’d like to give you equal amounts of respect and freedom, because that’s what you deserve.”
Joss Whedon, (excellent director of Buffy, Firefly, Marvel’s Avengers, Dollhouse and loooooads more) gave a speech about his dislike for the word feminism. He said he didn’t like it because it shouldn’t need to exist, equal rights between men and women should be the world wide state of affairs. Those who don’t support equal rights should be the minority, the ones carrying the label, similar to racists and homophobes.
Why is it called feminism instead of genderism, or humanism? Because there are simply more situations where women are treated as the second class citizen compared to men. Especially when you consider the rights of women across the entire globe, not just in the USA or Sweden or Australia, or any one of the countries where women look at the atrocities that women suffer in other lands and thank their lucky stars to be born where they were, in the time that they were.
At the moment Albright and Steinem are on the campaign trail, doing whatever they can to boost their candidate. Perhaps though if they weren’t, they would look at this wave of support for Sanders and see, not a deviation from the feminist cause, but a positive outcome from it: women are using their political voice, using their right to vote, declaring in no uncertain terms what type of a future they want, and being a part in shaping it.
Perhaps they would see that because of their hard work, their taking a stand, women today are seizing the opportunity to act in a truly feminist manner and vote, regardless of gender, for the best person for the job.